Texas Rangers gain insight into 'the bobblehead effect'

Tableau: What’s one way Tableau has helped the Rangers?
Sarah Stone, Marketing & Advertising manager: In the baseball world, promotions and giveaways are a huge part of the culture of coming to a game experience. And one of the things that Tableau really helped us with to get this thing started was to look at our attendance over the past five years, and notice when the nights that had promotions and giveaways such as bobble heads or T-shirts or fireworks really boosted attendance in comparison to other games across other years.

So when we first started looking at the data, right, we looked over the past five years of attendance and associated it with bobble heads and giveaways

So we were looking at the bobble heads schedules, you know, in 2013 and all of our all-fan giveaways were placed on Tuesdays, right? And Tuesday was the only day of the week to actually increase in attendance. You know, it's not a Friday or a Saturday, it's not the weekend.

We said, "Oh, my gosh, like, these things are really moving this day of the week that people didn't normally buy." So we then thought, okay, let's try to put another bobblehead in the schedule at the end of the season.

So we added another Yu Darvish bobble head at the end of September, and we also saw an incremental increase of ticket sales for that specific game. And we did for the first time really use the data to help inform our decisions.

Tableau: Has Tableau made a difference in your company’s culture?
Sarah: It's been really cool to see how the whole organization has adopted Tableau and how it's used throughout different departments.

We've always had access to the data, but it's been harder to get to, right? It hasn't been as easy to disseminate to everyone. But now, using Tableau, it allows us to connect and then share it with whoever needs to see.

Tableau: What does Tableau allow you to do specifically?
Sarah: So without Tableau Server, it would be kind of hard to really implement all the data. But because of Tableau Server, the right people can log in and see the data that applies to them.

One thing that's been successful in our organization is going to the box office or to ticket sales or to accounting and saying, "Let's sit down with your data. We're all working for the same baseball team, this -- we're all trying to sell tickets and help the team win. You can make a dashboard too."

Tableau: Is using Tableau part of the movement toward better use of data throughout sports?
Sarah: I would just say that at the Texas Rangers, we're really excited to be looking at our data holistically. We really do want to apply, you know, the kind of Sabermetrics mindset to the business side of the front office. And while we're experts at what we do, Tableau's really enabled us to take ahold of the data and see what the numbers are actually telling us.

Tableau: What was one of the first projects you tackled with Tableau?
Sarah: So when I was hired by the Rangers in 2013, one of the first things we wanted to do in the marketing department was to take a closer look at our media buys and see how they impacted attendance.

And we had everything in Excel spreadsheets. And I said, "We need to get Tableau on this." So we downloaded the free trial and plugged into our Excel spreadsheets, and that's really where it began.

But now, with Tableau, it gives people the ability to, like, actually know the exact numbers behind things and say, okay, here's this Wednesday night game. I know the number of people that are coming. I know the number of people that have bought -- for a certain ticket special. I know the next day we have a cap giveaway, so more people might be buying for that game.

So I think what Tableau's done, it's just given access to people to our data. Like, we've always had it, but it's enabled us to understand it more, to grasp it more, and to actually start looking at it.

Baseball & Politics

Tableau: How did your background in politics influence the adoption of Tableau?
Sarah: I come from the political media buying world, and I used Tableau to track political ad spending.

Some people think politics and sports are pretty different. I think they're pretty much the same, right? So I like to think that I took after the great Nate Silver, who started off in sports and then kind of went back to politics and now is back in sports.

I mean, he's brilliant, right? So they're similar in a few ways. First of all, they're both seasonal. In the political world, you're working up till election day, you're trying to get votes for this one day, and it's a perishable day. Like, once you passed it, there's nothing else you can do.

Same thing goes with baseball. You have your season, it's only a set amount of time, you have to sell tickets for that one day, and once the day happens, there's nothing else you can do.

So there's kind of like that micro-seasonality. And then there's the feel of you're leading up to election season and then it's over and you kind of wait for it to begin. Same thing with baseball. You're waiting for opening day to happen, and then once it starts, you go through the whole season, and then it ends again, and then you start preparing for the next one.

So they're both very seasonal. The other thing that is similar between politics and sports is that as a marketer working in advertising, we don't really have any control over the product. In campaigning, you don't really have much control over what the candidate says or does. But you're still supposed to be out there promoting them and doing the advertising, all that sort of stuff.

The same goes for baseball. We don't have any real control over the product on the field, but we still want to promote the team and the players and support it through advertising. So the -- they're probably similar when it comes down to it.