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Strictly Come Datataining – More sequins in sport & the Entertainment Layer

27 September, 2011 3 comments

This post and all other business-focused posts are now being held on the Seven League blog.

 

He looked at me quizzically.
“There are times when you come up with ideas and you’re just not sure whether they’re great – or just shit,” I said.  “And sometimes the more you say them, the more they sound like they could be a good idea – but you always wonder if they’re shit and no-one’s telling you. But with this idea, either people I don’t know are being terribly polite, or they’re quietly laughing, but some of them have definitely made encouraging noises.”

Strictly Come Data?

More data in Strictly? More sequins in Sport?

I was, of course, talking about datatainment. Hugo Sharman seems like a very nice chap. I don’t think Deltatre North‘s head would laugh in my face or behind my back – but he was looking quizzical. “Why don’t you tell me, when we get to the end of this, whether you think we should be contributing some ideas for datatainment,” he said, because I don’t think he could work out whether it was a wanky term for something that’s already being done (and that Deltatre do very nicely for lots of clients including the Uefa match day centres) or whether I meant something else.

The truth is, I don’t know. Yet. But I’m feeling confident that we are going to find something new. It’s all about the entertainment filter.
When you look at football match-day centres, or many other sports for that matter, you are confronted with a lot of data visualisation. If you’re a fan and you love your stats, then it’s entertaining. But for me, it makes me have to work too hard. That’s because I’m not a football fan. When it comes to cricket or rugby, I love the challenge of understanding the information – but it sometimes is a challenge. And there’s definitely a kudos in being the one who knows Dan Carter’s kick conversion rate – but a little like I do wish those annoying IBM ad buffers would shut up, I also get a little bored of stats knowledge being something that divides the audience – splitting it into the know-it-alls and the novices. I have to work too hard to get enjoyment out of data for football … I want it made simple, easy, enjoyable. Perhaps this is the effect of sub-optimal data vis. Maybe better design would make it naturally more engaging. But I think it’s more than that – visualisation can tell stories – but I’m not sure it can entertain in the way I mean.

Nice match centre, shame about the result

Talking to Hugo, I suggested it was the difference between watching the Young Musician of the Year and X Factor. But that’s not right – too much genre change and skill variance alongside the entertainment increase. Maybe it’s the difference between Come Dancing and Strictly Come Dancing.  No, we do not need more sequins in football. But when they re-invented the ballroom dancing programme  a few years back, the BBC did a remarkable thing – they managed to popularise the artform in a way that no-one had done since Strictly Ballroom had pastiched and parodied in the great 1992 Aussie film. You didn’t have to know a passo doble from a samba (I can’t even spell them right), and by pairing celeb novices with experts, they gave it the common touch. No wonder John Sargeant and Ann Widdecombe did so well. The judges are a mixture of amateur and expert – but even Craig whassisface, the most pernickety of the lot, explains the detail of the moves.

They opened up ballroom dancing and welcomed in newcomers who knew nothing – surely something that football (and maybe all sports) could do better – and especially something that data visualisation could do better in sport.

By the time I got to the end of my ramble/rant at Hugo, the quizzical look was gone and had been replaced by a smile. “I have to admit, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think you might be right – maybe there’s an editorial entertainment layer there that we are missing.”. So maybe we are onto something.

In a way, the editorial layer I’m talking about is something that tv punditry alongside performance graphics has been doing for a while. Sky are doing more and more of it, the BBC does plenty (and Deltatre provide that) and even the woeful ITV Rugby World Cup commentary tries to give it a whirl with their touchscreen. What I don’t want is a situation, as ITV have, where subject experts, former and current players, give poorly-enunciated opinions while pressing the odd player image on a touchscreen. I want the data, but I want the opinion, expressed entertainingly, and maybe even with some interactive element. And I want it now.

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Jumponaginger.com

16 September, 2011 6 comments

Tremendous work by the chaps behind jumponaginger.com

Reminds me of the flickr group I set up for monitoring the use of redheads in advertising and the media. It’s hardly exhaustive, but you’ll get the general gist. if it’s haircuts or hair products that’s being advertised, red’s great. otherwise it’s generally used to denote ‘oddball’ at best, and ‘freak’ at worst.

Over the years, I’ve blogged a number of times about ginger-related experiences… mostly here.

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Cristiano Ronaldo: the Datatainment star for Sky Sports

12 September, 2011 1 comment

This post and all other business-focused posts are now being held on the Seven League blog.

 

OK, so the use of “thrilling” music might be over-egging the pudding somewhat, but there’s some lovely super-slow-mo and data capture from bio-mechanics and a variety of scanning-gizmos in this programme on Sky Sports.

The Castrol Edge site has more, or there’s the twitter hashtag too.

Four parts:

Part 1 – Body Strength: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7vYfKfI87U
Part 2 – Mental Ability: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21AFrsXa7E4
Part 3 – Technique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vyqz9OtTJw
Part 4 – Skill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbNQ_kCE6V0

A week of MCFC, datatainment and Guardian rants

2 September, 2011 2 comments

This post and all other business-focused posts are now being held on the Seven League blog.

 

Thanks to Robert Andrews for the interview and write-up on paidContent where we went through a whole bunch of the digital and media strategy for Manchester City FC. Of course, any one of those things could have been explained a lot more – but maybe that’s for another time.

Only one thing to add to the interview.. I want to make it clear that I’m well aware that ‘datatainment’ is a horrid horrid word. I promise not to come up with more like that.

Also, Joe Weston… the answer’s clearly a very very loud ‘No’: Is Richard Ayers the most influential man in sports and social media? It’s kind of you, but definitely still ‘no’.

And then there was the Guardian blog post and back-page of the sport section last Saturday where Scott Murray wrote a rather remarkable, entertaining and, frankly, odd piece about MCFC’s approach to media. “Manchester City’s film should get an ‘X’ certificate“.

MCFC-Guardian-mcfc-blog-110902I was alerted to the post at about 10am on Saturday morning and once I’d picked my jaw up off the ground, I emailed my boss and the communications director to ask for the ok to make a comment on the blog. What amazed me was how pseud0-intellectualised the piece was… all those arty references to cinema… and how much he’d got carried away. I should add that I thought it was a good blog post – entertaining, well written, bombastic, opinionated and, of course, not based in any truth at all. Because it was a Saturday and even communications directors have lives, it took quite a while for me to get signoff on the comment I wanted to make… but by 10.39pm we were there and I was able to respond. (it’s on page 4 of the comments).

We think the video’s great. But then I would say that, as it was my team that made it. ‬

‪Our club and editorial policy is about giving fans access to the club and that means behind the scenes material is perfect. We know the fans love it because we’ve done loads of things like the Tunnel Cams and the picture galleries of Today at Carrington – and the response is really really good. You can also be sure that if the fans don’t like something, then I hear about it pretty quickly. ‬

Part of ‪my job is to try new things – to innovate in ways that will mean that the fans get more of what they want. And what they want most is access to behind the scenes at the club – access to players. Some things don’t work, of course, but I’m happy to say we’ve done lots that are greatly appreciated as a lot of the comments here show. ‬

‪As for our visual style – well, cinema is orchestrated, but reality tv is much more free-form and that’s the style we go for. Which, to be honest, is why it can look a bit awkward sometimes – but then we’ve had enough reality tv over the last 20 years or so to know that, haven’t we?‬

‪I guess there’s something here about editorial taste. I like the video. The BBC like the video – that’s why they got in touch and ran it on the BBC Sport site. As I write this, 383,081 people have watched it on youtube and some of them must like it. Then there are those that watched it on our website first. But you didn’t like it – and that’s fair enough. ‬

‪Equally, fans liked the ‘Nasri scores’ image from EA. A bit of fun that nicely shows off the game’s amazing graphics. That’s an approach the FIFA game playing audience would appreciate, I think.‬

‪I’d be more than happy to talk to you or the media team and explain our digital and media strategy in detail. ‬

‪In the meantime, as this is a blog with comments I’d just like to add that you missed off the best ever steadicam shot… in the opening sequence of Point Break. ‬

‪thanks, Richard‬
ps. we put another one up, do let me know what you think: Inside City: Nasri’s First Day Training

You should have seen the first version of the response – it had a lot more sarcasm and bombast of my own. It started with “I love blogs. Mainly because they’re not journalism and have no requirement for accuracy, contacting the people you’re writing about or even a suggestion of reporting the truth…”. Probably best that what I commented was a lot more moderate. The main thing was that Mr Murray seemed to be writing from a pre-internet time – with no sense of modern media. In fact I’ve since talked to a couple of Guardian media reporters and they thought it was odd too. Oh well, each to their own.

The most wonderful thing was that, by the time the post had been up even a very short time, a whole bunch of commenters had responded. And what responses they were. Blogger Steven McInerny‘s comment was great and said a lot:

Or you know, maybe it wasn’t an over-the-top dramatisation of his signing, and it wasn’t tightly choreographed and maybe it wasn’t an attempt at projecting self-importance …maybe, just maybe it was quite simply a video that they thought that I, like many other City fans, would find incredibly interesting to see. And I did. I really did. I quite enjoy seeing what goes on behind the scenes.

Because that’s what it was. I really do think it was as simple as that. A behind the scenes look at what happens during a transfer. If anything it was pretty mundane, despite your valiant attempts to dramatise it and paint it as something it wasn’t, Mr Murray. There was no grand entrance. No music. No paths lined in gold, and Garry Cook certainly didn’t have an office and a place to call home glamorous enough to please Scaramanga. It all looked pretty normal. It didn’t pretend to be anything other than that. Perhaps too, Patrick Vieira was simply hanging around to say hello to a friend. Not just to lurk seedily in the shadows and do his best impression of a mobster waiting for the call from the big man. It’s pretty possible that maybe your cynical nature has taken over here, and i’m aware it’s in vogue to laugh at City, but sometimes I think people look a little too hard.

To be fair though…Garry Cook is a bit of a tool. Bless him. He always will be though. It’s just in his nature. So yeah, laugh at him as much as you want, and though silly, the FIFA thing was nothing really either. But you can have that one too if you want.

But please, leave our extra content alone. I enjoy it. It gives me something to watch. It makes everything seem normal, and it definitely goes along way to destroying some myth that a huge wall exists between them and us. If anything it makes the fans club feel closer to the club and I salute that.

And so it went on… comment after comment talking about content, clubs and their approach to media – and lots and lots of them were very supportive of City’s approach and rather circumspect about the blog post. It was a great moment for the club – to have so much support – and in particular, for our media strategy. Syndication is a new thing for a club to do – and it worked. Responding quickly, like a news/media organisation is a new thing to do – and it worked. Even posting an official comment on a blog is a new thing to do.

I wanted to add a post-script to this…

The original video that Mr Murray picked up on was this:


And although there are currently over 1600 comments – the vast majority of them being inter-club abuse – there are a few that are a credit to the Club – and I’ve never seen a bunch like this before. Jim, our Endemol Sport exec producer highlighted these to me:

 
I support Manchester United but I love this! It’s fantastic to have a insight to the ongoings at a football club, even though they are our rivals 🙂
fes9371 1 day ago http://s.ytimg.com/yt/img/pixel-vfl3z5WfW.gif
 
Arsenal fan, and I love this. I’m not bitter, kolo and Samir are great footballers and good people. I am angry at wenger, not them.
tAcTiCaLnUkE118 1 day ago
 
I’m a Chelsea fan but this is far better than there channel, and kolarov is a legend
JordanRankiin 11 hours ago in playlist Videos from mcfcofficial http://s.ytimg.com/yt/img/pixel-vfl3z5WfW.gif
 
great videos/channel, very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes hope the videos keep coming throughout the season. kolarov seems like a right character!!
saros08 2 days ago
 
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m starting to like Man City.
Amino2 2 days ago http://s.ytimg.com/yt/img/pixel-vfl3z5WfW.gif
 
i wish liverpool did this
YOUNGMr1996 2 days ago
 
Thumbs up for MCFC for putting videos on Youtube now. Some cracking videos have been made in the past two years since the site was relaunched, many better than the MUTV and LTV crap that gets put out if I’m perfectly honest which normally just features a second rate past player just eulogising and stating the bloody obvious.
mancity1000 3 days ago 7
 
Love it. Also not a City fan, but looking how it all looks on the inside of the club, its just great.
VolverinBVB09 3 days ago http://s.ytimg.com/yt/img/pixel-vfl3z5WfW.gif

So, thanks for the comments, the interaction, the abuse and the plaudits. Here’s to more content and more engagement.

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