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Mobile Research is the New Gamification

  
  
  

I was putting together a market research proposal the other day for a quasi-governmental organization.  The RfP was huge (they always seem to be), for a relatively conservative sized engagement.  In any case, I reached a point in the proposal process where it started to ask for information on research that we provided that did NOT include telephone surveys, online surveys, and focus groups.  I found it oddly interesting.  

Now, don't get me wrong, we provide those types of "new market research" techniques, mobile, social media, text analysis, data visualization, etc. It simply seemed somewhat strange for it to emerge in this quasi-government research process.  I hadn't seen the request laid out so clearly, concisely, and specifically.  

The researcher or procurement officer definitely knew his/her stuff.  The way things weregamification phrased was correct, the question was legitimate, etc. but it got me thinking.  Much like gamification was the buzzword of the market research industry about two years ago (I really grew to hate the word even though the techniques seemed to make sense), mobile research has become the "new" buzzword of the 2014 market research industry.  We've seen it coming for two to three years, we've been prognosticating that it will be here soon, we've staked the claim that when it comes we won't be able to escape it.  I'm here to tell you, when these sorts of research departments in this type of organization begins to request these types of techniques, you know it's hit the mainstream.

Funny thing is, even though we've started to see MANY more requests for mobile, it's not always clear what the researcher expects to get FROM their mobile initiative.  Are they looking for an app; an online survey that's style-sheeted to mobile; geo-location capabilities; SMS capabilities; upload and download of media; it's really non-specific and often times unclear how they want this technique to apply to their business or what they'd like to gain from it.  They just know they need to "do" mobile research.

Moving forward, I hope that the term "mobile research" doesn't become a catch-all for every type of research that happens to be completed from a smart-device or a cell phone.  If that's the case, every single one of us that conducts phone survey research or fields an online survey is conducting mobile research...we'll always end up with those devices in our samples.  It seems like mobile research is really headed in that direction.  It's sort of the undefined wild-wild west.  Similar to survey researchers that called all their "fun" surveys gamification (as opposed to their 30 minute boring ones); we can't just do a survey, hope it's completed on a participant's tablet, and call it mobile.  Or, can we?  

Am I doing mobile research?  Yes.  We conduct research using apps, mobile devices, mobile style sheets, etc. and feel like we're pretty good at mobile research.  Do I know what you define as mobile research?  Well, maybe not.  

The Bite Heard 'Round the World: World Cup 2014 Social Media Research

  
  
  

A few weeks ago, when World Cup 2014 began, we did some social media analysis going into the soccer tournament.  The article was titled "A Social Media Research Read on World Cup 2014."  The World Cup is always full of high drama, and this year was no exception.  We had biters and hunters, high profiled players with broken backs, teams with early exits, and did you see that US goalkeeper?  In any case, here's an "end of tournament" infographic on the most mentioned social media content from World Cup 2014.  Enjoy!

World Cup 2014 Analysis

Your Market Research "Thing"

  
  
  

Every one of us has "OUR THING."  If you think about it, you'll know what I mean.  "Our thing" is the "thing" that we talk about incessantly, the "thing" that gets us excited, the "thing" that people politely avoid talking to us about (unless they really want to know).  A question on the "thing" opens up Pandora's Box...a conversation that, as a casual participant to the conversation, you can never get back in the box.  That "thing"...is "our thing."

Let me give you an example.  My brother-in-law's "thing" is Disneyland.  If you're headed to Disney and ask him for advice on the subject, you'll receive a four-hour lecture on your next trip (his bucket list item is to see every Disney theme park in the world).  Most people's "things" are very different.  I have a friend whose "thing" is Hawaii (when you go to Hawaii, he sends his GPS with you so that you will visit all the best sites); my "thing(s)" are soccer and music.  I even have a friend whose "thing" is college mascots.  If you ask him what the mascot is for any Division 1 School, he can tell you.  He's almost an idiot savant on the subject.  

My family's "thing" is Zombies.  We've had many conversations around the Walking Dead comics and TV show.  We've had serious intellectual discussions on where we will go when the Zombie Apocalypse occurs (not if...but when).  There's a Lowe's next to our house...first stop for nail guns, pick axes, and duct tape.  Followed by stop #2 to Costco for 200 pound cans of soup and any other random item needed in very large quantities (but I diverge...actually I'm just not going to give you the plan...survival of the fittest and most prepared...ha).  I have a friend, and industry associate, whose "thing" is '80's punk bands.Suicidal Tendencies

A couple of months ago, I was at a conference with this friend and industry associate in Vegas.  The conference had educational content during the day, freedom to do what you wanted in the evening, and resumed with the educational content the following morning.  After a night of gambling, my friend made a point of meeting up with me in the morning.  She'd had a "life altering" experience the night before.  She'd met, and gambled next to, the original drummer for the band "Suicidal Tendencies" (there are actually 25 former members of Suicidal Tendencies).  This is the band that performed the song "Institutionalized" (All I wanted was a Pepsi...but she wouldn't give it to me...look it up.)  She and I shared a love for music, especially of the alternative sort (I've been following alternative music since it started in the '80's) so I was one of the very few industry professionals who actually new who Suicidal Tendencies were.  On sharing her amazing story, I was able to share my experience of getting kicked off a Disneyland ride (Indiana Jones), so that the drummer for Blink-182 (Travis Barker) and his entourage could ride the ride (how cool was that)?

In any case, here's the business question at hand.  When trying to gather answers and actionable insight using market research techniques and methods, is it better to have "your thing" or a smorgasbord of "things" that you pull from your tool chest?  I have a friend and researcher who almost always enlists conjoint analysis for just about any business question he has; while another friend uses focus groups almost every time she needs an answer (rarely a survey to be found).  You see it in our industry all the time.  A researcher I know writes the most difficult and complicated surveys our company has ever had the dissatisfaction of programming (couldn't write a simple or short survey to save her life).

Each of us, as market research providers, has our "research thing."  We HAVE to differentiate and we're often asked what we do better than anyone else.  When pressed on the topic, it's probably no surprise that the answer for Discovery is that we do many surveys, focus groups, designs, etc. but the work we do better than almost anyone else is in the text analysis and social content space.  Is that our "thing"...probably? But we must remind ourselves every day that it's important for us to stay well rounded in our research designs and approaches.  

It's important that each of us, as market researchers, try to stay methodologically and technically agnostic.  The focus group, social media analysis, survey, MROC, (insert your "thing" here), is not the only way to answer your business question, and it's often not even the best way to answer the question.  We can't be a singularly focused market research zombie (instead of Brains...more brains; we say Surveys...more surveys).  Remember that the next time you go to do something the way you've always done it.  It's a challenge, but I'd encourage you to stay research agnostic and simply find the best fit for the business question at hand, even if it means you try something new.

Research-Based Thoughts on the Economy of Soccer and Other Sports

  
  
  

With World Cup 2014 kicking off in Brazil tomorrow, I thought it was worthwhile to throw together some thoughts I've had around Soccer (and other sports) in the United States vs. that of the rest of the world.  As readers of this blog, you'll have to bear with me (or ignore this post) if you're uninterested in soccer, or are into this blog specifically for its Market Research content.  There's very little market research info in this particular article so you can stop now if you're so inclined...or read on...it's up to you.  Ok...so back to the subject matter.

I grew up in the United States; however my father is from a small town in Wales (UK).  Likegmort most young boys, I started my American sports experience by playing youth football (US), baseball, and basketball.  I especially enjoyed football, however I wasn't very big and wasn't very tall (and probably wasn't very good).  One day, after I sat the bench in a 4th grade football game; my dad came to me and said, "I really don't understand this sport very well."  He went on to tell me the story of my soccer history.  My father played soccer when he was young and has a great understanding of the sport.  My Welsh grandfather was something of a phenom in his day.  He played for a community "professional" team called the Garth Rangers (see picture) in the 1930's.  Soccer flowed through my veins.  I dropped American football, and went on to play soccer.  My family has a soccer history that goes back a very long way.  My ancestors played, my Grandfather played, my Father played, my Brothers played, and my Sons have all played soccer.  It's become more than a sport for us, it's part of who we are.  

It was rough going for me as I started to play soccer in the 5th grade.  I don't know if you could start that late now and still succeed.  I was really bad at it to begin with and kids made fun of me.  I began working hard at it...really hard...and felt like I had history and culture on my side.  After a couple of years I started making traveling teams, club teams, then my high school team, had a college experience with the sport, and have now coached for about 20 years.  If there's ever any question about the influence of one conversation, I'm here to tell you that words change lives and they change outcomes.  

Soccer (or Football) in the United States has had a tough go of it.  In my rural Idaho town, soccer was ridiculed because the tough guys all played football.  Even to this day, soccer players are often called "grass pixies" by football players.  To return the "compliment," the football players are called "fat necks."  There are over 13 million soccer players in the United States and it is the third largest sport played (participation is ahead of hockey and football), and growing very quickly while other sports are declining in participation.  But for some reason, it hasn't gotten the traction of the big three in terms of popularity (Football, Basketball, Baseball), coming in at fourth in terms of popularity (not the number who play).

Having been a part of the game for many years, here are some reasons that I believe the sport doesn't get the same traction in the United States that it receives elsewhere:  

  • Low Scoring Games - In a culture where sports are often "stacked" toward high scoring games, 1-0 results or 0-0 ties aren't often appreciated.  Basketball actually changes its rules so that more baskets are scored in games (shot clock, no defense zone, no goaltending, etc.)  Football games give a variety of "points" for different scenarios that lead to high sounding scores when in reality a 14-7 result is actually very similar to a 2-1 result in soccer (very common).
  • Ties - Americans don't like ties, they are driven to win.  They hate to go through 90 minutes of soccer and see a game end 0-0 or 1-1.  I've heard people ask "What's the point?"  Part of this is a fundamental lack of understanding about how the "champion" of the league is crowned.  Leagues are based on three conditions; you get 3 points for winning a game, 1 point for tying a game, and 0 points for a loss.  The team with the most points at the end of the season is the winner.  Ties, in soccer, often can feel like a win for one team and a loss for another.  One of my most memorable games (that I coached) was a 1-1 tie.  We felt VERY good about the result, while the opposing coach came away yelling and swearing.  
  • Lack of understanding of the sport is a challenge for Americans.  What's offsides?  Isn't soccer JUST kicking a ball?  What's the strategy?  Soccer is a very technical game, much the same as baseball, basketball, and football.  Fans of the game of basketball, would never consider basketball JUST throwing a ball into a hoop.  There's SO MUCH MORE, and it takes some experience with the sport to understand just how difficult it is, and how amazing some of the players in the sport become.
  • More than anything though, I believe that the reason soccer hasn't caught on at the same level in the United States is really Economics and Marketing.  Soccer is not marketed at the same level in the US as it is in other parts of the world and the athletes aren't paid anything close to the athletes in the rest of the world...yet.  As a result, the best athletes in the US DON'T play soccer where the best athletes in the world DO play soccer. As a result, though our American players are good, we suck as a country relative to the heavies (the US is currently ranked 13 in the world behind countries like Spain, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Colombia, etc.).  
  • If we're not good enough at something, we whine about it and quit trying...I'm only half kidding here.  Our women's soccer program is consistently near or at the top of the world while our men's soccer program isn't.  We're capable; we simply haven't thrown the resource at it.
Let's briefly look at the economics of the sport.  Below is a chart listing the top-10 salaried players in each of the big four US Sports along with the top-10 salary for the world soccer players.    
Sports Salaries
The first thing you'll notice is that the pay in Major League Soccer (US Professional League) is NOWHERE NEAR that of the pay in other US leagues (averaging 3.7 Million vs. 24.0 Million - baseball; 21.5 Million - basketball; 18.8 Million - football).  This chart only includes salary.  When you take into account sponsorships the difference becomes astronomical.  The second thing you might notice is that the top paid MLS soccer player is nowhere close to that of the other US leagues or the soccer world scale.  Lastly, the world soccer leagues (EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, etc.) pay their players very consistently with the US Professional leagues (except soccer).
Forbes posted the top paid athletes in the world (all-in).  The top-5 were Floyd Mayweather ($105 Million in boxing); Christiano Ronaldo ($80 Million in soccer); LeBron James ($72.3 Million in basketball); Lionel Messi ($64.7 Million in soccer); Kobe Bryant ($61.5 Million in basketball).  Two of five were soccer players and two of five were basketball players.  If the United States would spend as much on their marketing, endorsements, and soccer player salaries, the world's elite would come to the US and as a result we'd be a contending country year in and year out.  The best players have a tendency to play and compete with the best, as a result their countries become the best.  
As it stands, our best US athletes go to other sports where the payout and notoriety is better.  Our best soccer players follow the money, leaving to play in Europe or Latin America, under many different systems and cultures of play which make it even more difficult for the US coaching staff to field a cohesive group of players.  As for the World Cup, I can't think of a time where our US team was more represented by MLS players.  It appears that our talent is growing, but the marketing dollars and economic reinforcement isn't keeping pace.  As a result, we'll likely not see our team go deep into the tournament which further exacerbates the problem...we aren't as successful as we'd like to be, so we don't spend the money on the sport, which makes us less successful in the sport.  It's a vicious circle.
I guess that's how marketing and economy explain soccer, we all know that soccer explains the world (ha), so...marketing must explain the world as well.  

A Social Media Research Read on World Cup 2014

  
  
  

I'm sure that you'd have expected this from us.  With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil only 3 days away, we thought it was important, no imperative, to put together a World Cup Infographic based on some social media research.  I'm sure there will be more of these to come.  Go USA!

World Cup 2014

Social Media Research - What's it Good For?

  
  
  

"After the event, even the fool is wise." Homer

Every one of us who provides market research products and services are eventually asked what makes us different than all of the other full-service research and market research data collection providers out there.  At that flashpoint, whether it's in an elevator or not, we're each required to give our 20-second elevator speech.  Personally, when I'm asked what we do best (other than surveys), I focus my attention on two things we do extremely well, text analysis and social media research.

It's easy for most researchers to get their heads wrapped around why they need text analysis.  Researchers are constantly generating unstructured text.  Whether you have open-ended questions in your surveys, focus groups, or are really trying to understand the "content" of a large conversation (like IDI or online qualitative), text analysis is fairly easy to understand.  These market research techniques are sort of the entry point to text analysis for market researchers.  The real fun in text analysis is had when we start to answer business questions using sources like customer service calls from internal databases, large transcripts (I mean really large), and the mounds of data that gets generated in the social media and online world. 

I'm often asked what use social media is as a source for market research?  For one, the data sizes are much, much, larger than "typical" research.  It's not uncommon to analyze hundreds of thousands of pieces of social media, online reviews, blogs, etc. content.  But the real advantage, in my experience, is the concept of analyzing events.Events

Every business has events.  Events come in many different shapes and sizes.  Some are planned, some are unplanned.  Some receive a lot of press on purpose, some on accident, and some receive little to no press at all.  When you launch a new product or service, that's an event.  When you hire a new corporate executive, that's an event.  When you receive backlash from your consumers, for whatever reason, that's an event.  When your business gains the attention of those around you...for whatever reason...that's an event.  And then there are EVENTS, like trade shows, exhibitions, local events like "Arts in the Parks", festivals, concerts, "Insert your city here...Days", etc.  A good event can be a big difference maker for your company.  A bad event can lead to a company closure (or in the case of the LA Clippers basketball team owner...losing your team).  A properly executed EVENT or sponsorship of an EVENT can put your company on the map.  As businesses, events make us and they break us. 

If you're wondering what social media research is good for, think the events of your (business) life.  Social media research allows you to understand the emotion, the advocates, the detractors, the attitude, the volume, etc. of YOUR events.  It can show you where your business started and where your business ended, and give you an idea of its current trajectory.  It can tell you if you've got an upcoming event that you're going to have to deal with, or what people really thought of your EVENT.  It can give you ideas for your future events or how to improve your EVENT.  And, social media research will supplement the other market research that you do by giving you a qualitative and quantitative notion of the "what's next," "what should I do now," or "where should I head from here?"  

Social media research has been one of the enigmas of our industry but it doesn't have to be.  If you think events, you can understand a strong use for social media in market research.  It's well worth consideration for your market research toolbox in my estimation.

I Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny. Let Me Check Social Media First.

  
  
  

Sometime during the first week of any Marketing 101 course you learn about the halo effect.Reese's 
Quite simply it is a term used to explain preference shown towards certain products or brands because of a favorable association.  For example, say you like Reese’s peanut butter cups (and who doesn’t), and while walking down the aisle at your local grocery store you spot a jar of Reese’s brand peanut butter, you figure it must be packed with sugar and taste pretty darn good as well so you buy it.   This type of association can be the result of other products made by the same manufacturer (such as Reese’s) or, in the case of a brand, the association that brand has with everything it touches. 

The halo effect is a really big deal in the sports sponsorship universe.  Attach your brand to the right athlete or team and you will endear yourself to their fans.  This of course has been done since before Jesse Owens sported a pair of shoes crafted by the founder of Adidas in the 1936 Olympic Games. 

Nike has had a couple of the most recognizable wins in this area, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.  At least Tiger Woods was a big win, now, not so much.  Tiger Woods became toxic for Nike and his other sponsors in December 2009 when his extra-marital affairs were revealed in dramatic fashion.  Now the Los Angeles Clippers have become toxic thanks to raciest comments by the team’s owner Donald Sterling.  No one wants to touch the Clippers because of the negative halo effect the brand currently has.  Sponsors ran from the Staples Center as if it was on fire.  Which of course was the correct move.  Stay with the Clippers and your brand becomes associated with Sterling and his views.  Drop the Clippers and you send a message that your brand does not tolerate racism.  The decision was easy.

So how long should a brand stay away in a situation like this?  In this case, probably until the Clippers have a new owner.  But it’s not always that cut and dry.  Not long ago I was involved with a client whose brand was under attack.  Misleading rumors were being spread about their flagship product and they wanted to know the extent of the damage in order to determine if a formal response was needed, and if so, the best way to go about it.  The rumors were untrue, but that mattered little.  Once out there, consumers are far more likely to believe what their friend shares on Facebook than a company statement denying it.  In fact, if the rumor hasn’t really gained much traction, any “official” statement by the company denying it will typically only serve to draw attention to the matter and risk fanning the flames from a small brush fire into a 10,000 archer blaze.  So where does the tipping point lie for responding, for abandoning a sponsor, for acknowledging a competitors move?  Fortunately for brands who find themselves embroiled in situations like the Donald Sterling debacle, or that of my client, the fallout is now easier than ever to assess, and consequently, a plan of action easier to create.

Curious about the impact of Donald Sterling’s comments on the Clippers sponsors I ran a quick analysis on a few sponsors using our text analytics tool.  Below is a measurement of the online conversation associated with State Farm and Carmax, two of the Clippers major sponsors.  The data was drawn from multiple social media platforms and blogs.   Notice the massive spike on April 28th in the volume of comments shortly after the news of Sterling’s remarks broke.  

 CarmaxState Farm

Drilling down on the comments I found that the negative comments had more to do with the situation rather than an actual dislike of State Farm or CarMax.  For example, people would retweet news that as a result of Sterling’s comments, several sponsors such as State Farm and CarMax had decided to drop the Clippers or should drop the Clippers.      

Take a look at the topic wheel for State Farm below covering the past 30 days.  When people mention State Farm and “car insurance” together, they also mention Donald Sterling.  When people mention State Farm and “video” together, they also mention Donald Sterling.  When people mention State Farm and “state farm commercials” together, they also mention Donald Sterling.  The relationship is significant and penetrating every aspect of the brand.

NBA

On the other hand, take a look at Red Bull, another sponsor of the Clippers.  There was certainly an uptick in negative comments on April 28th, but nothing like what State Farm or CarMax experienced.  The target market appears to be using social media to discuss Red Bull over a much wider range of topics.  The cluster analysis below shows this.  For example, drilling down on “Sebastian” in the second largest cluster I found that the cluster is primarily about a YouTube clip Red Bull put together about the new Formula One racing regulations as explained by Sebastian Vettel (and of course featuring Red Bull’s racer as the background prop).  The clip has over two-million views and is a factor in the steady rise in positive comments seen throughout May so far.

Red Bull

Sometimes a quick and speedy response to negative news is easy for a brand to assess and the course of action obvious, as was the case of with the Clippers.  However, often times the extent of the damage isn’t immediately apparent.  When that is the case a quick knee-jerk response could lead to disaster.  Fortunately for my client they carefully analyzed the situation before determining a course of action.  After discovering that the rumor wasn’t dominating the conversations associated with their brand, the decided to do very little to publically address it; so as to not draw more attention to the rumor itself.  The strategy has worked so far.  Although still out there, it’s now an old rumor, one that would make you seem out of touch with the latest if you decided to share it.  As a result, the brush fire appears to have burned itself out.  Had they not assessed the extent of the rumor properly, they very well could have fanned the flames with a disproportionate or poorly directed response.  

Building the "Field of Dreams" - an Online Research Panel

  
  
  

One of my favorite baseball movies of all time is Field of Dreams.  It's magical.  I'm a fan of America's Pastime and of Americana literature.  Though I spend a lot of time coaching and volunteering in the soccer world, as a kid - baseball was my first love.  

Field of DreamsField of Dreams is based on a book called Shoeless Joe by a really great author named W.P. Kinsella.  Kinsella writes baseball fiction.  If you haven't read one of his books, and you're into baseball, check out something that he's written.  He's awesome.

As many of you probably know or have heard, the epic quote from "Field of Dreams" is "If you build it, he will come."  This statement meant many things to this movie, but for the main character of the book, we come to realize that "He" refers to the main character's dad. Most likely, each of us has a "He" in our lives and this statement has come to mean more to American culture than simply the reunion of a parent and child.  You hear this phrase everywhere...if you build...something cool...something important...something meaningful...they (he)...will come...and support you.

We've spent the last two years building a market research panel to provide us with participants for our online, in-person, quantitative, and qualitative market research.  We've also spent the last six months working on launching ourselves into the mobile market research space.  Our Field of Dreams, has come (for me) to refer to a product we call Opinion Share.  Opinion Share is an online and mobile market research panel.  "If you build it, he will come."

We're ready to go, and we're finally "out there."  Opinion Share is up and it's usable to our organization.  But, will they come?  The jury's still out.  Getting to where we're at has taken a long time, and there's still more to be done.  For those considering building their own "Field of Dreams," it's a labor of love but it's much more difficult than I'd ever have guessed.  Here are a few tips to building your Field of Dreams:

  • Know the concept: Often times when we look at the products and services that others build we find ourselves saying "I could do that; I just need to..." and then we simplify the work that was placed into their development.  Make sure you know what you're getting into.  
  • Understand the need for your product: Is it something you need; something others need; or both?
  • Set realistic goals: If you don't have goals for your new product then how will you know if you're "there"?
  • Plan your steps, and outline what needs to be accomplished.
  • Be clear and simple with your message.
  • Get after it

I have a sneaking suspicion that the process we've gone through with Opinion Share is going to continue for "much" of the rest of my life (maybe that's an exaggeration).  It's amazing how much work has gone in to getting us where we are today.  And the further we go the more that we realize we should or can do to improve.  The launching of Opinion Share has certainly been a learning experience and sometimes it's been tiring.  As we move along, it's important that we take another piece of advice from my favorite baseball move..."Go the distance."  And, that we will.

Getting My Inner Soccer (Football), Research & Analysis Geek On

  
  
  

I've been messing around with Tableau recently.  If you don't know what Tableau is, you should check it out.  It's a really cool and sophisticated data visualization software.  The public version of the software is actually free.  You probably have seen Tableau in action before without really knowing it.  Many times, when you watch those Ted Talks, the presenters are often times using Tableau (even the public version) to visualize the data sets they're looking at.

UK SoccerAnyway, I've been spending a lot of time coaching High School soccer recently.  I'm an avid follower of the sport and also coach for a local Utah soccer club called Utah Arsenal that plays under the Utah Youth Soccer Association programs.  Coaching, and watching, soccer is where I spend my "free" time.  As a soccer fan, there's no denying that the best soccer leagues are NOT found in the US (although Major League Soccer is really an up and coming league and really fun to watch, especially in person).  My favorite international league is the English Premier League (EPL).  It has some of the best soccer personalities in the world playing there.  Many countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America also have very strong leagues (and/or teams) but for me, the EPL is where it's at.     

As I was messing around with Tableau, I realized I needed an interesting database to dig around in.  Soccer/Football, especially out of the US, has a heavy betting culture.  As a result, with a little bit of effort, you can find databases of statistics for just about any league in the world.  I was able to find the 2013-2014 soccer database for all the professional soccer leagues in the UK (there are five of them), which included the EPL.  The seasons aren't over quite yet, but the data source currently includes 2,529 games played in 2013 to 2014. 

If you're not particularly familiar with soccer, there's an interesting part of it that not many Americans enjoy...it allows for ties.  Professional league (and youth league) champions are crowned through a point system.  Wins are given 3 points; Ties are given 1 point; and Losses are given 0 points.  The team with the most points at the end of the season wins the championship.  The soccer culture itself is worth reading about if you find a minute.  Going to a soccer game is like no other sporting event you'll ever attend.  There's singing, dancing, shouting, highs, lows, ups, downs, swearing, cheering, all in the space of 90 minutes - two 45 minute halves (the clock doesn't stop once it starts so you know what you're committing to).  Sometimes ties feel like wins, sometimes they feel like losses, and it's REALLY difficult to get wins away from your home pitch (that's the field for the unaware).  Stadiums often fill to capacity at over 70,000 people in one match and they are as well known internationally as any of the baseball or football stadiums are well known in the US.  Regarding soccer, if you are one of those people who says to yourself "I just don't get it," consider this...it's the #1 sport in the world and one of (if not the) fastest growing sport in the US.  Make a little bit of effort to understand it, there's nothing quite like it and it's here to stay.

So here's my inner research - soccer geek.  I've often wondered if there was any sort of mathematical relationship between the number of fouls called in a game, and the result (who wins the game).  Take a look at this graph I generated in Tableau from the UK soccer database. 

     Soccer Data Visualization

And, here's where the geek kicks in.  As I was digging around in the data file, I realized a couple of things that are a little easier to see when the "Fouls" sections are eliminated from this graph. First, the more yellow cards in a game, the more likely it is that the AWAY team wins.  As the yellow cards decrease, the teams are more likely to tie.  The fewer yellow cards in a game, the more likely the home team will win.  Interesting statistic.  Inversely, the more red cards, the more likely that the HOME team will win.  Though I haven't dug into it in a lot of detail, it's very likely that red cards are more likely to occur on the away team, leading to an increased probability of a home win (red cards result in the player being ejected from the game and occur about .20 per game or one of every five games).

Here's point number two.  For those of you that attend youth soccer games...have you ever heard the loud parent yell "Call it both ways ref!"  Meaning that the referee is calling the game in a lopsided fashion, or more fouls against one team.  In the English leagues at least, there's some truth to that.  Home teams are less likely to have fouls called against them, while the away team is more likely to be called for a foul.  In these leagues at least, there might be some home cookin' (refs that call games in favor of the home team).  It's likely not on purpose, but the crowd culture may really drive the players and referees to act in fairly specific ways.  Pretty cool stuff.  

Finally, back to my original question of whether the number of fouls impacts the results.  There doesn't appear to be a relationship between the number of fouls in a game and who actually wins the game.  Fouls are fairly consistent across home team wins, draws, and away team wins.  Meaning that referees, though they don't call fouls evenly between home and away, don't seem to be making the calls that impact the outcome of the game (on a macro level - there certainly is some of that on a game by game level).  

So the next time you get frustrated with the referee for fouls that he or she is or is not calling, remember, more often than not...the game's not about the referee and the individual call that's made...it's the other factors that drive the outcome of the game.  

For the good of the game!

Are There Advantages to Volunteering in the Market Research Industry?

  
  
  

About nine years ago, I had recently taken over as the head of Discovery Research Group.  I'd been in the market research industry for a number of years prior to that point, but my previous employer had rarely provided opportunities to participate at the industry level.  I knew a handful of people (mostly coworkers and clients) but my frame of reference on the industry was pretty small.volunteer

At the time that I took over leadership of Discovery, it had been doing good market research for about 15+ years, but as a result of my immediate executive predecessor, fewer and fewer people were aware of what we did well, and what we had to offer.  The market research industry was changing quickly and this predecessor (who wasn't from the industry) was having a difficult time keeping up.  As many of you know, market research companies have some "challenges" marketing to other market researchers (I guess we're just to analytical) so I needed to find a good way to get Discovery "back" on the radar screen.  I started attending conferences and talking to as many people as I possibly could.

In the course of ramping up my industry attendance, I reconnected with an "old friend" (he wasn't old then - hey BL!) who was very active in a local chapter of a market research industry association (the MRA).  I mentioned to him that I'd be happy to help in some way (thinking I'd be a door greeter at a conference).  They asked me to be the VP of the Chapter.  That was my first adventure into industry level volunteerism.  Since that time, I've served in multiple roles with the western based chapter and have, in the past few years, had the opportunity to serve on the Marketing Research Association's board of directors.   

Nine years later, I've spent a fairly significant amount of time advocating and volunteering in the market research industry.  There are moments where I ask myself (especially when I'm extremely busy), "Why do I do this to myself?"  At the end of the day, industry volunteerism has some advantages.  Here are a few:

  • Increased personal engagement with your industry and your company.  The result of which keeps you "in the loop" on new methods, techniques, and opportunities.
  • It's good for your resume, but at the same time improves on your job satisfaction.
  • It improves others' awareness of your company.  There are clients and customers that I currently work with that have resulted directly from my volunteer activities.
  • It feels good to give back and contribute.
  • There's value in taking advantage (and helping others take advantage) of opportunities that you only find out about because you are an "industry insider."

Many of you are familiar with the Marketing Research Association (MRA).  They have done some REALLY GREAT things in the past few years to reinvent themselves for the changing industry.  They've rebooted their conferences, their image, and are underway in rebooting all of their online content as well.  As a member of MRA's Board of Directors, I have the opportunity to pass along some information on an industry conference that they are hosting in six weeks in Chicago.  It's called the Insights & Strategies Conference and runs from June 4th to 6th, and will be one of the best conferences that I attend this year.

MRA's Insights & Strategies Conference will include 6 keynote speakers, 50 informational sessions, 50 exhibitors, and several world-class networking events.  The full line-up and more information is available at isc.marketingresearch.org.  I'd love to see you there.

There's a reason that I'm putting this out there via our blog to our readers.  Because of my connection to the association, I’m able to provide you with a discount code to the conference that you can use just because you read my stuff.  The discount code is: ISCRefer.  Simply type in the code on registration and it will knock 20% off the cost (which is actually very affordable for our industry to begin with).  It'll also add that discount to any other discount you may have already (like the early bird registration which ends on Friday, April 25).  

It's worth noting that I personally don't get anything out of this, other than a chance to meet many of you in person if you attend (or see you again).  I can vouch for this conference.  It's well worth your consideration if you have the time and are interested in networking and market research education.  

I hope to see you in Chicago in June.  If you can't make it, get out there and volunteer in the industry.  It'll help your career, improve your industry connections, and keep you out ahead of the curve.  Well worth your investment in your own future and that of your company and the industry.

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