The Importance of Useable Data for Colorado State Athletics

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Colorado State - Football - Data
Photo courtesy of Colorado State Athletics

(*Old Hat is a proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

Is it data or is it intelligence?

If you were to ask Chris Ferris, senior associate athletic director for sales, marketing, and communications at Colorado State, he would most likely tell you that it’s actually “strategic intelligence.”

As data and its impact has permeated sports of all levels, there has never been a better time to be able to make decisions based on what the numbers suggest. But, with all of the numbers floating around, and all of the potential data points to be collected, what should be focused on first?

While Ferris may not point to a specific data point that everyone should look for, seeing as all athletic departments have different goals, he did mention that the most important fact beyond acquiring data is being able to use it to implement new initiatives.

Hence, the “strategic intelligence” idea.

“At the end of the day, we have a finite amount of resources, people, and time. Finding out how to direct and utilize resources, people, and time is critical. Strategic intelligence that helps us do that is very powerful.”

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It’s great to have data, but it’s even better to have data and a context that makes what the spreadsheets are telling you useable.

“To me, it’s about data and information that you can use to plot out specific initiatives that you can mobilize resources against,” mentioned Ferris. “There’s a lot of data out there that we all like to look at and think is interesting, but the question would be, ‘How are you going to use that data and what category of use does it fit in?’”

Opening in 2017, Canvas Stadium brought football back to the CSU campus for the first time in 49 years. Not only did the move provide students and fans with a better experience, it also gave Ferris and his team the opportunity to review a few areas in which they wanted to improve.

Teaming up with Old Hat, building a use case with its data was focused around three areas: retention, engagement, and communications.

“I think what Old Hat really did well for us is they not only presented data, they presented data with a plan of how to use it. It was data with a to-do list, which has been extremely helpful.” – Chris Ferris, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sales, Marketing, and Communications at Colorado State

Colorado State wanted to know whether or not stakeholders were happy with their investments in the program “monetarily or time-driven” and what areas the department needs to focus on with existing and/or additional resources.

When it came to retention, Ferris was looking for a better way to connect with specific industries — both local and regional — that were relatable in impact in the community as well as an opportunity to provide value from a partnership perspective.

“What are those industries, and where are those opportunities from a corporate perspective that lend themselves to integration and partnership? I thought that was very helpful because if we can connect with those industries that resonate our current stakeholders, that helps us with retention and growth, which is a double positive.”

To drive engagement, the team narrowed in on making sure the department’s messaging was being received correctly. What they found was that while a large part of their alumni base is in Denver, the messaging could be too focused and alumni and fans in cities like Parker, Greeley and Loveland may not be receiving it as well.

Instead of approaching these areas as just a department, the shift has been focused on approaching them more as a team — involving not only the individual athletic programs, but the academic programs like the school’s renowned agriculture department when appropriate.  

Although Ferris and the team can’t solve all the problems at once, their newly found “strategic intelligence” enables them to be more prepared and confident in the initiatives they execute.

“We’re confident that the efforts we’re going to make will have positive results because we’ve done our homework, right? It is good to go into projects with a level of preparedness and confidence like this.”

(*Old Hat is a proud Partner of Front Office Sports)