The Value of Data & Analytics: Thoughts From The Vegas Golden Knights


Sep 03, 2019



A sit down with Director of Business Intelligence: Kris Knief

Analytics came front and center almost two decades ago thanks to the book and subsequent movie Moneyball. Sports teams took notice that past perceptions and subjective determination of an existing set of metrics didn’t necessarily result in a competitive on-field team. Since then the interest in analytics within front offices and across leagues, has increased as well.

We recently sat down with Kris Knief, Director of Business Intelligence for the Vegas Golden Knights to learn more about his experience in this ever-evolving industry and how data & analytics help him and the Golden Knights. Kris’ background working in multiple verticals of organizations in the sports & entertainment industry, including marketing, branding, and information roles culminated in the experience and knowledge he leverages on a daily basis in his current role. He credits the expedited learning curve, for the newest NHL team in the league, to the strategic use of data and analytics throughout the organization.

How have you seen changes in the use of data & analytics in the sports & entertainment industry?  

I’ve had access to multiple types of data since the beginning of my career. 

When I first started in the industry, data really meant CRM specifically – limited to interactions between existing fans and sales & service teams. While this data is very important it wasn’t often shared with other departments across an organization. In the past 5 years or so, the availability and awareness of data has grown significantly, and become an integral part of every organization, across all verticals from ticketing, partnerships, fan segmentation & engagement, to food & beverage. Not only has the availability of data increased through the systems that we use to interact with our fans, but also the awareness of the value of pulling those siloed data sets together to get a fuller picture of the fan experience for organizations. 

Data is the key to understanding not only your customers, but also in identifying the best practices that enterprises will need going forward. 

With the Vegas Golden Knights being the newest NHL franchise to take the ice, how have analytics insights affected your organization?

Coming up on our 3rd season, we’re still building out our data sets. For us, the focus has been on standardizing our data to support the needs of every single vertical of our organization. It has already expedited our potential pricing strategy and has helped us identify different segments across our various products. As we move forward, data will remain at the core of our business strategy. The larger the data sets that we have to support the collective efforts of the organization, the more nuanced our strategy will become, benefiting both our fans and linemates.

What are 3 things that surprised you about the way data and analytics has been trending?

  • How quickly data has grown is importance, not only in the sports & entertainment industry, but for all businesses. Companies are evolving with the addition of analytical resources – both through employees and available tools.

  • The impact that artificial intelligence has had on revolutionizing the way teams interact with their current data sets, manage and process those data sets, and how fundamental that has become when analyzing robust data sets and gathering insights to make informed, strategic recommendations.

  • The ultimate value of a data set, and how it can both positively and negatively tell the story of your business strategy. It identifies any areas that need improvement allows an organization to pivot to better align with its audiences.

What advice would you give to an organization that is looking to accelerate their analytics journey?

I think the Vegas Golden Knights are a great example of how to build out a data and analytics roadmap. Overall, we’re still a very new organization, but I think it comes down to 3 main points:

  1. When building out your data and analytics strategy, don’t build for the now. Build for the future, even if you, as an individual, will not be a part of it.

  2. Look to all verticals in your organization to understand where there is immediate value. This can also inform how to standardize your data sets for effectiveness for the organization as a whole.

  3. Stay patient! Your strategy is not going to be implemented over night but with some persistence, you will see direct results. 

I will also add that there is a lot to consider in building out an effective data strategy, it can feel all-consuming at times, but I think these considerations are the ones that we have kept closest to mind in our journey:

  • Invest in the right platforms 

  • Develop a short and long-term road map that you can see immediate value in to prove out the value of not only data but also the power behind analytics for your entire enterprise

  • Hire the people who can counterbalance any weaknesses in your department while setting new company standards 

What are next steps for the Vegas Golden Knights related to data and analytics? Where will it take you next?

I think for us, it’s building a sustainable infrastructure that can provide value to a number of verticals on a daily basis, leading to even more strategic decision making. We’re focused on furthering our segmentation capabilities and increasing personalization and identify pricing structures that can be adjusted in a more dynamic way. 

What are some things the StellarAlgo Customer Data Platform is helping you do that you didn’t have bandwidth for before? What is a surprise that your data has uncovered?  

I think for our organization, being a new franchise and having smaller data sets compared to organizations that have been established for decades, we were most impressed with how the StellarAlgo Customer Data Platform has had an immediate impact on our different verticals. It has helped us streamline our ticketing data from a primary and secondary market standpoint, understand the trends that are occurring on a nightly basis, and helped us define segmentation strategies for specific e-mail campaigns and lead generation for our different product mixes across the board. Our customer understanding has increased in so many ways – identifying where they are located and their purchasing habits – and we’ve only been working with StellarAlgo for short period of time. We’ve seen significant value across a number of verticals across our organization and ultimately this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re looking forward to how the platform will increase our knowledge and help define best practices as we continue to work with the StellarAlgo team.  

Any final thoughts?

A couple years ago data was just something that people thought they had but didn’t see the true value behind it. Today it has become such a vital decision-making tool that ultimately can make or break many organizations and affect the bottom line in a positive or negative manner. I can’t overstate how important it is for organizations to implement and review their data strategy regularly.

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