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Pittsburgh Pirates tap SAS Analytics

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Baseball loves the numbers, both traditional RBIs and ERAs plus newer sabermetric measures like walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and value over replacement player (VORP). As “Moneyball” has become a valued statistical approach to selecting talent, teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates are also embracing analytics to improve operations and marketing and build stronger relationships with fans. Using SAS Visual Data Discovery, the Pirates surface a treasure trove of fan insights. The point-and-click interface gives quick entry to advanced analytics to help them better understand how their fans are changing, where fans are coming from and how promotions affect ticket sales.

Before, the Pirates struggled to integrate data from applications driving direct mail and online promotions. Now, SAS (www.sas.com) integrates and analyzes data and provides interactive visualization to help decision makers understand trends and fan-behavior patterns. With analytic insights, the Pirates can boost database marketing to increase ticket and merchandise sales.

“We interact with fans in several ways and SAS analyzes data from all those sources,” says Jim Alexander, senior director of business analytics for the Pirates. “We use SAS to build powerful predictive models that draw out customer insights and help us deliver the right offers to the right fans. This is just the beginning. We want to empower more Pirates employees with the information they need to strengthen fan relationships. Building our own SAS analytics skills is giving us incredible flexibility to spot new opportunities and solve problems.”

“SAS Visual Data Discovery offers multiple analytical modeling capabilities and lets us test different scenarios and select the analytic model that produces the best results,” adds Jason Witzberger, manager of business analytics for the Pirates. “It’s great toggling from SAS’ point-and-click view to the programmatic view when tweaks are needed – that’s a real time saver.”

Better able to focus their resources, Pirates sales and marketing teams are more efficient. The team is now using SAS to forecast 2012 attendance to help plan the next season. The Pirates will begin analyzing fan data in near-real time, enabling them to formulate more timely marketing campaigns.

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