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How technology is helping decision makers better prepare for sporting events

Damian Browarnik
3 min read

Every year at the US Open there is a man or woman in charge of pushing a button. Sounds like a menial job, but the push of this button has a monetary and operational effect that can alter the tournament for the day.

This man or woman is in charge of deciding whether or not the roof will remain open or will close.

Across the vast world of sports there are thousands of such men and women who are tasked with making decisions that ultimately affect events and athlete performances. Whether it be deciding if to close the roof or which beverage to sell, these are decisions that impact everything from financial revenue or losses to the fan experience.

The task of pushing the button to close the roof is one that stands out to Dan Slagen, CMO of ClimaCell, a global leader in weather technology.

“Essentially there is a person sitting there with a button, and they just press the button for the roof to close,” he explains in awe. “But the number of details and questions that need to go into the decision to press the button are immense."



Controlling the Weather

ClimaCell’s predictive and automated software enables teams, leagues and organisations to better understand how the weather is going to impact their operations. You’re not looking at the weather forecast, stresses Slagen, you’re monitoring the effect the weather could have on your event, so you can act and plan your operations and make decisions in advance rather than react when things are happening.

Weather safety is one of the top reasons sports organisations have turned to ClimaCell over the years. For example, ClimaCell’s technology can show in real-time, over the course of 15 minutes, whether lightning will advance to a particular location or if it will miss a venue.

But it is not the only use case for ClimaCell, a fact Slagen and his team found “pleasantly surprising” after several years of working in sports.

“I never thought we’d be working across sports and marketing campaigns, fan interaction events, all of those different types of things,” he says.

“Every aspect of a sporting event is impacted by the weather. So it’s great to see some of these teams and leagues really be on the cutting edge, to see how they can use weather to advance their operations, advance revenues, decrease costs and make the fan experience better.”

One such way of improving the fan experience is with food and beverage sales. By understanding the weather, teams can create weather-based concessions promotions and manage inventory in a smarter way.

ClimaCell estimates that by making the wrong weather-related decisions, sports organisations could be losing millions. This could be due to lost ticket sales or media rights revenues if a game or event is cancelled.

The majority of this is preventable, says Slagen. While ClimaCell can’t change the weather and prevent cancellations, what they can do is give them “a heads up multiple days before.”

With an advanced warning “you can work around rescheduling or working ahead,” says Slagen. “The impact of something happening unexpectedly or in real time is much worse than knowing about it a few days prior and being able to put a plan of action in place."


The Effects of Covid-19

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic many leagues and sporting events were halted, suspended or postponed and later returned in seasons they weren’t used to playing in, dealing with warmer weather conditions and different levels of humidity.

Slagen highlights the Masters and French Open as two examples of tournaments dealing with changes that could be as small as when the sun sets.

“You have these tournaments that are very used to the conditions from the past couple of years,” Slagen says.

“You have the same operations teams, same facilities teams and they just sort of know to come in and know what to do. But if you’re doing it in a different month when the conditions are different you don’t know if you’ll need a different type of set up or to change times, or if there’s any increased or decreased safety risk you need to be aware of.

“You’re basically running the tournament for the first time.”

Several decades ago, or perhaps even several years, it would have been more complicated for sports organisations to cope with changes brought upon by Covid-19. Recent advancements in technology do not only offer the sports world a means of grappling with a once in a hundred years pandemic, but a chance to fully innovate and integrate technology to improve their decision making process and to control what was once uncontrollable.

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