×

Do you have what it takes to be a Game Changer?

Just answer a few short questions to start the application process for our next class.

*Required

By clicking "START MY APPLICATION" below, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You will then be redirected to our Comcast SportsTech application hosted by our partner F6S.

Inside Track

How StellarAlgo Helps Sports Leagues and Teams Unlock Fan Potential

Data has profoundly changed how many industries operate, from retail to fast food. The same is true for sports. Fans are seeing at game speed how coaches and players harness data to change sports, but few have seen how those same team’s business units leverage data to better connect to fans.

StellarAlgo built relationships with a handful of National Basketball Association (NBA) teams and recently forged a league-wide partnership. With the largest NBA arena seating just under 21,000 fans, many basketball fans may never get a chance to see their favorite player live. In an increasingly global game where NBA franchises are building worldwide empires, StellarAlgo is helping sports teams and their partners go beyond ticket sales to maximize fan engagement and revenue along every step of the ever-changing fan journey. This is a crucial point to consider when 90 percent of sports fans will never step into a stadium to watch a live event.

Read on to learn how Andrew McNiece and Tim Hayos use data to unlock fans’ full potential and usher in a new era in which data can change how broadcasters think about reaching the right fan at the right moment.

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
To kick off, tell me a little bit more about yourself and what your career arc and journeys were like leading up to your work with StellarAlgo.

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m Toronto-based. Born and raised here. My background is pretty diverse coming into the sports tech world. I started in oil and gas here in Canada for about seven years and then from there made a big pivot into tech consulting and spent five years in the tech consulting space, more broadly around data and technology work and the enterprise space. The first two years were in Atlanta and then my last three years were back in Toronto, helping build the Canadian market and office – established it for the global consulting firm that I was working for. Three years ago, I moved over to a leadership position at Stellar. Then it was an opportunity for me to blend my passion for sports with my experience in data and technology transformation initiatives.

I jumped on board three years ago to lead our revenue team. We’ve scaled quite significantly and grown about 300% in revenue over the last three years and really established ourselves in the team and league side of the sports industry with what we do in our products. My first two years were really focused on driving that with relationships we established with the NBA, the NHL, with media organizations. Our last year has really been the driving force of our Comcast relationship as we have this really strong foothold in the team and league side of the industry, especially in North America. How do we really accelerate our path to growth in the brand and the media side of the sports industry and then support what we do well, extending our capabilities on that side? I’ve been kind of a go-to market, early-stage product leader slash revenue leader over the last year trying to solve that puzzle of how we grow in those different verticals.

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
You jumped into the sports landscape with Stellar, I’m curious what your affinity for sports was before you landed in this space. Are you a huge sports fan?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
Yeah, great question. I personally grew up a huge sports fan for sure. I played a lot of sports, was a basketball and football player growing up and through university in Canada, and definitely always had aspirations of working in the sports business world as I was coming out of university, but it seemed like the opportunities were never kind of lining up perfectly, and I quite honestly felt like I was always moving further away from that opportunity as I progressed in my career.

I had this chance to jump over – blending my passion for sports with my experience in broader technology was a dream for me to jump into this opportunity at Stellar.

Our founder is a 20-year sports industry executive who very much comes from the customer lens and the problems and opportunities in the team and League side of the industry, as well as in the sports industry in general. As we’ve grown as a company, we’ve kind of reflected both sides of the coin, and we have some very strong sports industry expertise and experience on our roster, and then also a balance of people who don’t have the sports experience but do have a passion for the industry and the fan experience.

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
Was there a moment personally in your role at Stellar when you noticed a lightbulb moment when you saw a challenge and an opportunity to fix something or do something big in the sports and team landscape?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
Yeah, I think so. When I came on board, we were really building and entrenching reputation in the teams in North America and the pro-five sports league teams working with the Portland Trailblazers, the Sacramento Kings, the Vancouver Canucks, and the L.A. Kings.

We were building a reputation for how we deliver and helping them better improve their engagement with their fans through our software. As I was coming on board and we were delivering on those programs, we had a realization that there was first there was an opportunity to really help connect the understanding of fans at the team level with their league counterparts. With the NBA, for example, there’s not necessarily this (and this didn’t exist at the time) seamless understanding of who is a fan that the NBA is interacting with as a brand and then each of their 30 teams and their markets.

How do we help them collectively as a league better understand the relationship with their fans at all levels of their engagement as well as across the different markets? That was a big driving force behind our extension into our growth over the last two years has really been driven by our league relationship growth. We have this league-wide relationship with the NBA, where we’re delivering our platform to all 30 teams driven through the league office. We’re helping them understand that connected fan experience across all 30 teams and the league and then how they are interacting with fans to drive ticketing to drive fan engagement to drive global reach in their fan base. That was the first light bulb moment of, ‘Okay, we’re really strong and helping teams understand the fan and how they better engage with them. How do we help them understand and work with their league partners to better facilitate that connected fan experience?’

Andrew McNiece – StellarAlgo
Yeah, it was probably realizing all the difference, or how challenging it is, even when the teams have the data, how challenging it is, to put it into practice. And so just that was when I realized, hey, we need to make this easier for them to action on fans and make it easier for them to get to what they need to because their day-to-day is so busy because they have a million different things going on, how can we better do what they need to do within a few steps. And that’s kind of thing, one thing we’ve been working towards as a company to how we do that in the ticketing and merchandise and fan engagement space. And that was just an easy opportunity we saw right off the bat being okay. There are also all these other opportunities within this greater landscape of sports. How can we now solve this exact same problem in the sports media space, and in the partnership space? And so that’s kind of to me where there was like – there’s a lot of opportunity here, how can we solve something?

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
I grew up in Wisconsin and am a big fan of the Bucks. I know you had an early relationship with them as one of your core teams. We’re at this inflection point where data helps teams understand how to better operate and win. Now the way you’re talking about using data is a whole different opportunity for the fan side. And I wonder if that’s a broadly understood concept?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
I think the industry has been going in this direction for quite some time. It’s not necessarily there’s been a seismic shift in the last year or two. There was this driver, Moneyball, the Oakland A’s established in the early 2000s, and then basketball and all those sports came on board with really data-driven investments and the sports performance side of their organizations.

Over the last decade or so, that has bled quite significantly into the business operations side of these teams, and the Bucks are a great example. They’re investing heavily across their BI and analytics org, their marketing org, and any part of the organization that helps them make more data-driven, performance-driven decisions on how they’re engaging with their customers – their fans. That’s been an inflection point. Also, the mix of ownership across the leagues has changed significantly. There’s been a lot of owners that have come in who are more forward-thinking, maybe tech-driven investment owners who see broadly where other enterprise verticals like banking, retail, and manufacturing have made huge strides in investing in data to drive better performance in their business operations. They’ve been pushing the needle a little bit on being more customer-driven from a data perspective and truly understanding who our fans and customers are and then making more informed customer decisions.

I think all these moments of inertia in the industry have been converging. And then probably over the last three to five years, it’s come to a head in terms of more significant investment in this space. Specifically in what we do and really helping them master their understanding of the fans and then be more intentional about marketing and engaging their fans. So as a Bucks fan, you want to be getting the most personalized experience in your fandom with them – you might be different than the teenage child or the kindergarten kid who is experiencing a Bucks relationship for the first time and you want to engage with them in a certain specific way based on where you are in your life. And they want to be building that intimate relationship with you as well and not you know, having a one-size-fits-all relationship with their fans. And so every team is aspiring to do that.

Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, always preaches that 90% of NBA fans will never attend a game, so you think about that as a global fan base. There’s 90% that may never attend a game. It’s only 10% of the fans that are experiencing the product live in person on a day-to-day basis. And so, how do you continue to build meaningful relationships with that 90% of your fan base, as the Bucks have transcendent global stars like Giannis – you have a growing global fan base. How do you better understand who those fans are, engage with them in meaningful ways, and build meaningful relationships and experiences with them? The foundation of all that is the understanding of those fans from a data perspective. And so that’s where we help these teams and leagues think about how they connect their understanding of fans globally; they need their partners to accomplish that, whether brand partners or media partners in different markets and different spaces. And so that’s where we’re thinking about where we go next, with data being the foundation of everything.

Andrew McNiece, StellarAlgo
StellarAlgo was founded right around that time when teams started realizing, ‘Hey, we need to do things better here – we can’t just be riding the cyclical nature of team performance.’ And if things are great, we’re gonna sell tickets, and we’re gonna raise prices. If things aren’t, we’re gonna have to get scrappy and figure out what we’re doing. There weren’t any tools available at that time around 2015 of how to effectively do this or understand the fans. And that’s where we kind of came in – we have experience in the market. We’ve experienced the pains of this. You can’t understand your fans; you can’t build a strong strategy for this, you can’t then personalize the messages. And you can’t even focus your messages on the right people who are potentially looking to buy. And that’s where I think the challenge is where there were a lot of big marketing tech platforms from your kind of best-in-breed who are trying to get into sports, but they weren’t really solving it from a sports-specific lens. And so that’s where we came in and built tools that are built by sports professionals. And using machine learning (ML) models that are specific to what sports teams will be looking for to help them better understand fan affinity, fan engagement, renewal percentage, propensity to purchase, and things like that that are very sports-centric.

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
Was there an early win that you saw with any of those early relationships before it kind of dovetailed into the league-wide partnership? Was there a moment when you saw proof that what you were doing was working that solidified that broader relationship?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
I think it was more so so I think it’s so the story certainly centered first around really how we were helping teens in their market achieve their very specific market driven objectives. So that’s ticket sales that’s growing their fan base of engagement and just being more efficient and effective at understanding who their fans are. The industry is very small, especially in North America. We were really making meaningful progress with the Bucks – with the teams in the NBA specifically or in the NHL, and in these other leagues. Our reputation started to grow pretty quickly from there because of the small nature of the team and league world, and so I think that was the natural growth point that really started when I got here three years ago.

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
What are some of the challenges that StellarAlgo is positioned to solve given the work that you’ve just explained to me and what’s the big challenge for media production?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
This is probably the area that I’m most passionate about in terms of where things are going. And just the opportunity that we have to really support an industry that’s in pretty significant disruption right now in the broadcast industry. On multiple levels, it’s shifting quite significantly as cords are being cut, and the movement of broadcast consumers from linear to streaming and digital is happening. But as that happens, there are a couple of factors at play: National media rights are still extremely expensive. Making the economics work is still very challenging for traditional media, and customer acquisition is fairly expensive on the streaming side. And so the economics 10-15 years ago made perfect sense in terms of how broadcasters were monetizing the linear channels and paying for these rights and then ultimately, advertisers understanding the value that they’re getting as that model shifts to streaming. There’s still a lot of work to be done and understanding the economics of acquiring and retaining a customer or streaming subscriber and then how that translates to the right amount of advertising dollars and how they’re meaningfully setting up the relationship with these streaming customers to experience the content in the right way to make sure they’re making the most of these expensive sports right.

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
What are your thoughts on fan engagement for some massive sports events like the Masters or NFL Draft, where fans are invested in teams that are drafting players, and there’s this multitude of connective points that could come, you know, five years down the road that experience may look completely different?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
The Masters is interesting – we don’t work with them today – we work with the USTA and the U.S. Open and tennis for example, which have similar models and just have kind of a one-week Big Bang event. The opportunities and challenges are a bit different, but they really have one central week a year where there’s the most opportunity to engage their fans to make the most of their brand and the sports ecosystem and how they’re driving experience in an arena and out of venue experiences.

And so they really have to be confident about how they’re making the most of that week and that specific Big Bang moment every year. And so there’s a lot of prep every season that goes into that one week and so they have a really big opportunity to keep thinking about how they connect experiences across their brand.

I’m a huge golf fan. The Masters continue to invest in data and technology initiatives that I think do a really good job of capitalizing on the week of time that they have as being the kind of center of the sports universe but then also thinking about how you connect and keep that relationship with a Masters consumer and a fan as they continue through the other 51 weeks a year that they’re not watching the Masters? That’s a challenge I’m sure they continue to explore. And that’s one side of the industry that is interesting.

You mentioned the NFL Draft. This is where we work with the NBA a lot. They have these jewel events and moments in their calendar that they are driving at the league level, like the NBA All-Star Weekend and the NBA draft. The NFL is no different and they are capturing relationships with fans meaningfully through these events. Whether it’s the NBA Draft or the NBA All-Star Weekend, as fans vote for players and engage in experiences around these events that the NBA is running, they are finding and discovering insights and relationships with fans that the team might not see. If you’re a big fan of a player and you’re voting for them for All-Star weekend, or you’re engaging with experiences around that team and the draft, the league will be uncovering who you are as a fan that would be really valuable to understand at the team level. And so that’s the big driver across our NBA relationship is how do we help them quickly and most actually share those insights and information.

Andrew McNiece – StellarAlgo
The better we can understand you and how you like to digest content and what messages resonate with you, the better. We’re used to this experience across all the other industries we work with, whether it’s shopping, fashion, or what have you, and those types of things are just normal to us.

I think it brings your fandom out in a new way once you’re able to start catering messages. The Masters are coming up, and you’re a big Rory fan, having specific messaging around that are things that will interest you, say your favorite fans, your favorite players, or your favorite events.

Say you’re not a Masters fan, you’re a British Open fan for whatever reason If you like quarterbacks in the NFL – you’re more interested in who the top prospects are – those pieces of information just provide a much better experience that’ll keep fans engaged more and want them to want to dig in more, which I think is just beneficial for everybody, as we’re thinking about what sports can do. And also sports can do for good in terms of bringing communities together.

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
How did you learn about the SportsTech Program, and what inspired you to apply?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
We met Chris & Jenna at a conference last year and were off and running from there.

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
What are you hoping to get most out of the program when you finish five months from now?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
Solidifying our product/market fit in helping media companies and their league partners get the most out of their shared relationship with sports fans

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
What are some of your sports tech predictions for this year?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo

  • GenAI will make meaningful progress in solidifying valuable use cases in sports
  • The fan experience will continue its momentum in moving to digital and direct-to-consumer
  • There will be some exciting pilots with integrating Virtual Reality into live sports that inspire the industry to think differently about the live experience

Taylor Pipes, Boomtown
Anything you are listening to right now at the moment? A podcast?

Tim Hayos, StellarAlgo
I digest a ton of sports podcast content; I’m a big Bill Simmons fan and then a major golf nerd, so a few podcasts in that space

From a business perspective, I’m a big fan of Stratechery and Ben Thompson. He has some great pieces about the changing media landscape and what that could mean for sports fans.

Subscribe to Inside Track: