AMEC 2016: UNICEF’s three football lessons for measurement

Kicking off the first session at AMEC 2016, Omar Mahmoud, chief of marketing knowledge, private fundraising & partnerships division at UNICEF, discusses how comms professionals can use three lessons from football performance measurements and apply them to your business strategy.

While speaking on the first day of the AMEC summit, Mahmoud said that ‘football is a metaphor for life’ as the passion, emotion and dedication of the game is something that we all deal with every day.

He says football performance measurement stats, such as those created by SoccerSTATS, has taught us three things:

Create a framework

Sports measurement has steadily evolved since the introduction of analytics to baseball by baseball icon Yogi Berrer. Since then, football has steadily developed these methods of analysis such as the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.

Mahmoud said that it’s also useful to have an overreaching and broad measure in comms, so long as businesses know the drivers of that measure. He added that it’s also important to consistently update these frameworks.

Be aware of ‘ignorance management’ 

Mahmoud said that we are all aware of knowledge management, but comms professionals should also be aware of ‘ignorance management’ – the case where businesses are so focused on the obvious, or easily available stats, that real important information can be missed as a result.

In the case of the Ballon d’Or, or the European Footballer of the Year award, Mahmoud says that only one defender has ever received it. This is because most of the obvious candidates are strikers, who tend to goal scorers and make for an easier measurement. Despite this, Mahmoud says when you look deeper at the data, the goal defended, or the goal stopped, is often more valuable for a winning team.

Study your competitor

Mahmoud says that we all have an ‘action bias’ in our business decisions. An analysis was taken of 300 goalkeepers’  penalty habits, which found that the best thing a goalkeeper could do was stay in the goal’s centre. However, most goal keepers tend to jump to one side. Why? Because most of our behaviour is psychological and we are reactive by nature.

Mahmoud says the best thing to do is study your competitor as much as possible. In 2008’s UEFA final between Manchester United and Chelsea, econometrics was a big part of the game. Chelsea managers had made friends with a university econometrician, who found that Manchester United’s goalkeeper always leaned to the left when trying to save. Chelsea players repeatedly tried to take advantage of this during the game. This, Mahmoud says, is an example of studying your competitor.

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