Olympics Comedown

  |  August 23, 2012   |  Comments

Some great data analysis ideas we can take away from the London Olympics.

Usain Bolt
Photo Credit: John D'Arcy

Some marketing managers in Great Britain are currently doing somersaults better than McKayla Maroney. Champagne sales went up 12 percent in the last week of the London Olympics and some of it is down to those people who are bonused on brand customer satisfaction scores. The feel-good factor in the country drove increases in CSAT scores. I know because I've seen the data for a number of well-known U.K. brands and there is a significant leap thanks to Jess Ennis and her teammates.

In my last column, I was getting overexcited about the imminent start of London 2012. I live a couple of miles from the main site and have to say that it was the most fun couple of weeks in London I can remember. But now, although it's back to the day job, I've still been thinking of Olympics lessons about datasets, visualizations, and analysis. So as well as analyzing the impact of the Games on my clients' satisfaction scores, I've also been looking for great data analysis ideas to help me in future projects. Here are a few thoughts.

Standard Metrics Only Tell Half the Story

If you followed London 2012, you will have seen the medal table every day. But was that a fair reflection on achievements by each country? Were there other bits of data that added that extra dimension for insight? The Guardian's data blog in the U.K. and The Wall Street Journal both analyzed medal performance, not just on overall numbers but also against country population, GDP, and team size.

So let's call out Grenada as the country that was actually the most impressive in the Games. They smashed both the U.S. and Great Britain in terms of medals per head of population. And as The Wall Street Journal pointed out, how about all those failures on the Great Britain team as well the gold medals? Maybe a net win/loss tally wouldn't have had Great Britain so high up the table.

What's great about these sites is that they think about extra (and free) sources of data that complement the initial analysis. It's the equivalent of mashing two sets of data together - say web analytics and customer complaints data - to get a fuller view of performance. And as The Wall Street Journal proved, it's important to look at both ends of performance, analyzing differences in behavior between your best customers and your detractors.

Having Fun Ways of Presenting Data Is Always Important

If you love data go and have a play here and here and take inspiration for your own infographics.

Lots of other sites I've seen highlighted the quirky nature of the data and showed how it related to people's behaviors and emotions. This BBC site is a great example. I think the lesson for us when presenting data is to make a story about people's behaviors - your conversion analysis isn't just a stack of numbers in a funnel, but a story about people's frustrations, wants, and desires. That's a lot more inspiring to a website designer than just telling him his conversion rate sucks.

The Big Analytics Question - Was It All Worth It? What's the ROI?

There's been a fair few soul-searching articles in the U.K. press that try and analyze the hard numbers and the perceived uplifts. Mark Ritson's cynical article is a great example. So I did some really simple analysis myself.

We're told that the cost of the Games to the British taxpayer was £9 billion. There are around 26 million taxpayers in Britain so that equates to about £350 (or $550) each. I did a straw poll of my mates in the pub on the weekend and most people would actually happily pay that again next year just to have the world's biggest party come back. Of course, a pensioner in the Northern Isles of Scotland is likely to have a different perspective. But my point is that my analysis begins to tell a personal story, as does the impact on brand CSAT scores I talked about earlier. Classic ROI isn't always possible to measure the impact of a big event, or a new website launch, or even a big advertising campaign. So the challenge for the analyst is to find available data and metrics that anyone can understand.

So was it all worth it? The picture at the top of this column is one I took of Usain Bolt about five minutes after he'd won the 100 meters gold medal. Persistence pays off and on the day of the 100 meters I fluked a ticket from the much maligned London 2012 website and was one of the lucky 80,000 to see the fastest man ever to walk this earth. Now, that's one of the best success metrics I've ever heard of.


John D'Arcy

John D'Arcy is the Head of Numbers at Seren, a Foviance Group company. Seren is a U.K.-based consultancy that utilizes data analytics and user experience to help improve customer experience. John has helped clients measure and optimize their marketing communications for over 15 years across digital and traditional media. He's been able to utilize the modeling and statistical skills he learned in the offline world to bring a more rigorous approach to the digital analytics industry. John's team at Seren are certified professionals for a number of technologies including Google Analytics, Adobe-Omniture, and Webtrends.

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