SAEM hosts emerging trends seminar

Panelists discuss the #MeToo movement, analytics and eSports

Founder of the TeamWork Online Buffy Flippel appeared as the Keynote Speaker to discuss how the #MeToo movement affects women in sports.

Written By Dara Collins, Co-Sports Editor

Sports, arts and entertainment management (SAEM) graduate assistant Jessica Martin and SAEM professor Robert Durda utilized network connections and knowledge of emerging trends to bring local talent and other panelists to Point Park University’s campus last Tuesday.

The duo brought representatives of Pittsburgh’s three major sports teams, TeamWork Online, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pittsburgh Knights and Visit Pittsburgh to the Lawrence Hall Ballroom to discuss the #MeToo movement, analytics in sports and eSports in the first Emerging Trends in the Sports Industry seminar.

Keynote speaker and founder of TeamWork Online, Buffy Filippell, kicked off the afternoon discussing how the #MeToo movement has impacted women in the workplace.

A number of students sat in on the discussion as Filippell explained past statistics and scenarios of women in the sports and entertainment industry as well as her knowledge of sexual harassment in the sports workforce.

Sophomore SAEM student Kyle Kuhns said one of the most shocking facts Filippell shared is there is only 27 female CEOs in the Fortune 500.

Following Filippel, the first group of panelists consisted of analytics professionals from the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers.

Each panelist discussed their own focus at work. Jim Alexander of the Pirates discussed ticket sales and how to market tickets to various audiences based on location, age and income, among other determinants.

When asked from an audience member how much ticket sales are impacted when a player leaves, his answer was simple.

“Not much, unless it’s Cutch,” Alexander said.

As for the Penguins, Sam Ventura discussed the team side of analytics. Ventura displayed diagrams of shot locations from two different Penguins players, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel. He explained that the location of the shot, especially the goals, indicates the player.

While ticket sales and a team explanation of analytics were handled by the Pirates and Penguins, Melanie Harris discussed everything in between.

The Business Analytics Manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Harris explained her collection of data from ticketing, television and radio ratings, stadium merchandise and concessions sales and digital traffic.

As a one-woman office, Harris analyzes many aspects of the National Football League and the Steelers.

“I’m the person that can bring those departments together,” Harris said. “A lot of times you’ll see businesses work in silos, and they might be doing what they think is best for their department but not taking into consideration other departments. That just naturally happens because you’re just trying to make your metrics the best. Sometimes I think with me having everyone’s data, I can be a voice to say…how do we focus on the fan as a whole instead of just in pockets.”

Harris acknowledges varying thoughts and opinions shine through analytics.

“Analytics can be very eye opening…we thought this was performing well, but when we looked at it, actually there was an area for improvement,” Harris said. “Maybe we thought something wasn’t doing as well as it actually was.”

As Harris put it, “The numbers are the numbers.”

To close the event, a panel of professionals in eSports took the stage. With all four members having ties to Pittsburgh, the hometown talent emphasized the impact of eSports on the city as well as the sports industry as a whole.

The university recognizes the rise of eSports, resulting in a Business of eSports course that will be offered to SAEM juniors in the upcoming fall semester.

Martin explained the course will be taught by Chuck Berry, the moderator of the eSports panel and part-time SAEM professor. Students will learn business models and marketing tactics of eSports teams, players and leagues as well as the streaming industries used by eSports organizations, such as Twitch.

After a great turnout, Martin hopes to continue the seminar for years to come.

“I think it was very well received, especially for it being our very first event like this that we’ve done,” Martin said. “We’re hoping in the future to continue putting on an emerging trends seminar whether it be in sports, arts or entertainment for our program just to see how each year even the trends in our field change. I think that’s super beneficial for our students to hear.”