While a winning spirit continues to be marketed by some as the essential for one sport teams’ victory over another, the heart of the sports world is becoming ever more calculative as business analytics takes hold. Bain & Company has in recent years seen a number of its ex-employees enter the sports business world, where they come to deploy key skills related to data analytics and strategic logic to overcome biases and get the winning deals done.
The sporting world is increasingly becoming the field of not merely players and fans but also of businesses gurus looking to turn a tidy profit for the winning brand, with many of the clubs hiring former Bain & Company consultants for their top management. There are several examples of ex-Bain affiliates that have made their way into the top of the sporting business, with in the US alone, nine sporting teams having hired Bain alumni in commanding positions, including the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, and the United States Olympic Committee.
The Boston ‘Bain Mafia’
In Boston there is even talk of a ‘Bain Mafia’, with Patriots President Jonathan Kraft having spent two years at Bain, and Andrew Wasynczuk, who also worked at Bain, later becoming the Patriots’ Chief Operating Officer. The Boston Red Sox hired Tim Zue, educated at MIT, who spent a year at Bain learning about the business world as its Vice President of Business Development, and co-owner of the Boston Celtics Steve Pagliuca has been working at Bain for 26 years and functions as Bain Capital’s Managing Director and as Co-Chair of the Boston 2024 Olympics Finance Committee.
There are a number of factors that are influencing the trend of taking aboard ex-Bain employees. Key among these is that the strong analytic approach learned at Bain enables former Bain consultants to find and make the business decisions that improve the numbers and win the contracts and deals needed. “The core of the Bain & Co. business was going out and talking to customers, vetting competitors, and looking under every rock for all the facts you can get to make an informed decision,” explains Pagliuca.
The Bain approach to leverage data is a winner for the teams according to Wasynczuk: “Owners are always thinking about how they can create greater revenue streams, greater performance, and greater fan loyalty. Having thoughtful, data-driven approaches to help answer those questions is highly valuable.”
With Zue’s experience at Bain comes a business understanding of market analysis, applicable in the dynamic pricing of seats at the stadium. With prices reflecting fluctuations in demand and supply, and with data leveraged and analysed, maximised market benefits can be generated for the team and its brand. “Bain and other companies like Bain do a great job of teaching people how to use data to test hypotheses and inform decisions,” says Zue. “It’s a skill set that’s served me incredibly well.”