How the sports official industry is using mountains of data to plan for a winning future

The Situation

As part of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), Referee.com provides educational and training materials to sports officials from youth to professional levels. The organization operates in 6 major sports and 10+ other sports around the world. Its official publication, Referee Magazine, has 22,000 subscribers. For years, NASO had informally watched membership demographics and believed the average age of their members was getting older. NASO had concerns about the future and wanted to ensure that the sports official industry was recruiting highly qualified candidates of all ages, genders, and races.

To give referees a voice in the future and to test their beliefs, Referee Magazine distributed an extensive online survey to its reader list. The organization was hoping to receive 500 responses. Instead, they received over 17,000. Suddenly, the plan to use excel for analyzing survey results was no longer going to work. With less than 30 days to prepare for a presentation of the survey’s results at NASO’s annual conference – The Sports Officiating Summit, the organization turned to Continuus. 

The Continuus Approach

NASO’s survey had 162 questions, and many of the questions offered respondents the opportunity to provide multiple answers. Between the length of the survey and the number of responses, the resulting data set had over 13 million possible data points. Clearly, a more powerful solution was needed.

Our business intelligence engineers used Alteryx to analyze the data and Tableau to create visualizations for high level survey results. From this information, we determined 5 major themes. The themes were presented at the Sports Officiating Summit, generating much excitement from those in attendance.  

After the conference, our business intelligence engineers continued to work with the data, preparing interactive visualizations for the Referee.com website. Referee wanted the survey result visualizations to be accessible to all their subscribers. The organization also wanted interested individuals to be able to interact with the visualizations so they can sort and filter the data by state, sport, or other criteria.

The Results

NASO and Referee.com are now far more informed about the demographics of their membership, their experience, lifestyles, and attitudes towards their jobs. The organization has confirmed some of their initial findings and will recommend its members make changes to recruitment and retention strategies as a result. NASO plans to continue to use what it has learned to guide itself into the future. Perhaps best of all, the experience of surveying its members and gathering/analyzing the data was such a positive experience, Referee.com plans to survey its members again and is looking forward to what can be learned when gathering data over an extended time and watching patterns emerge.

See the visualizations we created for Referee.com