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March 14, 2012

Andres Lares and the 2012 MIT Sports Analytics Conference

Interviews

Jeff Cochran

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A few days ago we were lucky enough to sit down with our Market Analyst/Deal Coach, Andres Lares, who attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a couple weeks back.  We asked him a few questions about his time up in the great state of Massachusetts.

Market Analyst/Deal Coach is a pretty broad title.  What kind of work do you do at SNI on a day-to-day basis?

I am split between three major responsibilities.  My job as Deal Coach stems from becoming so ingrained in our clients’ operations that we are often asked to provide consultation for our clients’ real live deals.  It is unbelievable how much of an impact a trusted, objective party can have on the outcomes of these negotiations.

I also work within our Sports Practice, where we train and consult with teams across the four major sports.  We assist business departments with sponsorships, tv/media, suites, and season ticket sales and help front offices negotiate player contracts and trades.  We often also advise on strategic planning and other issues– because we work with teams across the various sports, we’re aware of the best practices across the industry, which is additional value-add for our clients.

Finally, I am responsible for developing SNI’s brand, which is all about highly customized and engaging negotiations, sales, and influence training and consulting that provides organizations with a proven return on investment.  It’s an interesting responsibility because once we get in front of people our service sells itself.  The difficulty is just getting our foot in the door and being found with all the noise in the market place.

Can you tell us a little about SNI’s Sports Practice?

The Sports Practice is all about taking SNI’s systematic approach that has worked so well across industries and implementing it in sports.  Most of our engagements in the sports industry include some training up front and then extensive deal coaching thereafter.  It’s interesting because at first teams are extremely hesitant to work with an outside group because of confidentiality, but it does not take long before we have a visible impact on their operations/bottom line and that rapidly accelerates the relationship and improves the partnership’s effectiveness.

Tell us about the role of analytics when developing negotiation strategies for teams/player representation?

We tend to focus less on the analytics and more so on using a systematic approach to help them throughout the negotiation.  We firmly believe that the same amount of resources should be spent planning, preparing, and scripting as is used in the collection of data and its analysis.

How many MIT Sports Analytics Conferences have you been to? How did this one compare to the others?

I’ve been going since the original conference, which I’m fairly certain means I’ve been to 6.  It’s funny, thinking back how a couple of years ago there were only a few hundred people in a basement.  Now it’s become a huge event that takes up a
significant portion of Boston’s convention center.  Of course there are pros and cons to the change in size.  It has lost some of the intimate feel due to the increase in size, but this has also allowed the scope to grow, which is great.  It’s really become a huge event with great speakers.  The group has done a tremendous job.

Who were some of your favorite speakers at the conference?

One of my favorites was Gary Bettman.  He was part of an impressive panel in the morning.  The Toronto Maple Leaf’s President, Brian Burke, was interesting and, as always, hilarious.  Since he’s no longer tied to a team, Eric Mangini was particularly open and candid, which was great.  Of course, we can’t forget Ron Shapiro.  He was a star.

I heard this conference was full of sports nerds anxiously waiting with their calculators.  How would you describe most of the people there?

Now that it’s so big, it’s actually become pretty diverse.  The conference even has added a commercialized trade show.  It has everyone from the actuary trying to break into the sports industry to team executives trying to get a sense of what’s out there and how to stay on top of new trends.

Can you tell us a little bit about how Ron’s session went?

We were very pleased with the attendance and participation.  It was exciting to receive lots of follow-ups requesting check lists or more information.  I think this was a direct result of Twitter’s high activity during the conference.  Thank you to everyone that attended!

Did you meet anyone interesting at the conference?

The presence of English Premier League soccer teams, such as Manchester City and Fulham, and German Bundesliga team, Hamburg, were exciting.  They are impressive organizations because they always feel like they are behind and trying to catch up to North American sports, but in many ways I think they are more advanced.  They are humble, intelligent guys that are always looking for ways to stay ahead.

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