Semester Series: Kirk Smith – Information is King…From Stocks to Sports

“The most valuable commodity I know of is information” – Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

How does Gordon Gekko relate to sports? Great question. Gekko’s quote is pertinent across any industry. Individuals with the most information have a competitive advantage. As sports continues to evolve in the 21st century, data and statistics are increasingly driving decisions made by clubs around the world. One of the sports most impacted by this shift from intuition to quantitative measures is baseball. With the introduction of sabermetrics and the acceptance of principles established by Billy Beane (see Moneyball the movie to understand this at a high level), numbers are king. Therefore, teams with the most accurate numbers and in-depth information will excel over their competition.

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Why am I talking about statistics and sports in business school? One of the classes I am currently taking specifically focuses on the finances of sports. In the semester we’ve learned that attendance and ticket sales are not the primary drivers of revenue for teams, you can buy championships in premier league soccer, and major sporting events do not necessarily bring in billions of dollars into a community. Yet one of the best parts of the class are the guest lectures and events we’ve attended. Early in the semester, we attended a Brave’s home game after meeting with the ticketing and marketing personnel within the organization. Data on season ticket holders and the Brave’s fan base was used in the justification for moving the new stadium north of Atlanta. Just a couple weeks ago, Colin McHugh, a starting pitcher for the Houston Astros, spoke to our class about baseball, contracts, and mentally preparing for facing the best hitters in the league. Throughout his lecture, Colin frequently spoke of the use of information and how it is used to gain an advantage over opposing hitters or correct a potential weakness in his pitching repertoire. Oh, and McHugh won 19 games this past season and received consideration for the National Cy Young award, bestowed upon the best picture in the league. Gordon Gekko’s sentiment on information was only validated by McHugh’s words that day in class.

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How does this help me in business school? Perfect information is rarely available in the world of business. Those with access to it, however, can better position their division or business better than the competition. While Mr. Gekko struggled with the ethics of acquiring the information in Wall Street, Goizueta Business School has plenty of access to industry insiders who are willing to share their knowledge with students. Take advantage of guest lectures and speakers to ensure you are as informed as possible by the time you graduate!

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