SAP hopes its software can score with sports teams

The company's push into sports is its 25th vertical

SAP is hoping to win points with professional sports teams by showing how its HANA in-memory database, analytics, mobile software and other technologies can help them make fans happier, find better players and improve their operations.

The vertical is SAP's 25th, according to its announcement Tuesday at the Sapphire conference in Orlando.

SAP has already made some moves in this direction. A partnership formed with the National Basketball Association last year resulted in an online platform giving NBA fans access to massive amounts of statistics. SAP later signed a pact with the National Football League as well as individual teams in the organization.

It also rolled out a product called SAP Scouting, which uses the HANA in-memory technology and allows team officials to conduct analyses of player prospects.

HANA can help sports teams in other ways, according to SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott. "You can grab media from all the social sites," he said during a keynote address Tuesday at the conference. You can now drill into [fans'] feelings. You can get the intent of the crowd."

SAP's push into the sporting and entertainment world has a number of purposes, one of which is to raise and burnish the company's profile in the mainstream. It has taken a similar turn into consumer-oriented applications through its App Haus development arm.

But sports and entertainment organizations also spend vast sums of money on technology and operations, and SAP is keen to tap that well.

"It's good for SAP because obviously the sports market is huge," said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret. "It gets the SAP name out there very broadly."

"For the sports teams, they have tremendous competition from hi-def televisions in the living room," Krigsman added. "The challenge is to create a unique experience in the stadium." Thus teams are looking to use technology inside the stadium to create "enhanced content that is not available at home" as well as shift their operations in response to what customers desire, he said.

Sports economics are "driven by season ticket holders," and teams need to keep those people happy, he added. "[Teams] need to do this whether they're on top or not."

San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York echoed the point during a question-and-answer session with reporters and analysts on Tuesday. The football team makes use of SAP technology and its new facility is set to open in 2014.

"When you're looking to build out a new football stadium ... you want a software-driven stadium, not a hardware-driven stadium," York said. "Whatever unique experience our 68,000 season ticket holders want, we need to provide that."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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