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With CITY VOICE, New York City tries "fanalytics"

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NYCFC's new online service seeks to forge a more direct, meaningful relationship between the club and its fans by aggregating a ton of opinions and data. Let's dive in!

Socceroos of New York, I have a problem.

Well, it's not so much a problem as an all-encompassing obsession: I love data. I love gathering data. I love analyzing it. Sometimes, I wanna kiss data on its stupid mouth because it's so pretty.

I think I love data more than Jeb Brovsky loves mustache wax. More than Brick from Anchorman loves lamp. Hell, I have a Fathead-style poster of Nate Silver on my wall that I had to construct myself because no such thing exists.

One might have imagined my elation, then, when New York City FC announced its entry into the Data Game.

Last week, we showed you the results of the official fan vote to determine New York City's home and away captain's armband designs for this inaugural year. It was the maiden voyage of the club's CITY VOICE program, modeled after a similar conduit created by Manchester City for facilitating productive interactions between the club and its supporter base. It's a timely rollout for NYCFC, as they have routinely shown themselves to be plainly lacking in the public relations and fan outreach fronts.

Without any proper games to autopsy, the first big outreach project through CITY VOICE found the club collecting a fat bushel of data on the likes and dislikes of its fans. Behold, FANALYTICS!

To set the proper tone, is there a nine second YouTube video of defender Josh Williams vaguely promoting CITY VOICE? Yes, we've got that. Also, here's the original press release announcing the program:

[W]e believe that NYCFC should reflect the innovation and diversity that this great City is famous for. And that New Yorkers should have a real say in what that means. 

So we’ve created CITY VOICE - an online community for lovers of ‘the beautiful game’ that allows New Yorkers to input to how their Club is created.

  • Each week, we’ll ask 2-3 questions on what an authentic New York soccer experience should entail – from the time games start and what music is played, to match day and player protocols, membership benefits, fan participation…and much much more.
  • We’ll also report back to you on what you’ve said and design the NYCFC soccer experience around your feedback.

CITY VOICE is your opportunity to help build New York City’s first professional soccer team and most importantly, to make it your own. A New York soccer team for New York sports fans.

(That all sounds good, but where was this burning desire to show love and keep the fans in the fold before?)

In any event, the armband vote wasn't the only supporter data collected by CITY VOICE last week (the winning home design received 43% of the total vote, and the away design received 46% respectively). Let's crunch our way through the rest of the club's earliest FANALYTICS to see what we can learn about a supporter base still tumbling into focus.

A Fan, Down by the River

CITY VOICE allows members to jack up their status and apply to be a "Featured Member." One will be selected by the club at random on a weekly basis, and will have one of those "get to know ya" interviews posted on the club website. We will learn about the lucky fan's favorite teams, their background in and around soccer, and their sentiments leading into a season that represents some real uncharted territory for the Five Boroughs.

I can understand conducting this type of exercise with the actual players and coaches on the team because personality enhances our narrative understanding of the product on the field / drives merchandise sales / gets people more excited about the team between games, but the club wants us to get to know the fans, too.

I would argue that gathering more macro-level data across the supporter base would be a far more efficient way of really getting to know who the fans of this team are and what their tendencies may be, but this is, of course, an experiment in its early stages.

The first-ever Featured Member, selected at random from an initial pool of 325, is Andres from Queens. Don't freak out, New York, but Andres is a self-identified Manchester City fan.

Selected at random, we said.

Most People Are DJs

...Or at least the club seems to think so. Before we jump into the music-based portion of our fanalytics, let's take a quick interlude featuring Brooklyn's own The Hold Steady.

Here's what the fans said they wanted to hear at the stadium this season:

In last week's survey, CITY VOICE asked fans to suggest musical genres they would most like to hear at Yankee Stadium during games, with an option to submit individual song preferences. The club had this to report: 35% of you said that Rock is the music you most want to hear on match day, while 23% would prefer to hear Top 40 music. It was then a close race between Hip Hop (18%) and Electronic dance music (17%). We will be back to you soon with more questions on music but, in the meantime, here are some of your favorite songs!

We can gather a couple of conclusions from this batch of fanalytical data:

  • AC/DC transcends all boundaries, is timeless, and will never perish from this earthly coil.
  • T-Swift is hot right now, but has she ever performed alongside a lion and man-sharks?
  • The fans' preferred city-based anthem is not "You Belong to the City" by Glenn Frey, for some reason.
  • I have to go and Google who Martin Garrix is (I would have guessed he was a Bond villain). I am not sure if it is a single person or more of a concept, like Monty Python or the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Trying to crowd-source music in this way is never going to be a big win for anyone. Folks will always find ways to be disappointed or upset over what's blasting through the speakers. Nothing will change that, especially in this golden age of internet trolling, in which the digital world's cloak of anonymity has never been more fetching.

My write-in votes for individual songs were not selected by the club, but I thought they were bulletproof compromises above any and all criticism-- the entirety of Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique on loop, occasionally interspersed with clips of Lou Reed and Jon Cale reciting free-verse poetry between doses of uptown smack.

Standard Procedures

Professional sports teams must take for granted how well-established and routine their operations have become. Bringing in a new corporate relations rep? Great, the previous jobholder can train the new one. Hired a new communications liaison? Terrific, the old supervisor can break it all down and explain how to spell and pronounce "César Azpilicueta."

Well, NYCFC doesn't have that kind of steady lineage in place. Everything is new, and the fans can actually fulfill an essential function through CITY VOICE by helping the club to establish a number of logistical benchmarks.

Therein, the club asked about fans' discount preferences for the still-hitting-its-stride NYCFC online store, as well as for kickoff times for home games. They had this to report:

  • When we asked what limited time offer you would prefer if spending $75 or more in the New York City FC store, there was a clear winner - 80% voted for a 20% discount over free shipping.
  • Your preferences regarding game start times were divided - with 7pm and 7.30pm getting an equal share of the votes (41%). We will share these results with our local TV partners and get back to you soon with an update.

Dollars drive diplomacy, so it's nice to see the club advocating for some democratization of their online store. Until that slick black away kit is made available for purchase, however -- and don't get me started about the infamous missing beanies! #BEANIEGATE!!!! -- the fanalytical impact here will be strictly limited.

On the issue of a thirty minute discrepancy in kickoff time preferences: as far as New Yorkers are concerned, that quick window could be the difference between potentially hundreds of fans getting to the stadium on time or not at all, specifically for games during the work week. The supporters don't get final say on this matter because television rules over everything and everyone in the sports world, but it's another vaguely encouraging sign. Empty gestures are still better than the steaming pile of nothing we witnessed over the second half of 2014.

Who Do You Love?

An American should never be denied her (or his) constitutional right to data visualizations.

If the data itself is your lover, data visualizations are like the lingerie it slips on in order to seal the deal.

When CITY VOICE asked members to reveal their favorite non-MLS sports teams, they could have just dumped everything in a typical top-five or top-ten list. Luckily, they spun the data into this spiffy world cloud.

TeamCloud

Once again, my personal preference -- "WHEREVER TIM TEBOW IS AT RIGHT NOW, MAYBE THE SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS?" -- was not reflected in the reported results, but a man can still dream.

In any event, given that we know next to nothing about the personalities that claim to support this new team, this graphic alone is illuminating and useful.

A couple things to gather here, some of them quite obvious:

  • NFL: Giants over Jets.
  • NHL: Rangers way over Devils over Islanders.
  • MLB: Yankees way-way-over Mets.
  • NBA: There are still a lot of Knicks fans out there, despite their team making a great case for the idea of basketball relegation. It took me a long time to find the crosstown Brooklyn Nets in this graphic, practically hidden and washed out by their Manhattan rivals (in the graphic, not on the court).
  • EPL: Hard to tell what "Manchester" means here, because I'm told there are two distinct clubs in that city. For what it's worth, Chelsea over Liverpool over Arsenal over Tottenham.
  • La Liga: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid looks like a tossup in this graphic. But where is Real Sociedad? Their manager loves chips, and Hudson River Blue is powered almost entirely by chips alone.
  • Elsewhere: Juventus over Bayern Munich over A.C. Milan, but by the smallest of margins.

The feast of data is ongoing, my little stat-crunchers and munchers! CITY VOICE is brand new, and will inevitably evolve in the same manner as the team and its fledgling supporter base over the many months and years. The club has stated its desire to conduct a survey like this one every week. Things are looking bright on the fanalytics front, and we can't wait.

Until the next batch of data gets dumped, I can only dream about it. But when that day comes, I have just one thing to say to you, data:

I'm gonna analyze you all night long.