Michelle McKenna-Doyle: How the NFL has Properly Utilized Their Data


3d illustration of an NFL logo behind a transparent silver American football on top of a green football field

As we move forward as a data-centric society, entities such as the National Football League (NFL) seek to benefit from implementing techniques to better utilize this information. Michelle McKenna-Doyle spoke to Loyola students, faculty and staff, as well as community members and Under Armour executives, this past Thursday in The DeFrancis Lecture presented by M&T Bank. Doyle is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the National Football League. Doyle’s background leading up to her current job with the NFL ranges from growing up in a passionate college football schism, to working as the CIO of Constellation Energy in Baltimore, to holding highly ranking executive positions for Universal Orlando Resort. Doyle’s speech on Thursday discussed the experiences gained from each job to aid her decisions in her current position with the NFL, as well offered an inside look as to how data driven the NFL is in making each decision.

The NFL has revolutionized the varying methods of effectively utilizing the ample data received daily, through game-day data, mobile applications, television subscriptions, and much more. The complex systems used by the NFL have all been internally created to eliminate particular inefficient areas or areas that lacked technological advance. A primary example Doyle brought up that the NFL has created through better utilizing the constant data coming through the system is their new approach to player health. Doyle described how trainers now have at their fingertips the ability to call timeouts if an injury appears to have occurred and analyze plays with the injured player using precision game-day footage, which is important because the health and safety of the players is most important aspect to the NFL. Using the advances in on-field technology, players can get tested on the field for a concussion, and very quickly. She noted how the players would avoid telling coaches or trainers about concussion symptoms in order to stay in the game. The speed of this concussion test allows players to not need to leave the field based on uncertainty by a trainer, so both sides win. The results are clear as concussions have decreased by 35% since this technological advance.

Data is more plentiful than anybody could imagine. In fact, most companies are overwhelmed and are uncertain as to exactly how to analyze the data they receive daily. The NFL has found several specific genres to focus their attention, which is how they categorize their data to most effectively put it to use. A primary genre the NFL focuses on is the family- ages 5 to 85. Through their data their focus is on transitioning the casual fan into the avid football fan.

She noted how the traditional fan has dropped off, but women and Hispanics have been picking up quickly. Doyle did not necessarily point to a specific type of person that is considered in this “traditional fan” group, but her emphasis was on them being those avid fans on Fantasy football, tailgating, season ticket holders, and all other stereotypes associated with crazy, fun-loving football fanatics. Their data has pointed out that at the current rate, the Hispanic fan population in 2060 will be nearly one in three of all fans. Along with incredibly optimistic figures such as the newly forming fans in the Hispanic community and women, Doyle described how their current fan base must also receive benefits to remain loyal and avid fans. To do so, the NFL has increased the quality of their NFL mobile application, which contains their Mobile First, Daily Update and Enhanced TV options. The data to enhance these features has come from their 250 billion users of these applications worldwide.

Companies use data to analyze where there are problems and areas that are most highly viewed by their customers, to hone their sights on that specific area. The NFL recognized how the data and health records were only comprisable to an extent. In order to fundamentally change the health risks in football, they invested in programs to teach the youth how to protect themselves from injury without losing enthusiasm towards the game. Doyle spoke with such an enthusiasm and understanding on how data is applicable on the largest of scales in the largest of organizations. Her enthusiasm to bring the family together through football while also engineering data to drive the best product possible is inspiring to any student or professional alike who wants to be able to offer a top product.



Cover photo courtesy of Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/mstable/17493747326/in/photolist-sDS2Bd-sGck2c-rKnSMK-rKogn4-spJCXM-npLSXy-nrwWoT-nrRLjE-ntA5kD-nrwWoc-ntA5QB-najYcb-nrPida-najS8p-najS72-nrRLBd-npLSPY-najYah-npLSHf-npLSC5-najWe1-nrwWQe-najPpv-ntA5At-najPkx-najXVQ-ntA5uM-nrx7AC-nrx7zL-najPbp-najRCX-najPac-nrx7qs-najP3t-nrRKW5-najRsM-najNXP-nrx7iy-nrx7jA-npLS4j-nrRKLW-nrPhZz-nrRKEy-nrPif4-wYiZDn-wFPwvF-wYRSUT-wW1c9q-wFQrPe-wFQ2jx