By Linda Wilkins
A sports research paper written by Baylor professor Kirk Wakefield and Anne Rivers, senior vice president of BrandAssets Consulting, has been named one of the top 10 research papers selected by judges at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
Wakefield said the paper focuses on the business side of sponsorships in the National Football League, whereas other papers in the competition focus more on gameplay. He said they were interested in discovering how sponsoring a league effects a company.
Using data from more than 16,000 people, Rivers and Wakefield analyzed the idea of being an NFL sponsor by comparing the attitudes of fans versus non-fans of the NFL. He said the fans of the NFL had a better attitude toward NFL sponsor companies than non-sponsor companies, indicating that being a sponsor of a league is beneficial for a company.
Rivers said the importance of this study is that brand companies know they can benefit from being a sponsor of a league.
“I assumed we would be in the top 10,” Rivers said. “I think the topic is extraordinarily interesting.”
The paper is competing against the other nine papers in two competitions, Wakefield said.
One competition is based on fans voting for the best papers.
The fan-voting part of the competition is new this year, Jay Verrill, managing director of the conference’s research paper track, said. ESPN is hosting the online vote.
Verrill said more than 60,000 people have already voted online, and voting is still ongoing.
“It is exciting the papers are getting read by such a large audience,” he said. “ESPN is definitely a big supporter of the conference.”
The winning fan choice paper will be featured in “ESPN: The Magazine,” Wakefield said. He said the paper would help Baylor be recognized on the sports-business side of athletics. “I would love for Baylor Nation to vote on our paper,” Wakefield said.
While the fans decide who wins that competition, judges at the conference will decide which papers will win $7,500 for first place and $2,500 for second place, Wakefield said.
Wakefield said the submission process for the paper was a multi-step process.
First, the authors had to submit an abstract of their research, which occurred during the summer, Verrill said.
After the application process closed in the fall, judges decided which of the more than 100 abstracts made it through to the second round, and those semifinalists had to write a paper, which was due in January. The judges narrowed down the papers to the top 20 and named the top 10 as finalists.
Verrill said authors of the top 10 papers will have the chance to present their work at the conference, and the other 10 authors will make a poster to display their work. Wakefield will present the paper March 2-3 in Boston.
He said he is appreciative of the opportunity to go to the conference. “It includes some of the biggest names and brightest minds on the business side of the NFL sports,” Wakefield said.
Verrill said there will be more than 2,000 attendees at the conference this year.
“We want to be the venue where cutting-edge research can be shared by academics and professionals,” he said. The convention will be at the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston.