Professional cycling team Trek Segafredo has explained how big data and social media are two core aspects of the company's digital transformation in pursuit of winning races and engaging fans.
Luca Guercilena, general manager for the team, said at an event hosted by CA Technologies, a sponsor of Trek Segafredo, that the past 15 years has seen a huge change in the data gathered on cyclists.
“Everything has changed now. You can’t just ride on feelings any more. You need a different approach based on analytics of the data you can gather: power output, heart rate, nutrition information and so on,” he said.
Cyclists don't always embrace this, Guercilena admitted, but those who do are usually on the podium.
“Riders are usually just focused on cycling, not data. But the real top cyclists, the champions, are open to learning new things and accepting that data can help them, rather than just going on instinct.”
Guercilena explained that Trek Segafredo holds training sessions during the off-season to ensure that riders and support teams understand the data being gathered.
“We have to teach the staff and the riders. We can’t leave them to try and self-learn as they could make all kinds of wrong decisions, and that would have a negative impact,” he said.
Otto Berkes, chief technology officer at CA Technologies and one of the founders of the Xbox, suggested that other businesses should follow Trek Segafredo's example.
"You have to be data literate in sport, and that’s true of many organisations too. You need an inquisitive culture that is willing to learn new things and adapt,” he said.
Social media management
It’s not just the use of performance data that needs management. Guercilena explained that riders and support staff such as mechanics also need guidance on how to use social media.
“Teaching them how to use social media, like Facebook or Twitter, is a big part of our job because, while interactions with fans on those platforms can be a real plus, if you use it wrong it can definitely create problems too,” he said.
However, the team could not simply ban the use of social media to avoid the chance of negative incidents, as using it to engage with fans is crucial to the team’s overall goals.
“We need to sell more bikes and coffee, as they are my sponsors, and we use victory to help with that. But social media really helps us to reach fans, and those interactions are one of most important parts of our job,” said Guercilena.
However, this too poses challenges as Guercilena noted that some members of the team find it an uncomfortable culture shift.
“You may be asking a mechanic who has spent 30 years doing nothing but maintaining the bikes to look into a camera and talk to fans on social sites and explain what they’re fixing,” he said.
“It’s a challenge for some and they say ‘Are you kidding me? I don’t want to do that.’ But we have to make it part of their job because we need to engage fans and give them the chance to see what the team is up to.”
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