Sportometrics: Behavioural insights and methodological developments for and beyond sports

Project dates: 01/02/2014 - Ongoing

This project aims to uncover important insights into the entire career path of sports professionals, how they act and the decisions they make before and after becoming professionals, and explore the implications of positive and negative life events on career progression.

Why is this important?

In recent decades, sports data have been used to creatively explore various behavioural aspects that offer implications beyond just sports. For example, analyses have focused on strategic behaviour to empirically test game theoretical theorems or concepts such as minimax by looking at penalty kicks, corruption through investigation of non-linear incentive pay-off structures to identify match rigging among Sumo wrestlers, or favouritism for home teams by comparing extra time provided at the end of a soccer game. Thus, sports data offer an opportunity to overcome the difficulties inherent in exploring strategic models of behaviour. Based on these advantages, it follows that scholars in the area of decision science, behavioural economics, or economic psychology have made extensive use of sports data.

What we aim to do

In this project we will look at a large number of rule changes as a natural experiment. Rule changes are often targeted at modifying behaviours occurring within in games. The professionalization of sports events has substantially increased over the past few decades. We will look not only at the entire career path of professionals but also how they act and the decisions they make before and after becoming professionals. Using data gathered from social media (Twitter and Google), we will explore the implications of positive and negative life events. We will also collaborate with local and global sports teams and providers to conduct field experiments. In addition, we will examine the career and behavioural implications of recognition and reputation. We are particularly interested in the dynamics of receiving awards, as well as the behavioural motivations of performance preceding and following the award. The growing research area on awards using sports data will help extend our understanding of behavioural aspects such as cooperativeness, aggressiveness, and reciprocity.

What we have already done

So far we have examined, through the lens of sport, whether male and female customers as well as differently aged customers focus on different celebrity characteristics and whether they are influenced by celebrities’ facial attractiveness. Drawing on psychological and sociological theories like attachment theory, social role theory of gender, or social norm theory as well as on the academic literature on celebrity endorsement in general, we developed several hypotheses regarding how a fan’s age and gender affect the importance of key characteristics of football stars— namely experience, personality, exemplary behavior, and skills (link). In addition, we adopted a comprehensive 2-step approach to dissolve confusion regarding the role of game outcome uncertainty in the TV demand for international team sports. This study reveals that solely the demand for friendly games is affected by increasing uncertainty regarding the expected game outcomes (link). Furthermore, we explore the evolution of the football players’ transfer network among 21 European first leagues between the seasons 1996/1997 and 2015/2016. From a topological point of view, we show that this network achieved an upper limit expansion around season 2007/2008, thereafter becoming more connected and dense (link). More recently, we also contributed to the ever-growing economic literature on the determinants of football stadium attendance by exploring the increasingly important yet under-researched phenomenon of spectator no-show behavior (link), explored the behavioural changes after reducing distance restrictions but also how players re-adapt to the original, more difficult conditions and rule changes (link), and examined the formation and interplay of cognitive versus affective decision components in the context of public mega projects such as the Olympic Games (link).


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Chief Investigators

Other Team Members

  • Tobias Streicher
  • Sascha L. Schmidt
  • Dominik Schreyer
  • David Matesanz Gomez
  • Florian Holzmayer
  • Daniel Hoegele