Data visualization: How dangerous is Lionel Messi?

As marketers, we are all aware of the necessity and challenges of Big data, Smart data, RFM scoring and other data crunching techniques. And we are always looking for ways to make all those data better manageable, usable and presentable.

Same goes for other industries. In professional sports, everything is measured, analyzed and used to gain better insights and obtain a higher return. The number of collected data is massive and the detail of analytics often impressive. It goes without saying that this is an amazing source of inspiration.

FiveThirtyEightSports used the vast amount of available soccer data to measure and visualize the deadly efficiency of Lionel Messi: his shooting and scoring production, where he shoots from, how often he sets up his own shots, what kind of kicks he uses to make those shots, his ability to take on defenders, how accurate his passes are, the kind of passes he makes, how often he creates scoring chances, how often those chances lead to goals, etc…

The World Cup offers a lot of other inspirational examples about data discovery and the beauty of data visualization:

This wonderful circular graph by Guy Abel shows the make-up of each national squad by what domestic leagues the players play in.
Colours are based on the shirt of each team in the 2014 World Cup. Lines represent the connections between the country in which players play their club football (at the line's base) and their national teams (at the arrow head). The line thickness represents the number of players.

20140703_500x500ChartBall uses Power Rank's predictions to map probability of progression for each World Cup team. Click to explore.

20140703_2_498x440Twitter's hashflags are continuously being counted to create the chart below, showing who would win the World Cup if mentions would represent goals.

20140703_3_500x280@TwitterData is providing some of the best visualisations, partnering with CartoDB to produce interactive maps that show tweets flaring as the game goes on.

20140703_4_498x35020140703_5_498x385Next time your are working on your website behavior, email data scoring or transactional analysis, keep this World Cup inspiration and data visualization in mind. Because of the way the human brain processes information, it is faster for people to grasp the meaning of many data points when they are displayed in charts and graphs rather than poring over piles of spreadsheets or reading pages of report.

Second advantage is that the process of data visualization often generates new insights in the business as it's also an exercise in selecting the appropriate data, interacting with your data and connecting the dots.


Keep this World Cup inspiration in mind when you're analyzing your next email campaign. Use the clever data visualization to get faster and clearer insights. But most importantly: don't forget to enjoy the game.

Posted on
Jul 3, 2014