Paul Burditt from the Lawn Tennis Association – Gaining insight


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Paul Burditt from the Lawn Tennis Association discusses how to use insight to understand your participants.

Presented at the Sport and Recreation Alliance's Sports Summit 2014.

Published in: Sports, Business
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  • I thought it would be helpful to talk about the experiences we have had in the last year at the LTA in beginning to understand our participants, and to discuss some of what has been helpful in that year, and the journey we have been on since July 2013.
  • So, today I want to touch on 3 things….
  • Before I go through my presentation today, however, this is just a summary of our mission and role at the LTA.
    Our fundamental mission simply - or not – is to get more people playing tennis more often.
    We have 3 roles: to govern tennis – the rules and values of the sport; to develop tennis – through relationships with partners and inspiring through performance players; and to promote tennis – participation in whatever form that takes, and to increase the appeal and grow awareness of, and engagement with, tennis.
    Now, each of these requires a key understanding of the range of people in the world of tennis – its requires insight into the nature of the game, its context, and what it brings to people’s lives…
  • It was very clear to the LTA that, while they had conducted a lot of quantitative work over the years, for much of it there was a disjunction between that volume of data and information, and the understanding that it was providing of our participants…and this was certainly something also recognised by Sport England.
    So, when I started, I was in the privileged position of being the first Insight Head they had had, and I could conduct an audit of the research and work that had been carried out over the last 5 years – and speak to the teams who had commissioned the work and find out exactly how they had used it.
    That disjunction between information and understanding was in the main caused by an over-reliance on survey research, some of which was:
    First, Descriptive, not analytical: i.e. more about the “what” rather than linking it to the “how” or the “why”. So, much of the research comprised rather similar surveys into generic barriers to tennis, motivations, and absolute numbers in participation. I was always asking the question, “so what”…and in fact, “Insight” per se should always have the question “so what” at the forefront. There wasn’t anything wrong with the research, and it was independently-sourced, but because it was mainly survey-based (which is fine as far as it goes), it meant that findings tended to be rather abstract rather than grounded in daily life, and it meant that “insight” had become all about a numbers game, rather than what those numbers mean and more importantly what we can do about them
    Second, it was Retrospective, not forward-looking: much of the research was about past participation, or was conducted more to validate earlier decisions. It was more about behaviour in the last year or more, which is fine in itself, but there was little that was about opportunities for the future, or the potential for changing behaviour.
    Third, it was Compartmentalised, not bigger picture: because research was commissioned by individual teams, by its nature there was at times some reinventing the wheel…but not just that, it meant that research could become very narrow and micro in focus, for example things like the intricacies of how coaches are registered with the LTA at certain levels…which meant we were missing several tricks in the broader world of tennis….also, because of this compartmentalisation, I had real questions about value for money – when the research is costing a significant % of the actual initiative or project, I have alarm bells in my head. There was a real opportunity to make money work much harder, indeed make some much-needed cuts – and do much more for a much less money.
    Overall, I would suggest that: while some of the facts and information was helpful, it was quite far from what we would call “insight”…
  • But what excited me was that many in the organisation had a real appetite for understanding and insight – and wanted to do something about it
    ….and this went through the whole organisation, but most importantly at the senior level – from Chairman through to the Leadership Team
    This has made my role much easier! I joined the LTA last July as Head of Insight, having previously worked agency-side in market research before heading up the research function at, and working subsequently in the Strategy and Insight team at Debenhams…so I could see how Insight work could give tangible value to private sector results…and sport (and tennis) has even more stakeholders and a range of different complexities where Insight can really help and chart a path through…
    …so, to have the backing of the Chairman and CEO was great because it gives licence to challenge stakeholders and ask questions, and align the research programme to the overall objectives and strategy of the LTA
    And even more importantly, it was “a given” that by having such Insight and understanding we would be in a far better position to achieve our overall corporate objectives – in particular, getting more people playing tennis and more often…
  • Carol has already outlined what exactly IS insight, and I agree completely with what she was saying about insight being a process, and that is what I want to reiterate her. Certainly my background in insight, especially in the retail sector, has meant that a lot of my thinking about what the nature of insight is, and what that means therefore for a programme of research, is heavily influenced by a focus on the choices people make, whether consciously or unconsciously, the frames of reference people use when making those choices, and the context those choices and frames of reference are situated in
    …so….research should always go beyond surveying the stories people tell about themselves, and going back to the end-user, the person, and observing what they do and why, not just get them to explain what they thought they did…
    …so that we can then interpret those observations…
    ….but that’s the theory both Carol and I have outlined, but to help articulate a process by which to get there, I would identify certain “guiding principles” that have been helpful to me in my work at Tesco and now at the LTA….
  • …and at the risk of naffness, I’ve summarised it as a showing “Care”. So what does that mean?
    Always focus on the big picture. Instead of getting bogged down in micro detail, we wanted to start with the overall picture of the sport, even if we could only describe and outline 75% of that picture. We could always take the rest on trust (for now). And what this means is that no matter what the question we later asked, we could root it into that wider context and understanding. The picture may become more textured and layered, but the outline remains the same.
    Nothing in isolation: linked to the big picture, we wanted always to root the end-user within the context of lifestyle and choices. At the LTA we have a number of specialist teams, but an insight programme or research project should not seek to reflect and replicate those potentially silos….it should actually be a mechanism to bring people together
    Decision-makers: no matter where the questions come from, or what issue is raised, we should always involve the decision-makers from the very start of the process. This builds engagement, learns from their expertise, and gains buy-in essential for when action has to be taken….
    Action: one way, we hope, of really making sure we spend money wisely is always to ask, “OK, but what action will we, or are we able, to take? What we will do differently as a result?” This not only provides a focus for the research, but also helps us prioritise what to work on.
    In at the beginning: to help us ask the right questions and in the right way, it is essential that Insight needs to be in the discussions at the beginning, not used to validate, or invalidate decisions at the end. This is crucial because it positions Insight away from retrospective “Measurement” and instead a strategic tool to identify new opportunities.
    Credibility, not popularity: through all the things above, Insight should challenge, should ask questions, in order to ensure action is aligned with understanding and strategy. But to do this, the insight has to be based on sufficient weight and depth to gain that credibility.
    Insight, not measurement or just numbers: this goes back to my earlier point about description not understanding. Of course “measuring” (for example) impact is crucial, but it needs to be seen not as an end in itself, a box for ticking divorced from sympathy with the context for that measurement….and, when thinking about “measurement”, real care in actual fact needs to be taken in ensuring we know the reason why those “measures” have been chosen in the first place.
    Trial and error: when I started the programme, we knew things would not work, or what we assumed would happen in actual fact did not. But that’s fine. Far better to ask questions, get them wrong, but then be able to refine those questions in the right way, than spend a year endlessly aiming for perfection. And being honest about this with key stakeholders is key: explain that “it might work….but it might not…but at least we’re going to be on the right lines…”
  • But, perhaps even more importantly, it is about avoiding complication. And I’ve selected 2 quotes here, one from Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England’s Executive Director for Financial Stability, the other from ad man Dave Trott
    [read quotations]
    Making things more complicated through more and more numbers and research can be a real issue.
    Andrew Haldane, picked up on this in a speech in America about learning from the last financial crisis and avoiding the next one. Haldane said we’ve made the whole process too complicated. Trying to apply every single detail about every conceivable piece of knowledge is the enemy of fast, effective action. Understanding is a good thing. But trying to apply complex, detailed understanding during the process of doing something creates uncertainty and ineffectiveness.
    Just to give some idea about this: the original guide for protecting against banks going bust – the Basel Accord 1988 - ran to 30 pages. The latest version in 2010 runs to 616 pages.
    So, when looking at the world of sport, and tennis in particular, we are not in the business of bean-counting, nor trying to add up everyone who plays tennis in the UK and hoping that means we know what they are doing. We should always start with the overall picture, and then look in detail at certain specific key elements within it, based on strategic decisions…
    So, now thinking about Insight and the LTA…
  • At the moment, my work touches a full range of departments, be it to help our Events team optimise the customer experience at the Major Events we run, such as Eastbourne, Queen’s, and Birmingham….or helping the Competitions team understand trends in junior competition and then build a new strategy to maximise participation in competition….but I wanted just to pick 3 key themes or strands of the work we are doing in Insight in practice….
  • We wanted to Empower through knowledge: this is the key word: by mapping the overall landscape and telling an overall consistent story, we are then giving the tools to key people on the ground so that they know what the top 3 or 4 things they should be looking at…and then adapting to their own needs. Being transparent in reporting is hugely important to this and tailoring findings and reports to the relevant audiences, be it the national teams, regional or local teams.
    Focusing on the Greatest impact/realistic impact: certainly in Year 1 of having Insight in the organisation we wanted to focus on those areas where the demand for tennis was greatest. We are still in the foothills for this, but we know that if you have never picked up a racquet, you have practically zero desire to play tennis in the future. Similarly, if you last played tennis over 5 years ago, you have only a 1% interest in playing tennis in the future. In the short-term, the immediate cost of targeting those people would be prohibitive vs the return. Realistic impact is also key: the art of the possible is a way to frame decisions and priorities.
    Feedback: especially during a project….the need to build in flexible tools to ensure the right people get the right feedback in order to change, develop, or optimise their projects during the process. NB I say “feedback” not “measurement”: whether the feedback is qualitative OR quantitative or both, we need to have the most relevant monitoring capability built in.
  • So, I just wanted to outline some detail behind those 3 areas in terms of some of the work we are doing against each one….
  • To create a consistent story of the landscape of tennis one of our first tasks was to consolidate learnings from Sport England’s Active People Survey, which has now been running for a good number of years: excellent resource, powerful tool for sizing, benchmarking, and behavioural segmentation.
    This helped us understand not just the trends in participation by each age group and demographic group, but also the wider context vs other sports…
    …and helped us understand the shape of participation across the year – and year on year…
    …and helped us begin to understand where the future growth was likely to come from…
    APS has given us a framework of understanding in order to go to the next level…and the interactive APS tool has been of huge help in analysis: it has helped us understand the value of the resources that are already available
  • So, APS was a great starting point. But we recognised we needed to build our own infrastructure.
    A single, robust, but flexible quantitative tool to combine attitude to perception and behaviour
    1700 interviews each month among a nationally representative sample of 14 year olds and above
    Covering….[read out list on slide]
    Descriptive tool to map the landscape, and be a mechanism for understanding the why…
  • By combining those things we were then able to deliver relevant reporting to equip teams with the knowledge they needed.
    Keeping it simple so that everyone is clear on the findings and key messages – and unafraid to repeat the same points again and again so that everyone is consistent
    Eye on the big picture
    Embedded in regional structures so that the regional teams can adapt and use within their own teams and share with partners
    For example, one absolutely critical piece from the new tracking study has been the clear and compelling story about how we need to drive participation in the parks: the volume is there at a few points in the summer – although there is much more we need to do – but there is a real opportunity to drive frequency overall, and extend the season back into Spring and later into Autumn….through growing awareness, alignment with our Facilities strategy, and having the right programmes and opportunities to play in Park venues….meaning that the parks themselves become much more financially viable and sustainable…
    Now, this is only part of it: more to do, and it can be time-intensive!...especially the need to go out to the teams and showcase the findings.
  • The second area was where I wanted to give an idea of where focusing on the size of the impact, and with realism in mind, can lead to action….
    ….but obviously, having real focus is a key thing because – as is the nature of most things – we have only so much time and money, and so it is even more important to determine the right place in which to put the effort…
  • So one case study I wanted to mention was this: one target market we identified from Active People Survey data and from our Tracking Survey data was Women in their 20s and 30s…but a particular demographic within that band…
    …but this was purely on the level of description …now, we could hypothesise and come up with our own views of what these people want and expect…., but we would have lacked that clear-eyed view based on lived experience and context….
  • So there was a Real need to situate tennis in the lifestyle of the person, the lived experience: it’s not enough to describe what people feel and think about tennis, nor to rely on stats about demand: we found that you have to understand not just about share of sporting time, but, for tennis, share of hobby or activity time or “life-time”
    If I was being technical I would call it the “Mental Availability effect”: it’s not about awareness or “fame” of tennis, but its situational quality – how it fits into a person’s life, understand the market share of life options…
    For example, we know that 12% of women in this age bracket had picked up a racquet in the last year, but that only around a third of these played monthly, and a third of those played frequently (weekly)…so we needed to understand where tennis fitted into their lives…
    …so we wanted to layer on each element….but not just that….
  • …we understood that as well as understanding the situational “vertical” quality of tennis, we wanted to map out in granular detail the “horizontal” journey to the court.
    This was less about the intangible barriers or perceptual challenges (things that you can only change in the long term), and more the tangible, practical, real-life barriers which complicate and obviate actual participation in tennis
    As such, it is pre-eminently behavioural in its focus….so, for example, we needed to understand HOW they get their tennis partner, how they find out about courts and get to the court, and what the role of booking is…
    As such, we were going beyond the numbers: from a pure numbers point of view, “lack of someone to play with” is (excluding the weather!) by far the biggest barrier to both participation and frequency, mentioned by 33% of all women aged 21-40…but that doesn’t exactly tell us much, nor how to tackle it!
  • So, to unpick that situational element and journey element, and do it relatively cheaply, we utilised a mixed methodology, especially asking respondents to keep lifestyle diaries, household interviews (in context learning), and focus groups involving a workshop element…..enabling us to take their ideas and develop a concept….which we could then take to the groups and test for feedback and refinement….finally, once piloted, we could get in-market feedback.
    Going back to what I said earlier about Insight as process, we developed the understanding as went through the research programme, especially, for example, when we unpicked the role technology plays in their lives, we had to interpret what respondents were saying and register its implications in the entire decision-making process for ending up on court….and therefore what that means for strategy, marketing strategy, and marketing communications strategy. Similarly, all the way through we were involving key stakeholders and getting their input so that there was a seamless movement from research to the actual “doing” later on.
    To help us with this behaviour change pilot we were helped by Sport England’s behavioural change process as it provided rigour and due process from start to finish….helped to challenge our thinking and ensure we knew exactly why we were making the decisions we were.
  • Tennis Tuesdays launched 3 weeks ago in selected park sites in London.
    Early days! More to do with the pricing and cost structures…
    Monitoring closely – 50% utilisation and growing, high engagement, high satisfaction, even in the absence of significant marketing
  • Finally, the third area that has helped our planning is feedback and keeping projects on track through leading indicators and metrics, clearly linked to our overall business objectives.
  • So, for example, as part of monitoring Tennis Tuesdays, we are using a balanced dashboard with some live metrics, that help us direct decision-making in the moment and on a weekly basis.
    For example, our overall measures of success include a mixture of volume and frequency, but we have built in a range of measures that anticipate that volume and frequency and which we can influence. For example, unique visitors to our website, the level of “engagement” with the Tennis Tuesdays Facebook page, email engagement….
    BY doing this we hope to avoid surprises later….and having an evidence-based approach gives clout when talking to deliverers and partners on the ground
  • That was one example. But it’s something we are applying at an overall level.
    Deloitte recommends an approach which focuses in the main on business measures which have a relationship with future performance – a “leading indicator” approach that has some predictive quality embedded within it.
    Which means that the measures should be a mixture of quantitative (actual operational measures) and qualitative (survey-based measures).
    These can be SLI (short-term) or LLI (longer term)
     We have put together a “work in progress” Steering Wheel for tennis in Britain, covering Participation, Marcomms, Performance, Finance, and Commercials…this is dummy date I hasten to add…!
    For example, with Participation, the clear objective is to get more people playing more often. Therefore the measures in the steering wheel are intended to represent the “drivers” of participation, which we can monitor over time and take action accordingly if some underperform against expectations.
    For example, things like demand for tennis: we know that traffic to our AllPlayTennis website correlates very closely to APS participation trends, so we are redeveloping the website to maximise conversion to court booking, and optimising our whole digital marketing strategy to drive traffic further to it….
    As we get more robust data and evidence, we are reviewing the measures to ensure they have a relationship with future performance (potentially supported by statistical analysis) to make sure we are measuring the right things.
     It’s still work in progress – much more to do to “Get it right”…
  • So, to finish
    I repeat that “insight” and understanding participants is not a series of observations on data. It’s an accumulating process that is fundamentally about interpretation and point of view
    We always need to situate the sport within the context of life itself and layer on the elements of life and lifestyle, the “market share of time”…and then map the complicated journey and decision-making process to participate in that sport
    We are beginning to understand the benefits of this approach for tennis
    But we have a continuing need to build it into the strategic plan
    But taken together, it can only be beneficial for the health of tennis overall
    Finally, a plea that we have our Great British Tennis Weekend happening again on June 21st and 22nd…an opportunity to take part in an open day in clubs and parks and take part in tennis for free….
    Thank you
  • Paul Burditt from the Lawn Tennis Association – Gaining insight

    1. 1. Sports Summit 2014 Understanding your Participants Paul Burditt Lawn Tennis Association Head of Business Insight and Planning
    2. 2. What I want to discuss today • What understanding participants means • Some guiding principles for “Insight” • What that means in practice
    3. 3. LTA mission and role Mission: to get more people playing tennis more often To Govern British tennis • We oversee the rules, regulations and standards of British tennis • We champion the game's core values of fair play, enjoyment and respect To Develop the sport through: • Our support for those partners who grow tennis in a viable way • Our support for talented players To Promote the sport by: • Increasing the appeal and awareness of tennis
    4. 4. LTA realised… • Plenty of quantitative and survey work was being done… • …but the research tended to be: • Descriptive not analytical • Retrospective, not forward-looking • Compartmentalised, not bigger picture
    5. 5. Real appetite for “Insight” • Senior Management recognised we needed something more systematic and holistic • Senior support and buy-in crucial to creating the role and on-going support • Clear understanding that we needed insight into the participant to achieve overall business objectives and improve the health of tennis in Britain
    6. 6. To reiterate: Insight as process, not ragbag of observations • Insight is an interpretation of observations and understanding, and as such requires a point of view • Much of it is about the process of gaining insight, less on the insight-as-object
    7. 7. Guiding Principles for Insight: showing Care • Comprehensive: the big picture, nothing in isolation • Action: Decision-makers, activity, and in at the beginning • Responsible: Credibility, not popularity • Evaluation: Insight, not (just) measurement, trial and error
    8. 8. Need to avoid complication “We have whole departments of experts dedicated to making things complicated” Dave Trott “Too great a focus on information gathered in the past may retard effective decision-making about the future” Andrew Haldane
    9. 9. Insight at the LTA Participation (Clubs, Community, Education) Commercial and Major Events Comms and Marketing Competitions Coaching Insight
    10. 10. What that means in practice 1. Empower people by mapping the landscape and people in the sport 2. Drive change by focusing on areas with the greatest and most realistic impact 3. Encourage action through continuous feedback
    11. 11. 1. The Landscape • Resources • Infrastructure • Reporting
    12. 12. Utilise available resources
    13. 13. Infrastructure for the next level • New all-year round online GB survey • Participation • Experience and Satisfaction • Perceptions • Buzz, Visibility, Fans and Followers • Modular approach • 11,000 interviews and counting
    14. 14. Relevant reporting • Presentations to Executive/ Leadership Teams • Relevant presentations to individual teams • Regional team reporting and resource packs • Ad hoc on key issues
    15. 15. 2. Focus on the size of impact • Case Study
    16. 16. The opportunity • Women in 20s and 30s • Infrequent players • Park players • Mainly professionals • Want to play more often But did not know much beyond perceptions and current behaviour
    17. 17. Situational quality of tennis Relationship to tennis and “share” of life Relationship to sport and active behaviour Hobbies, Activities, Interests Lifestyle and Lifestage
    18. 18. Unpick the journey to court Desire to play Find partner It’ll be a hassle to arrange STOP Can't find a partner available STOP STOP It is a hassle to arrange Find court Book court
    19. 19. A flexible methodology Tracking Survey Analysis Diaries, Focus Group Workshops, Interviews Concept development and testing Real life testing
    20. 20. Resulting in
    21. 21. 3. Keeping it on Track • Leading indicators • Linking measures to business objectives
    22. 22. Using Leading Indicators • Focus on limited but compelling leading indicators • Linked to measures which drive or influence those leading indicators • Frequent reporting • Regular meetings with stakeholders to drive action
    23. 23. Linking to broader Business Measures
    24. 24. The future • Insight as process, interpretation, and point of view • Layer on situation, and map the journey • Beginning to understand the benefits • But a continuing need to build into the strategic plan • Health of the sport overall