It’s the middle of January and whilst everyone else is busy writing articles about the latest Super Bowl odds and hyping up the seemingly unstoppable San Francisco 49ers, we thought we’d bring you something a little different – a deep dive into AI and the NFL.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 18 months, you’ll no doubt be aware of the hype and fear surrounding AI. According to some it’s going to transform our lives by solving all the problems that humanity faces and allow us to spend our days pursuing our hobbies whilst robots cater to our every need.
For others the advancement of AI is going to usher in the era of the robot in which humanity is slowly wiped off the face of the planet. I know which one of those outcomes I’d prefer, but on a slightly more upbeat note, what about the relationship between AI and professional sport? How is it currently being used by the NFL for example? Read on to find out…
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Say what you like about America, but one thing we do better than any other country on the planet in monetize things. The Premier League, The Champions League, The World Cup that they have every four years or something may all be vastly more popular than American football but it certainly ain’t as profitable.
Any list of the richest sports teams on the planet is invariably dominated by American franchises and that’s because we know how to make money. It’s no surprise then that AI has been used straight off the bat to improve the commercial performance of the NFL.
The NFL uses AI algorithms to analyse the data of consumers to predict individual and group preferences and offer tailored content across digital platforms. Think TikTok but on a much larger scale.
Recruitment and Scouting
Ever since Billy Beane’s 2002 season with the Oakland Raiders there has been an insatiable desire amongst sports franchises to use data to give them the competitive edge.
Over the pond unfashionable soccer managers like Sam Allardyce used stats to eke the most out of their players and to get an edge over their rivals in the transfer market.
Now savvy NFL teams are using AI algorithms to take a deep dive into statistics that we wouldn’t even understand to unearth the next generation of player and to analyse who on their roster is best placed to improve.
AI is being used to analyse the performance of players and staff throughout an organisation at NFL level, taking performance reviews from something of a subjective art to an objective science. There’s no room for error with AI performance review systems.
This technology allows NFL teams to constantly keep a close eye on their players and their staff to ensure that they are always improving and honing their skills. Not every club in the division is using this approach though, there are still some that are deferring to the knowledge and experience of their trusted staff.
Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation
Open the App Store or the Google Play Store on your phone and you’ll be flooded with apps that analyse the data from your smart watch to provide you with tailored health recommendations. If regular run of the mill people like us are getting these tailored health plans formulated for us by AI, can you imagine the data that NFL teams are getting?
AI is allowing them to dig down into the minutiae of their players every physical need and movement. Not only does AI provide them with highly accurate dates for expected recoveries, but it highlights when players are operating in the red zone – when they are on the cusp of an injury and need a break.
If AI can continue to help teams manage their players effectively and reduce their injury risks, it will not only be beneficial to individual teams but to the league in general as fans will get to see more of the best players.
These are just four of the ways that we know the NFL is using AI. There will be countless other ways that the league and individual teams are using AI to better their sporting performances, their commercial outlook and improve in other key areas.
Let’s just hope that the doomsday predictions about AI are completely wrong and instead hope for a future when AI allows us to spend more time enjoying our favourite hobby and pastime – football!