After earning his undergraduate degree in Business Analytics, Nikhil Morar knew he wanted to work in sports. He chose Indianapolis and IUPUI because of the M.S. in Applied Data Science with a specialization in Sports Analytics program, and the professional sports teams, state of the art facilities, and sports business headquarters located in the city. The degree program at IUPUI is jointly taught by the School of Informatics and Computing and the School of Health and Human Sciences.
“Sports organizations need analytics experts who can turn data about their customers and teams into revenue-generating strategies. The program helped me learn core competencies in data analysis, data management and infrastructure, client–server application development, and ethical and professional management of sports informatics projects,” Morar said.
After serving as a Business Intelligence intern with Nashville SC, in his hometown Nashville, TN, during the Covid-19 pandemic and as a Senior Data Analyst for two seasons at Chicago Fire FC, Morar is now Manager of Business Analytics & Strategy for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball franchise.
In his role with the Lakers organization, Morar develops data integrations, quantitative analyses, performance metrics, and dashboard visualizations to drive key strategic and revenue generating business initiatives, providing data, and reporting to inform decision-making on a variety of business areas including ticketing, partnerships, broadcast, and ad-hoc research.
He also performs advanced modeling on large data sets; interprets and provides key takeaways in support of ticket supply, demand, and pricing analytics; and analyzes primary and secondary ticketing data to provide actionable insights. He partners with the ticketing team to develop touchpoint and outreach strategy to ensure season ticket member satisfaction during the NBA season.
Experiential learning began in grad school
“Nikhil was one of the early leaders in the sports analytics program. He was very proactive getting involved with various research projects in the Sports Innovation Institute. He was instrumental in the fan persona development project we did with the Indy Eleven in the applied research methods course I taught. His fast rise in the profession is no surprise to those of us who worked with him during his time at IUPUI,” said David Pierce, associate professor of sports management and director of the Sports Innovation Institute at IUPUI.
While in graduate school, Morar was also part of a team that won ESPN’s Hackathon at the 2020 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Out of 143 applications (102 students and 41 professionals) from people around the world, Morar was one of 35 selected to participate. The Hackathon was presented by ESPN Stats & Info and the data was provided by ShotTracker.
His team’s presentation, Imputing Shot Arcs for Enhanced Shot Evaluation (40:45 to 48:47) involved using player and ball tracking data from men’s and women’s college basketball games to perform objective data-based analysis and gain insights on in-game play. The data is acquired with UWB tracking sensors and provides coordinate data (x, y, z) with high temporal and spatial resolution.
Advice to others considering a sports analytics career
Morar pointed out that an internship is often a critical piece of breaking into the sports industry because it allows students to get experience without the employer having to invest in them. They will often be able to get an internship through the help of their college’s career services office, enabling them to build credibility and bolster their resume for sports business/analytics entry-level jobs.
“I try to always put myself in the shoes of someone reading something for the first time, to explain complicated concepts instead of assuming people get them, and to really work on trying to bring examples and analogies. I’m far from perfect but I think by at least aiming to think like someone who is new to a subject, it really helps figure out how to clarify sports analytics,” Morar said. “Many people pick a job based on the city, team/organization, or job title and compensation package. However, the most important thing is to find an opportunity to work with leaders that will challenge you every day, let you learn by making mistakes, and most importantly invest in your individual growth.”