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Gartner ITxpo: Real Time Data Drives Fanatics Growth





Amit Jain, Director of BI and Data Visualization at Fanatics, spoke on what they are doing to keep the world’s largest seller of licensed sports merchandise, ahead of the competition.  It means having a technology platform that is as agile as the athletes in the game. Built on AWS and powered by MicroStrategy, Fanatics runs its business with real-time market basket analytics, powerful forecasting, and actionable intelligence.

Link to Fanatics video

Fanatics is the partner for all the major us leagues

  • NBA
  • Nascar
  • MLB
  • NFL
  • MLS
  • NHL

They believe in the complete fan experience and also have destination stores like the NBA and the NFL stores which contain more than just fan gear. But that’s not all, Fanatics works to create a multi-channel experience with many capabilities

  • ecommers – buy online
  • Mobile
  • custom designs
  • In house and on demand manufactureing
  • In venue events
  • Memorabilia and game use gear

Statistic: On any day, we get 80% of traffic from mobile

Amit showed a spike on September 20th.  After Baker became a hot name, his jersey became hot gear. His ranking changed in minutes. It’s data like this that can drive real time decisions in manufacturing.

The Beginning

From 2011 to 2015, they had SSRS reports that were not real time. They got data in batches.

In 2012, Jeremy Lin (Linsanity) became really popular. Fanatics saw a lot of demand but had no jerseys.

Quote: We saw demand but by the time we ordered and got them, the moment was over


Now have the right platform.  Have been using a Dataviz cloud with MicroStrategy analytics.

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Quote: We are now wired for agility

Fanatics uses a lot of social data to find out what’s hot. They feed that into predictive analytics to predict demand and also to start social marketing.   This means great moments keep coming.

Example: Tom Brady’s 500th touchdown

Example all time pass leader with New Orleans

Example: Hayes as Australian rookie

FanViz Demo

Amit showed a demo of the tool with synthetic data.

  • Can filter by sports league
  • Looks at real time data for NFL
  • looks at the stock ticker for all NFL stats
    • All business folks run on mobile devices and laptops
    • Built using MicroStrategy API’s
    • As numbers change, the app updates everywhere
    • Includes comparisons with last year and forecast
    • If had to build elsewhere, it would be a nightmare across the channels
  • MicroStrategy allowed a build one run everywhere strategy
  • Have all this data for leagues, teams, players
  • Also showed a visualized maps for where orders orginate
    • can be filtered by leagues, teams, etc.
    • Can also filter on time frames
  • Can see which teams are national with fans everywhere vs the more regional teams

Application details

This is built for the developer who isn’t a deep Java developer.  They built a complete metadata architecture with a simplified approach that fits more of a web developer skill set.

# dashboards: 100+

This has helped Fanatics with their real time printing capabilities as well.

The Personas: or people supported in FanViz

  • Supported the Flintstone: let me do pixel perfect reporting
  • Supported the Jetsons with real time reporting

This app has multiple layers

  1. Clients
  2. Dashboard
  3. Semantic layer
  4. Web data connector
  5. Data sources

This approach allows for easier upgrades

Caching: Cache layer is on top of MicroStrategy cubes with Spark and Elasticache. The payload is completely cached.   Speed is the same for traveling execs and in house purchasing.

MicroStrategy Tools: A BI platform is about more than just the report.  Amit’s team is lean and mean.  Wanted a lot fo tools provided by MicroStrategy like Command Manager and Systems Manager. They monitor jobs, follow up on errors, incorporate workflows.

Quote: It’s complete automation.

Why MicroStrategy

  • Built for cloud
  • Scalable
  • Reusable MD
  • Performance
  • Real time concurrency
  • Very advanced API
  • Tools Security

Key is the dynamic metadata architecture. It maps the data from various sources to create a common data architecture.  It allows for faster joins and real time results.

Of course, this also means that Fanatics needed to push for a more real time event driven architecture. It’s a kafka based event flow they call FanFlow. All the events from a range of systems like payment, order, inventory etc flow to S3 on AWS and also to MemSQL.  MicroStrategy reads from MemSQL.

Fanatics could not do this anywhere but in the cloud.  So much of their business changes depending on events, time of year, which league is playing etc.  Fanatics based their business in the cloud and based the Analytics in the cloud as well.

What they get from AWS

  • Availability and DR
  • Automation and self service
  • Elasticity and cost
  • Scalability and Agility

This flexibility in AWS allows them to only have a Dev and Prod environment.  Overall, it’s less cost than an on-premise model.

This along with MicroStrategy in the cloud meant a first launch of 4 months.



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Michael Porter

Mike Porter leads the Strategic Advisors team for Perficient. He has more than 21 years of experience helping organizations with technology and digital transformation, specifically around solving business problems related to CRM and data.

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