How EquiRatings is Blurring the Lines of Technology and Tradition

EquiRatings, a sports data and analytics company that brings equine sports into the 21st century using data-driven insights. Their mission is to accelerate progress in all equine sports by providing information which allows their clients to create informed strategies and make better decisions, faster. From improving performance, guiding Olympic programs, managing risk, or engaging fans, EquiRatings provides evidence-based solutions using a proprietary blend of vision, technology, and innovation.

EquiRatings was already solving an industry-wide problem: making data meaningful in a sport historically based on intuition. Now, they required a solution that could help them level up their analysis capabilities and marry data with story.

SAP Analytics Cloud predictive scenarios allowed the EquiRatings team to pair their domain knowledge with a user friendly interface and automated predictive models. This meant that a small team of analysts were able to introduce probability into one of the world’s most unpredictable sports. Access to a global dataset, deep domain knowledge, and SAP technology have enabled EquiRatings to sit at the heart of decision-making in the sport–advising teams, managing risk, and uncovering major news stories previously hidden in the data.

50x speed of predictive model development
100 new countries engaged
10 Olympic teams

Challenges

For Sam Watson and Diarmuid Byrne, co-founders of EquiRatings, there were two challenges that faced them.

Sam, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Management Science and Information Systems from Trinity College in Dublin, was looking to pinpoint his own weaknesses in his personal record in the sport. Using spreadsheets, Sam recorded his performance to study and improve on. He quickly realized the value in doing so, and he and Diarm began to apply this same methodology and analysis to study the trends of the top riders.

For years, football, golf, basketball, and a whole host of other sports have utilized performance analysis to understand and improve. But no one was doing this for the field of equestrian, a sport where goals are penciled in and events are “anyone’s game.”

Equestrian sports is a world based in intuition and feel. There was no data, no way to measure, except for the betting markets in horse racing.

Sam Watson, EquiRatings, Chief Strategy & Co-Founder

Sam and Diarm developed algorithms to understand the data surrounding performance and trends at eventing, one of the oldest Olympic sports and one of the only ones which sees men and women compete on equal terms. EquiRatings’ findings showed riders and mangers where to focus their training based on their previous results and the patterns that produced the most penalties.

The duo quickly gained international attention for their data-driven approach and the insights they were pulling. The reason? No one had ever done it before. Until they came along, there was no single source of data or analytics available in Olympic equestrian sports.

equiratings using analytics

But the team, who used spreadsheets to collect and house their data, soon found themselves at a roadblock. While spreadsheets proved to be a powerful starting point, it couldn’t simulate what was possible.

The team also needed a solution that would answer the question that kept coming up during competitions: “Who’s going to win?” Eventing has a reputation of being one of the most unpredictable sports. A horse and its rider, three disciplines (dressage, cross country, and show jumping), and a complex scoring system, complete with a wide array of variables.

That means that, for any event, there are millions of potential outcomes.

To solve this challenge, the company needed probability and a more scalable and secure solution. This is where EquiRatings turned to SAP Analytics Cloud and the power of automated predictive technology to serve their analytical needs.

You have these major Olympic equestrian sports that are performing based on intuition and feel and experience. At the heart of this sport is data, but no one was explaining that story.

Diarm Byrne, EquiRatings, Managing Director and Co-Founder

The Solution

EquiRatings had a decade’s worth of industry data that they needed to move over from spreadsheets. Using SAP HANA, they were able to connect their data sources through virtual interactive access layer (virtualization). This helped to simplify data management and streamline access of all data in a single storage solution.

Once their historical data was in one place, the team was able to leverage the connection to SAP HANA to utilize the predictive scenarios of SAP Analytics Cloud. SAP Analytics Cloud puts automated machine learning techniques to work.

A huge volume of variables that can impact a result–a horse and athlete, competing over multiple days, in multiple phases, in different conditions and on different courses around the world–are what make this a an unpredictable sport. The team began to apply and test the automated machine learning techniques available. The company began to produce predictive models that calculates the likely winners and podium placings in advance of a competition and also in real time throughout.

The insights are used by the storytellers in the commentary boxes, on social media, and even by the cameras crews and producers looking for advance notice on where the key moments of the competition will unfold.

These outcomes are then displayed in the Eventing Prediction Centre, powered by SAP Business Technology Platform, which connects business applications, processes, and data through a combination of technologies for database and data management, analytics, application development and integration, and intelligent technologies.

Whether you’re a rider trying to improve your performance, a fan wanting to engage with the sport, a governing body trying to keep horses and riders safe, we have the ability now to aggregate and analyze data to tell a story that matters. No one was doing that before.

Diarm Byrne, EquiRatings, Managing Director and Co-Founder

The Results

SAP HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud has been a game-changer for EquiRatings, and, in turn, EquiRatings is changing the game for riders, fans, brands and federations across equestrian sport. At the heart of this industry change: SAP Analytics Cloud’s predictive scenarios.

Using SAP Analytics Cloud, EquiRatings delivered the first ever simulated competitions in Olympic equestrian sports.

When the global pandemic threatened their entire industry, (no sporting action meant no records, ratings or opportunities to interact with the EquiRatings’ global fanbase) that didn’t deter EquiRatings. The company used 10 years of international data to simulate competitions and run fantasy style events with international commentary teams presenting the competitions as if live. A fan engagement app, Eventing Manager, built on SAP Integration Suite with Qualtrics integrations, allowed fans to select their teams for these simulated events.

It’s no surprise, then, that a company that changed an entire industry went on to win a 2021 SAP Innovation Award for their simulated sport and a fan experience tool, bringing data and stories to fan and sponsors all over the globe.

Stories in mainstream sports are driven by news about people winning. Before, no one was able to do that with Equestrian sport. With the help of SAP Analytics Cloud predictive scenarios, EquiRatings is able to tell that story. We can tell stories to the commentators, the brands, and the fans, which helps capture the excitement during the buildup to the event. We can even deliver probabilities to Olympic team selections.”

Diarm Byrne, EquiRatings, Managing Director and Co-Founder

EquiRatings is revolutionizing a sport in ways that have never been discussed before, helping turn an industry from opinion to fact. A real-life example of this is Ingrid Klimke and her championship horse “SAP Hale Bob OLD.”

During the 2019 CHIO Aachen, Ingrid, a 3-time European champion, knocked a pole during the show jumping phase. No rider, in the history of that competition, had ever gone on to win after knocking a pole.

All eyes were on the Eventing Prediction Centre, which was displaying real-time information during her performance. In a matter of seconds, the Eventing Prediction Centre was able to look at every past performance that Ingrid had, analyze the history of every horse, as well as the history of that particular competition, to produce an outcome of her likelihood to win.

Despite all opinions and stories, and to everyone’s surprise, the Eventing Prediction Centre indicated, through data, that she would stay on top. That evening, Ingrid would go on to win CHIO Aachen for a record-breaking third time.

Equestrian sports have been limited in the past–data is an element to be added to help people make informed decisions through data. We can add information to the intuition and experience that already exists.

Sam Watson, EquiRatings, Chief Strategy & Co-Founder

Of course, tracking performance remains at the heart of EquiRatings mission, and is still the vision for the team: whatever you want to manage, you measure.

The team works with clients, from individuals, teams, to Olympic managers, to provide an analytical understanding to show them where they are and where they need to go, as well as helping to pave the way for a safer sport, for both riders and horses.

And thanks to the team’s quick and innovative response to the pandemic, SAP Analytics Cloud will also now be used by multiple Olympic teams in the selection and management of their teams for Tokyo 2020/21.

From where they began in 2015 (tracking personal performance in a spreadsheet) to where they are now (managing Olympic teams and delivering simulated competition for the first time in the history of the sport,) EquiRatings is on a path known and shared by trailblazers.

We've grown from Excel to SAP Analytics Cloud to Olympic teams.

Diarm Byrne, EquiRatings, Managing Director and Co-Founder

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