The Use of CRM in Sports: A Classroom Visit from Neda Tabatabaie

By Forrest Lockwood & Greg Morrissey

Neda Tabatabaie, Vice President of Business Intelligence with the San Jose Sharks, stopped by to talk about data management through CRM and how she has helped the Sharks become one of the most data-driven organizations in the NHL. Originally from Iran, Neda and her family moved to Toronto when she was young, which would ultimately lead to her entry into the sports world. She graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Toronto and landed her first gig as a Marketing Coordinator at Holt Renfrew, a high-end chain of retail stores in Canada. Much like anyone’s path into sports, hers was as unconventional as they come. Given her expertise in analyzing customer loyalty, Neda was exactly the candidate Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment were looking for. Upon her hiring in 2005, Neda was tasked to manage the CRM data at a time when very few sports organizations had adopted a CRM system. After years of successfully managing the CRM system for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Neda was hired on at KORE Software, one of the top CRM software providers on the market. As Vice President of Best Practices, Neda was able to help ensure KORE Software remained a leader in CRM data management. After a little over a year with KORE Software, Neda landed her current position with Sharks Sports and Entertainment as the Vice President of Business Intelligence. What Neda has been able to do for Sharks Sports and Entertainment is nothing short of amazing.

Her goal was to be able to use CRM to become more efficient with ticketing, sponsorship, and marketing. After accomplishing that goal, Neda was then able to integrate all the departments into the CRM system to ensure the entire organization operated more efficiently. The San Jose Sharks have now become a full digital ticketing organization; they have also significantly improved several aspects of the fan experience, with a better arena wi-fi system, more useful mobile app, and stronger content being posted on their social media outlets. Every single one of these improvements can be attributed to Neda Tabatabaie, as she has centralized every single department in the organization into one robust CRM system. Neda stated that her goal is always to “acquire fans through a holistic view of their behavior.” In doing so, her main focus is always on customer retention, which is the hardest task any organization faces.

MLB’s July 31 Trade Deadline Isn’t Much of a Deadline

Didn’t we just have the trade deadline? Does the July 31 trade deadline mean nothing when teams are trading well into August? Not exactly, there are just a few more hoops to jump through once you get into the eighth month of the year.

Let’s say you want a player after the trade deadline. What do you do? These players have to go through something called revocable waivers. Let’s pretend that Miguel Montero didn’t get DFA’d back in June and the Cubs decided to trade him after the July 31 deadline because he’s been causing issues in the clubhouse that is affecting team chemistry and on-field play. All the cubs have to do is put him on waivers which allow any other team to claim him and work out a trade with the Cubs.

Because the Cubs are in the National League, the team with the worst record in the NL will have the chance to claim him, that team happens to be the Phillies. If the Phillies pass, the Giants would have a chance to make a deal for him. If no one in the NL claims him, this process would repeat in the American League starting with the last place White Sox.

If a claim is awarded, there are three options. The Cubs can simply take him back, they can trade him to the claiming team, or they can just let him go to the team that claimed him. Many teams try to get as many players as possible when doing a waiver trade so the second option is usually favorable.

Now let’s imagine a top caliber player, like Clayton Kershaw is put on waivers for the remainder of his contract, an average of $33MM for each of the next 4 years, most likely, everyone would pass on him. However, now that every team has passed on him, the Dodgers can negotiate with any team to strike a deal.

So, trades can still be made. In fact, trades can still be made after August 31, but that traded player won’t be eligible for the post-season. Moreover, we have been talking about revocable waivers, we also have irrevocable waivers where a player is put on waivers for the second time. This time around, once this player is claimed, he’s gone.

Let’s take a look at some of the July and August trades over the last 16 years:

July & August Trades Comparison


Since 2000, July trades have seen fairly consistent percentage changes year-over-year.  However, when you look at the percentage changes for August, we see that it varies rather drastically and that trades have become more frequent over the years. This could be due to a number of reasons: the change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2006, the decision to eliminate direct compensation for free-agent signings or that Type C free agents were also eliminated. So if your team hasn’t made a move as of July 31, don’t worry, there is still a chance to make some roster adjustments.

So, the July 31 deadline? Not a true deadline, we just have a few obstacles along the way in order to trade a player. Even players you don’t think will ever be traded may be put on waivers in order to gauge trade interest or actually hide players the team actually wants to trade. Now that we have some more insight let’s keep an eye on how many trades will happen in the month of August.



How Do You Sell A Constant Trade Deadline “Seller”?

A's Fans in Bleachers
Devoted A’s fans display signs in the outfield bleachers during the 2014 MLB Playoffs. (Image credit: Kelley L Cox – USA TODAY Sports)

As the calendar approaches July 31, baseball fans feel a special sort of anxiety as their favorite teams, depending on their self-perceived chances of making the MLB Postseason –  seek to either load up on talent for the stretch run, or trade away their better players in the hopes of having a better shot next season. Fans of the Oakland Athletics, however, feel a particular variant of this anxiety, since July 31 has become the team’s traditional fire-sale day, even when the team is in contention. From a team performance standpoint, these moves make sense. But does it makes overall business sense to be consistent sellers? Continue reading “How Do You Sell A Constant Trade Deadline “Seller”?”

Agents of the 2017 NFL Draft’s First Round


Behind every major professional athlete, is a sports agency. These agencies are the legal representatives for their athlete clients. As you can imagine, these agencies love to see their athletes succeeding in their careers. For most athletes competing in the major North American leagues, this career path begins on draft night.

April 27 marked the opening round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Booing of the Commissioner. Last minute trades. Fan bases popping champagne. Fan bases sharpening their pitchforks. Realization of athletes’ dreams. All of these are part of the draft night magic. The Cleveland Browns kicked things off by selecting defensive end Myles Garrett as the number one overall pick. Naturally, Garrett and his fellow first round draft picks are all represented by various sports agencies. Who are the agencies behind these rookie football players? Sports Agent Blog is one site that tracks this.

Below is a table summarizing the top agencies for the 2016 draft and the first round of the 2017 draft:



CAA got off to a hot start defending its 2016 title as the top agency for NFL  draftees. Although CAA did not nab the honor of representing either number one overall draft pick in 2016 or 2017, they still led all agencies with the number of represented athletes taken in the first round of both years (seven in 2016 and nine in 2017). We will see if CAA will hold on to its crown as the draft continues. With a lead this large, there’s a greater chance of blowing a 28-3 lead in the third quarter of the Super Bowl than someone catching up… wait…