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Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) / German Ice Hockey League

Customer Snapshot: Overview

Managing first division games for 14 German ice hockey clubs

No one gets more pumped up than ice hockey fans. But what is it that makes fans tick? To find out, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) leveraged UX design services from SAP in a design thinking workshop for business innovation. The result is a fun analytics tool that provides fans info on their favorite teams and players right at their fingertips.

Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) / German Ice Hockey League

Customer Website

Sports & Entertainment

Visionary Themes


Cologne, Germany

Line of Business

SAP Solutions
deployment of dashboard analytics, design thinking workshop for business innovation, UX design services from SAP

Customer Snapshot: History

20 Years of Hockey – 20 Years of Passion

Since its founding in 1994, Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) has been serving up world-class hockey and entertainment to German fans. And the excitement continues as players from all over the world battle it out to see which club will be crowned this season’s “German Master.”

Customer Snapshot: Business Model

Fans at the Heart of Making Hockey History

The Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) (German Ice Hockey League) is the central organization for all professional German ice hockey clubs playing in the first division. Founded in 1994, the DEL manages all first division games, organizes marketing activities, and promotes young talent. Taking pride in a culture of continuity and professionalism, the DEL is dedicated to providing passionate hockey fans with a multimedia experience that helps them feel like they are right in the game. Because as the DEL knows, making history means making memories that fans can take with them for a lifetime.

Customer Snapshot: Success Strategy

Raising a Glass to the New Hockey Paradigm

DEL was the first German professional sports league managed by an organization whose members where incorporated as well. The goal behind the DEL was to create a league modeled after the North American National Hockey League (NHL), with intention of giving players and teams the freedom to organize in a way that enabled consistent play and a profitable experience. The DEL established rules designed to ensure long-term viability.

Krombacher Brewery becomes the first corporate sponsor to back the DEL and its new and innovative business model.

Former DEL logo (1994–1996). The first two seasons were sponsored by Krombacher Brewery.

The result was that 12 clubs from the then defunct 1st Bundesliga and six from the 2nd Bundesliga came together as founding members. The new league immediately attracted corporate sponsorship from the Krombacher Brewery, which was prominently featured on the new league logo.

The Challenge

Collaboratively Building a Better Fan Experience

The closer you can get to the game, the more exciting it gets. The DEL wanted to create a fan experience that was more than just passively spectating. A lot of statistical data on players and teams was being collected and being used internally, so they questioned how ice hockey fans could also benefit from this information.

To answer this question, the DEL needed to get to know its fans better – to find out what fans expected overall out of the games and the season, and how they preferred to follow their favorite sport. To accomplish these objectives, representatives from DEL and its media partner participated in a two-day design thinking workshop.

Enter SAP

SAP is One of DEL’s Biggest Fans

The partnership between the DEL and SAP SE was announced in 2012. SAP’s involvement with ice hockey started with its sponsorship of the regional ice hockey club and one of Germany’s top teams, Adler Mannheim, which plays regularly in the SAP Arena for up to 13,000 enthusiastic fans.

From baseball to basketball, American football, sailing, and more, SAP is helping enhance the sports experience for participants, fans, organizers, and media organizations through its innovative solutions. So it was no surprise when the DEL turned to SAP to help leverage the value of 20 years of statistical data on teams, players, coaches, and more. 

The initial objective for SAP’s partnership with the DEL was identified quickly: Reach out to both casual and die-hard fans to enrich and improve their perception of ice hockey. But how to do this would require a little “design thinking…”

Design-thinking workshop gets DEL thinking about what their fans really want.

Enter SAP: The SAP Experience

Getting Fans Involved in the Software Development Process

Three main questions needed to be answered in order to understand how to enhance the ice hockey fan experience:


are ice hockey fans?


do fans really want?


do they like to follow their sport?

To find the answers, SAP brought together DEL representatives and SAP software experts in a design thinking workshop for business innovation. The workshop was moderated by design thinking coaches from the design and co-innovation center (DCC) at SAP. 

One of the basic aims of the design thinking approach is to work closely with the target user group to learn about its structure and characteristics. In this case, numerous fans, fan club chairmen, casual spectators, and other people related to ice hockey were interviewed to gain a comprehensive understanding of their needs and motivation for following the game.

The partnership allowed DEL to take advantage of UX design services from SAP. Two coaches from SAP trained the interdisciplinary team in design thinking methods like user research, ideation, prototyping, and validation. In an open space room at an SAP office, participants were playfully guided through the process in a way that got everyone’s creative juices flowing.

The first stage of the process was to create personas that represented fictional characters based on interview participants complete with names, private backgrounds, hobbies, opinions, and habits. The goal was to bring participants closer to the people being interviewed – to really get to know them as individuals. When executed correctly this phase provides a powerful foundation for the next steps in the process.

The ultimate goal is to collect ideas about potential solutions to the target group’s requirements and wishes and prioritize them based on various conditions and prototypes.

It is important to note that workshop participants were often proved wrong in their expectations and gained some surprising insights into the mindset of the average ice hockey fan. An analytics expert may find it necessary to create complex algorithms on top of huge datasets to deep dive into statistics and expose information no one has ever seen. But the design thinking workshop revealed that the average ice hockey fan is primarily interested in having a few basic figures – goals, wins, losses, and penalties – at their fingertips in a way that is easy to use and understand.

We were positively surprised by the workshop equipment. The creative atmosphere helped us to gain insights that we would never have had in our normal environment. –Matthias Schumann, Head of Communications, Deutsche Eis Hockey League (DEL)

Better Business

Discovering a Diverse Fan Base

One of the surprising findings from the design thinking workshop was that many fans are not dedicated experts. Many attend games more to enjoy the family-like atmosphere or just have fun with friends. So an intuitive, self-explanatory dashboard that displays fun facts, such as the favorite opposing team, was chosen for further ideation. Paper mock-up prototypes were created and tested quickly and inexpensively.

Without a doubt UX design services from SAP helped DEL get to know its fans better:
- Training in design thinking methods
- Design of the dashboard user experience with fans in mind
- Technical realization of the Web-based dashboard
This project perfectly demonstrates how design thinking brings together customers and several parties across SAP in a creative process: While the concept was developed by all, the user requirements were collected jointly by DEL and the design services team from SAP. –Milan Cerny, Project Lead, Business Analytics Services, SAP SE

Better Business: Benefits

DEL and SAP Score Big with Fans

The DEL has significantly improved data analysis capabilities and enhanced the fan experience. Analytics tools like the dashboard reporting enabled by SAP BusinessObjects Explorer software support data processing for the DEL homepage ( Hockey fans can now access and analyze current and historical hockey data on site. Using powerful analytics tools, they can interactively track hockey statistics, such as opponent, penalty, or player scoring analysis, in real time.

Without a doubt, DEL and SAP scored big with fans with:

Increases across the board:

Facebook likes

Web site traffic

Fan communication

In hockey the insights that statistical data can provide, really spice up the game. We are pleased to provide such a high-quality service to our fans. –Gernot Tripcke, Managing Director, Deutsche Eis Hockey League (DEL)

Better Business: Run Simple

Kicking Off the Season with More-Engaged Fans

The public-facing fan dashboard went live in time for the start of the new season. Now, fans can easily display a subset of the most relevant ice hockey statistics like goals, wins, and penalties at the club and player level. The dashboard also helps to increase communication between fans and the DEL.

If you go out and talk to people, you learn a thousand times more than you could ever learn from the best questionnaire. –Jörg von Ameln, Head of Gaming Operations, Deutsche Eis Hockey League (DEL)

Journey Ahead

Fans Agree – That is One Cool Tool

Thanks to the design thinking workshop for business innovation, DEL now has a clear path forward: Continue to get to know ice hockey fans in order to leverage technology to meet their needs and expectations.

Not only has the DEL been able to significantly enhance the fan experience, it has also provided fans at every level with a user-friendly statistical tool that they had never seen before. The final public-facing dashboard, now linked and live on the DEL Web site, contains a subset of the most relevant team and player stats, serving every ice hockey fan’s needs in the best conceivable way.

To see for yourself, check out the comments on the DEL Facebook page to see how many times the dashboard has been liked as a, “Cool tool!”

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