Written by: Garry Checki, Analytics Specialist
“Analytics” has been a buzzword in sports recently, with franchises hiring front office staff based largely on the fact that these guys are not simply football, baseball or basketball savvy, but because these guys are “analytics guys.” Guys who will break out the calculators, open up a fresh spreadsheet and deliver a championship to a city because they crunched the numbers and used unique sets of data to find the most valuable position players at the cheapest price.
Major league baseball franchises, specifically, have used analytics as a decision making tool much more extensively and successfully than other popular American sports leagues. The most famous example of analytic decision making in baseball comes from Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, subject of the 2003 Michael Lewis book “Moneyball” and the subsequent 2011 film of the same name.
Going into the 2002 baseball season, Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics saw the departure of three star players in one offseason. Beane responded by signing players seen as “lackluster” by many people in the baseball world. But Beane knew what he was doing. Billy Beane used analytics to sign ball players he knew were undervalued in the market but were successful in statistical areas that were not as flashy as other statistics. Beane went after “cheap” players who may not have the best batting average, but had high on base percentages, or pitchers who may struggle against left handed hitters, but have a high strikeout rate against right handed batters.
Using these analytical outliers and manipulating data to find diamonds in the rough, Billy Beane was able to build a team that won 103 games out of 162 games played, with twenty wins in a row (fourth highest consecutive wins of all time), finish first place in the American League West division and do so with a payroll of only $44 million, compared to the 103 win New York Yankees whose payroll soared to well over $125 million.
While the world of baseball is a much different game than the world of media measurement, there are similarities and lessons media measurement pros can learn from guys like Billy Beane and teams like the Oakland Athletics.
Go after small outlets with large syndication rates
If your campaign could use a “home run”, secure coverage with an outlet that syndicates to large national websites or television outlets across the country, this is an analytical win and a smart way to turn a small hit into a home run.
Value the smaller market relationships
Some ball players spend twenty years in the league and retire with little fanfare.These ball players simply go out and do their job, day in and day out. The same can be said for smaller regional news outlets. They may not have the shine of top 20 media coverage, but coverage in these regional markets can still satisfy your clients goals and give your agency a win.
Don’t be afraid to take the less travelled road
When Billy Beane implemented analytical decision making in the 2002 offseason, he had people around baseball scratching their heads. Beane’s own staff questioned him and even took to the airwaves to scrutinize Beane’s use of analytics. But being able to innovate your product, whether that be a sports franchise, or your client’s results reporting, is never something to shy away from. Being ahead of the curve will ultimately make people look back on what your team was able to accomplish and try to duplicate that success themselves.