PepsiBall: marketers are buyng the gospel of Sabermetrics

More evidence that corporate marketers and management are looking for detailed financial and performance data as an indicator of success. At the AdWatch: Outlook 2004 conference yesterday, AdAge noted an emphasis on stats in identifying business opportunities.

With so much data available, sorting the useful from the less so is tough. One source of inspriration, said [Pepsi CMO Dave] Burwick, is a book by Michael Lewis called Moneyball, which details how the general manager of the Oakland A's assembled a winning baseball team by analyzing numbers on player statistics collected by amateur baseball enthusiasts.

"Our entire plan for 2004 is based on thoughts that came out of that book, which is all about figuring out which metrics matter," Mr. Burwick said. "We learn from our mistakes," he acknowledged.

The parallels are startling: traditional advertisers, marketers and public relations executives are griping about increasing demands for strict quantitative measurement, just as old-school baseball veterans railed against Moneyball and the prophecies of Sabermetrics.

Almost a year ago, Lewis picked at the traditionalists' reliance on old war stories, gut feelings, and historical precedent: this criticism could apply to our industry as well:

What's taken for success on a baseball field is often just good luck (the double that is actually a fly ball lost in the sun) and what's interpreted as failure is often just bad luck (the home run pulled back into the field of play by the gifted center fielder.)

All this and more can be shown by the close analysis of baseball statistics -- made possible, or at any rate economical, by cheap computing power. For anyone willing to shun the conventional gut-feel approach to the market for baseball players and find more accurate ways to price players and their skills, there's opportunity ...

The financial markets have helped to make brains more respectable to men of action. They have hammered into the minds of a generation of young, ambitious people the connection between "inefficiency" and "opportunity."