March Madness, Moneyball, & Marketing

Posted by: in Analytics, Austin Social Media, Integrated Communications, Marketing Insights, Social Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends on March 14, 2013


I grew up in a family of Spartans and attended Indiana when Bob Knight was fired, so to say I’m a college basketball junkie would be a colossal understatement. In my opinion, there’s no greater time of year than March – SXSW, St. Patrick’s Day, and the NCAA Tournament all packed into four weeks of absolute glory. Aside from the actual physical game, there is a business opportunity here as well. Much the way the “Moneyball” concept revolutionized how baseball clubs manage their rosters; college basketball’s KenPom analysis (based on Dean Oliver’s Four Factors) has evolved college basketball into a data-driven enterprise.

Access to sophisticated real-time data, the social nature of game time experiences, and the prevalence free online tournament pools make even the average hoops fan a relative expert come March. Imagine how effective teams can be when scouting their opponents or even examining their own strengths and weaknesses. After reading CJ Moore’s excellent article on just how lucrative these types of analytic tools have become, I immediately put my marketing hat on and began writing. After all, you can barely go a day in corporate America without hearing a sports analogy: “what’s our game plan?”, “what are our competitors doing?”, “how are we performing against the scorecard?” So I thought I’d try to make some sense of the obvious association…

Brands need insights, the data already exists, and we (WCG) have the tools to help them turn this into business strategy. Now it’s just a matter of framing the opportunity into digestible (sports-related) terms. I’ll roughly follow KenPom’s model which examines team and player efficiency scores to ultimately (and quite successfully) predict game outcomes.

Team = Brand: Do you know how to effectively encourage shared and earned media to land a nationally-televised Saturday afternoon game on CBS (word of mouth marketing)? Do you know which markets are packed with fans and “alums” that could fill an arena and sway a game in your favor (participatory marketing)? Could these markets be hotbeds for recruiting next year’s class (HR)? Do you have a solid point guard (SEO), shooting guard (paid and owned media), lockdown defender (analytics), and coach (integrated marketing plan)? What’s in your playbook and do you know what is in your competitor’s (social/digital channels)? All of these questions lead to objective self-discovery and SIGNIFICANTLY enhance your ability to anticipate competitive activity, identify key areas of concern, recruit new talent, and most importantly predict your overall success.

Player = Influencer:  In a world of socially-driven commerce, influence and advocacy play a primary role in how effectively you market your team. Do you know which bloggers/reporters are driving the conversation around college basketball (industry analysts)? Who are your influential “superfans” and how you might reach them (PR)? What are their areas of passion and where do they source their content? What are their tendencies and how can they become your “6th man” to help you outsmart your opponent? Who is in your “starting lineup”, and how can you build strong relationships via insider access to your facilities, players, and coaches (brand evangelism)? This can have a huge impact on your ranking and seed in the “big dance” (brand share, share of conversation)

Game = Campaign:  With deep insights on your players and team performance, as well as those of your competitors, you can now define an optimal game plan (integrated campaign). You should know your set-plays (partners and sales channels), your optimal rotation of complimentary tactics including when (seasonality) and where (markets) to launch, and which players (influencers) to send to the line and ice the game (customer acquisition). Perhaps more importantly, you can constantly iterate with the help of data and game-film (Social CRM) and scorecard your performance to develop a record for the season.

They say the best offense is a good defense, but in my opinion you shouldn’t even take the floor until you understand the game dynamics and which starting lineup will give you the best chance of victory. I believe we’re (WCG) on a path to deliver a similarly powerful brand prescription to enable a clear road to the marketing “Final Four”.

Sick of the analogies yet? Me too, so I better focus on managing my brackets and catch some local music – go Green, go Hoosiers!


By: Michael Westgate

Michael is Head of Marketing at W2O Group and supports our clients with digital analytics and participatory marketing strategy.

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