Moneyball Marketing.


This past weekend I went to see Moneyball. It is not often that my mom and I agree on a movie, but both of us wanted to see what all the hype was about. The movie staring Brad Pitt is a story about the Oakland A’s and how their manager, Billy Beane, sought to expand competitive gain through the application of highly developed data modeling techniques (with a budget of less than half of the A’s rival teams). Beane is credited with adapting Bill James’ statistical concepts into practical use through the implementation of sabermetrics. “Using on-base percentage (OBP, which measure a batter’s ability to reach base by hit or walk) was much more significant than mere batting average (BA, which only measures hits), relative value of slugging average (SLG, which measures a batter’s total bases per at-bat) and dismissed the more traditional baseball stats such as stolen bases and bunts” (The Atlantic). In essence, it is simply glorified market research applied to the game of baseball.

The movie got me thinking. If you can apply market research and strategy to baseball. Then certainly we can apply it to business in the same non-traditional sense. Hear me out. Obviously businesses use market research, some of us are even hoping this program directs us to that goal, but that’s not the type of market research I am referring to. If we follow the logic of the movie, players like A-Rod and Derek Jeter are somewhat discredited.

Billy Beane: “Why do people care about anything we do? We play in a crappy stadium, in a market that we share with another team, with one of the lowest payrolls in the game. Really, I’m not that interesting.”

The storyline repeatedly emphasizes that big budget players can be replaced with less well-known talent. It therefore discredits their talents and makes superstars somewhat replaceable. Now, let’s replace the players with CEOs. Following my logic, Ray Irani, CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corp., the highest paid CEO with an annual salary of $52.2 million, would represent the New York Yankees’ CC Sabathia, who besides Alex Rodriguez is the second highest paid professional baseball player in the league with a salary of 23 million dollars. While Beane looked at player’s OBP, could we not look at CEOs performance quantitatively? What is Irani’s batting average/company success via stock value, innovation, or annual earnings per-say. Is there not comparable replacement of talent willing to get paid a lot less? Billy Beane would argue yes. In fact, sabermetrics would argue that there are replacements for every top CEO.  This is personally discouraging to me because it belies everything I am working towards. If you and I are replaceable and only worth the lowest bid of our competition, then what exactly makes us valuable? Are there exceptions? Could Steve Jobs be replaced successfully? He only took a $1 salary once again in 2010 so its hard to argue a case for him. However, do you think the theory still applies or is it completely off base (pun intended)?

Another noteworthy issue surrounding the movie is how it was marketed. Sports fans are upset particularly with the add below shown on Facebook:

Many feel as though this is very stereotypical in nature. NBC Sports flips these sterotypes in the statement below:

“Fact: there are a lot of women who would actually want to see ‘Moneyball’ because of the story and couldn’t give a damn about Brad Pitt.  Fact: there are a lot of men who would actually want to see “Moneyball” because they think Brad Pitt is a hunk and, you know, screw baseball”.-NBC Sports

Fact: clearly the marketers of Moneyball used segmentation, but did they go too far?