What the World Series Champions and CPG Marketers Have in Common

By Ari Kaplan

Much of the country is still celebrating the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series title in 108 years. The last time it happened, in 1908, Henry Ford produced the first Model T, Teddy Roosevelt was president, and the Toblerone chocolate bar was invented.

Back then, winning on the baseball field and in the candy category were strikingly different. Today, however, there are some interesting similarities: both industries use big data and advanced analytics to be more successful.

With the explosion of data, MLB professionals regularly use analytical models to analyze and understand the performance of a particular baseball player, just like CPG marketers do for households and shoppers.

As a former statistical analyst for several Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, including founding the Chicago Cubs Research and Development department, I was heavily involved in evaluating players and game strategy. It was all about using data to make smarter decisions, including creating the most accurate performance projections for managers, coaches and players.

Think about it – baseball players and shoppers both have subtle and repeatable habits that can be analyzed and understood with the right tools. For the MLB scout, this involves reviewing data from millions of game events to gain new insights; for the CPG marketer, it’s about accessing shopping and media consumption habits. Finding a strength, weakness or habit to help win even one additional baseball game a year or, for the CPG marketer, to increase customer trips or basket size, is financially well worth the effort.

For example, in a 162-game MLB schedule, 90 wins puts you in contention for a division title. Winning just one additional game dramatically increases your chances of going to the playoffs, which adds $5 million in value to the organization. Analytics, technology and data-driven insights help teams win more games.

This applies to CPG and retail as well. While there are 20,000 to 50,000 CPG SKUs in the typical supermarket, only 20 to 50 of them wind up in the typical shopping basket (that is one tenth of one percent). Competition is fierce, and every opportunity for a “leg up” is critical. IRI analysis has shown that gaining a superior view of the in-store perimeter, shelf and aisle competition helps manufacturers achieve sales uplift that can make all the difference in their overall financial performance.

Of course, traditional metrics like batting average and earned run average in baseball, or dollar sales or sales volume in CPG and retail, don’t always tell the whole story. The first few months of the baseball season are critical to a team’s success – just like the first few months of a new product launch. Field managers must make adjustments to variables such as ballpark and opposing pitcher or batter quickly, and even the most promising player can fail; marketers must quickly make adjustments to variables such as price, packaging and promotions or even the most promising product can fail. However, many marketers still fail to get a robust read on early product performance, which can lead to poor decisions, and the difference between a successful product or one that fails to meet its launch goals.

As the Cubs and their fans continue to celebrate their championship, more and more CPG marketers are celebrating big wins of their own. New solutions can integrate and analyze multiple data sets from various sources and allow marketers to adjust product assortment in real time. The objective of getting the right baseball player in right field is very similar to getting the right product to sell with the right retailer. These decisions are largely driven by dependable data that provides critical insights.

Winning is all about playing the odds. Enhanced data analytics swing those odds in your favor and provide the overall best chance of success – whatever your field you’re playing on.

Want to learn more about winning big with CPG and retail by leveraging today’s advanced analytics and insights? Please feel free to contact me directly at


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