The Celtics May Be Champions, But the Real MVP Is Math

Boston is my hometown and I’m thrilled the Celtics won the NBA Championship. But even if they’re not your team, hear me out.

Quick background: The Celtics president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, is probably the biggest data geek in the NBA. Stevens read Moneyball many times. He has a degree in economics; at Butler he hired the first full-time statistical analyst in the NCAA.

For the Celtics, Stevens devised a system to optimize points. The team pursues the biggest percentage three-point shots, regardless of who takes the shot. On defense, the Celtics force their opponent to take low-percentage field goals, even if those shots come from the opponents’ star talent. All these analytics have led to “positionless” players – modern, versatile players. Think Derrick White, Jrue Holliday. And there exist analytics all around the combination of players, who to use and in what circumstances.

I think the stat that surprised me most came from the Wall Street Journal – “The Celtics don’t have a player who finished in the top five of MVP voting this season.” But what they do have is a system -and a team that has bought into the system.

The Celtics “own” powerful analysis of a combination of variables which contribute to a championship.

Just like the Celtics, econometric models are used for media mix modeling. And if you want your brand to be a champion, then it’s your job to stop looking for a silver bullet, star player. It’s not search. It’s not social. It’s not TV. It’s not distribution. It’s not price. It’s knowing when to leverage those variables, in which combination, in a calibrated volume.

Media mix modeling will make your media investments smarter, more efficient, more impactful. You just got to buy into the system. Because, like the Celtics and Mavericks this year, math beats star talent.