Championing children’s love of baseball and leveraging the 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game, software and data analytics giant SAS built an AI-powered batting cage and laboratory designed to improve kids’ hitting technique whilst simultaneously teaching them about the real-world applications of data science.
The ‘SAS Batting Lab’ linked a set of cameras and sensors to the brand’s analytics software to analyse and improve the stances and follow-throughs of 11 children – all aged between nine and 13 – over several weeks.
The swings of current players from North Carolina State University’s baseball and softball squads were used as ‘optimal examples; to provide comparison points.
The kid’s skills in the batter’s box were fine-tuned across multiple lines including launch angle and bat speed and the batting cage experience gave the children participating in the tech0-led coaching initiative a up-close view of the individually tailored statistics solving highly relatable problems.
The idea was to simultaneously improve their baseball skills, whilst teaching them basic data analytics and providing a taste of working in future technology jobs. Thus helping both their Big League dreams and their professional career development.
Plus, of course, the initiative provided a set of content to promote SAS software and analytics in the lead-up to the 2022 MLB All-Stare game through an integrated campaign created with McCann New York and its in-house Craft Studios production unit) which spanned digital, social, PR and in-person strands led by a hero spot.
The ‘Batting Lab’ initiative primarily targeted SAS’s core audience of technologists, executives and decision makers with purchasing authority at large, medium and small companies and aimed to portray the brand as forward-thinking team player helping the next generation step up to the plate.
It spanned across earned and owned media including Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, several OLV platforms, plus it was amplified by ESPN and Sports Illustrated, as well as by an MLB sponsorship and coverage from Reuters during the World Series.
The 30-second ‘The Batting Lab: How Do You Improve Kids’ Understanding of Data?’ spearhead online video was posted across the brand’s digital and social platforms from 1 June and sought to drive viewers online to learn more about the initiative at www.sas.com/battinglab.
The sensors and cameras of the #SASBattingLab collect more than 50k data points per swing and more than 2.5 mil. data points are analyzed in a single session of about 50 swings. Take a closer look with SAS' Caslee Sims: https://t.co/3160MPTj0o pic.twitter.com/WK2sVQZQdY
— SAS Software (@SASsoftware) June 16, 2022
10-year-old Dylan wants to be a major leaguer one day. His experience in the #SASBattingLab helped him improve his swing, leading to his 1st HR. It also boosted his confidence in using data, a skill he’ll apply when he goes pro – in baseball or any field. https://t.co/edX6MIBFAH pic.twitter.com/uambPJEt4u
— SAS Software (@SASsoftware) July 14, 2022
Did you miss seeing the #SASBattingLab recently on NBC’s @TODAYshow? Get a firsthand look at the batting cage experience and see how it's teaching kids about data while helping improve their performance at bat.
— SAS Software (@SASsoftware) July 7, 2022
The campaign also included an accompanying digital downloadable ‘Data Playbook’ offering guidance and worksheets for kids and parents designed to boost their confidence in using analytics. Plus, additional elements are planned to run through the fall/autumn.
According to SAS, the initiative was informed by research and data showing that the ability to read, work with and communicate with data will be the most in-demand skill by 2030 and yet 48% of US kids aren’t confident in using it in their everyday lives. Thus, the project sought to help a few of them step up to the plate.
“Over half of American kids play baseball and softball, but less than half understand data,” said McCann New York Associate Creative Director Kassandra Pollard. “So, when we uncovered the fact that the ability to read, work with, and communicate using data will be the most in-demand job skill by 2030, we knew we had to do something to help.”
The campaign was briefed in by and created with an in-house SAS team which included Jenn Chase (Chief Marketing Officer), Susan Ellis (Brand Director), Natalie Osborn (Senior Director, Brand Marketing and Creative), Mirko Mueller-Goolsbey (Director, Brand Marketing), Cassie Lutterman (Brand Content & Experiences), Katherine Powers (Associate Marketing Specialist), Chris Patti (Creative Director), Shawn Gillen (Strategic Creative Leader), Nikki Gusse (Senior Producer), Jared Dean (Data Scientist), Lucy Kosturko (Education Initiatives Manager), Jennifer Sabourin (Research Scientist and Senior Software Developer), Mike Nemecek (Public Relations Lead), Suzanne Sprajcar Beldycki (Director Integrated Communications), Shannon Heath (Corporate & Executive Communications), Elizabeth Creech (Senior Marketing Manager), Mibbie Plouvier (Principal Digital Media Marketer), Melissa Hannah ( Data-driven Social Media Specialist), Pamela Meek (Global Head of Communications), Mark Lawrence (Studio and Location Production Manager), Jesse Olley (Senior Multimedia Production Specialist), Brie Boothby (Senior Associate Social Media Specialist), Evan Markfield (Corporate Social Innovation and Brand Storyteller), Scott Calderwood (Director of Digital Marketing, Global Web Strategy and Digital Experience), Eric Morales (Senior Manager, Web User Experience Design), Jeff McFall (3D and Motion Graphics Design Manager), Thomas Richardson (Senior Event Design Project Manager) and Mike Weiss (Senior Artisan/Designer).
The agency team at McCann New York included Sean Bryan (Co-Chief Creative Officer North America), Pierre Lipton (Co-Chief Creative Officer NY), Shayne Millington (Co-Chief Creative Officer NY), Jason Ashlock (SVP Executive Creative Director), Dominick Baccollo (SVP Executive Creative Director), Daniel Kim (SVP Group Creative Director), Justin Chen (SVP Group Creative Director), Kassandra Pollard (Associate Creative Director), Gabby Gonzaga (Junior Art Director), Kayla Andersen (Junior Copywriter), Adam Koehler (VP Creative Director), Elana Sasson (Design Ops Director), Ethan Buller (Design Director), Herman Awuku (Senior Designer), Kevin Nelson (Managing Director McCann NY), Liz Der (SVP Executive Account Director), Pat Six (VP Account Director), Bill Powers (Account Director), Shenea Walker (Assistant Account Executive), Dominic Poynter (SVP Executive Comms Strategy Director), Will Zweigart (VP Comms Strategy Director), Sam Chotiner (SVP Global Strategy Director), Daniel Lammon (VP Strategy Director), Caitlin O’Malley (Senior Strategist), Camille Dagorn (VP Creator Partnerships), Christine Lane (Executive Director, Innovation & Production), Mihae Mukaida (SVP Executive Director of Innovation), Jeannette Subero (Senior Innovation Producer), Melanie Olar (Innovation Producer), Diane Knarr (Digital Producer), Nathy Aviram (Chief Production Officer, McCann and CRAFT North America), Adam Hirsch (SVE Head of Content), Brett Berman and Sam Rimland (Directors) and
Senior Producer Zoey Greene, Aaron Kovan (Chief Production Officer), Chris Badano (Senior Producer), Kelly Krincek (Junior Producer), Annie Panousopoulos (UX Architect), Julia Brown (Associate Director of Project Management), Amanda Lang, (Senior Project Manager), Jeremy Miller (Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer), Victoria Park (Director of Communications), Terry Marcello (VP Director Talent Payment), Eric Johnson (SVP Executive Integrated Music Producer), Colleen Dahlstrom (Music Producer), Jamie Jou (Music Business Manager) and Madeline McCarty (Business Affairs Manager).
The production design studio was Volvox Labs where the group was led by Kamil Nawratil (Partner/Creative Director), the design studio was OBJ where the team was led by Partner Merica May, editorial was handled by No6 and sports writer Steve Malley consulted on the initiative.
SAS also commented that, in a broader sense, the initiative aimed to highlight the ‘data literacy gap’ among today’s US youth and to spark conversations addressing this challenge around the 2022 MLB All-Star Game.
The 92nd iteration of the game held between the American League and the National League, was hosted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on 19 July 2022.
This All-Star linked initiative builds on SAS’s strong heritage in utility-led sports activations and campaigns and its rights owner and property relationships have stretched from GB Rowing and the NBA’s Orlando Magic to the MLB’s New York Mets, the Royal Dutch Football Association and the Special Olympics.