Adobe and MLB Announce Winners of Analytics Competition

After fourteen years, students continue to tell us that the Adobe Analytics Challenge is an intense, grueling and stressful experience—but one that they would do again in a heartbeat.

What started with 100 schools and 1,500 applicants, the competition was narrowed down to the final six schools from Yale, Cornell, Duke, BYU, UT Dallas and UC Davis. The three-person teams came to Adobe HQ in San Jose and presented their big ideas to judges, live. The students learned to use Adobe Analytics just a few weeks prior to the event, analyzing real data from Major League Baseball (an Adobe customer). With advanced analytics tools and a bit of artificial intelligence (AI), they got an inside look at how fans engaged with one of the biggest sports leagues in the world. The students used these insights to inform a proposal on how MLB can enhance the fan experience.

On competition day, our EVP and Chief Marketing Officer Ann Lewnes opened the event. She talked about the importance of data and how it empowers marketers to drive the agenda for a company; being vital in quantifying the precise impact of marketing, while also enabling deeper customer engagement. Ann explained that using insights to drive decision-making was an important skill not only for marketers, but across all business functions. And at Adobe, our data-driven operating model has been an important initiative bringing teams together and creating a single source of truth for understanding the customer journey.

One after another, the teams presented their ideas to a six-person judging panel that included two MLB analytics leaders, an Adobe representative, an industry consultant and two technology experts from NBC Bay Area and Barron’s. Presentations were followed by a rapid-fire Q&A, as each judge dug into the core assumptions, and questioned the underlying logic of the proposals.

While the ideas were incredibly diverse, each one was rooted in how MLB can take a beloved in-stadium experience and deliver the same personal touch online. Students were analyzing data across the league’s channels, such as, MLB.TV and the popular mobile apps (At Bat and Ballpark). Every idea presented had to be backed by the insights drawn from Adobe Analytics. Teams also showed the projects they built in Analysis Workspace, a core feature in the app. We consider it to be a “canvas” for users, where data can be manipulated, stacked and curated to produce a wide range of insights.

After three hours of presentations, the judges went into deliberations. The final results were incredibly close, but Team JKR from Brigham Young University was named the winner. Ryan Tucker, Joseph Heywood and Kyle Wong (all first year MBAs) took home the top prize, followed by runner-up team Silicon Valley Pruners from UC Davis. The winning proposals, according to the judges, not only found the right insights in the data but were also the best presented. In analytics, as in many other areas of business and life, nothing is more powerful than a story. The winning team bridged best the raw numbers with the big ideas.

Both BYU and UC Davis focused on detailed changes to, based on their assessment of the customer journey, which touched on areas from ticketing to better homepage personalization. The teams expected the changes to drive better engagement, more traffic and higher overall revenue; plus, each team provided an estimated of the expected lift. The teams also came up with different ways to drive more community engagement within digital channels, such as the MLB At Bat app and MLB.TV. The tactics presented would mimic the energy and comradery that baseball fans experienced when they attend a game in-person.

For us at Adobe, it has been a privilege to play a role in nurturing the next generation of business leaders. We look to these students to help us dispel any notion that data is intimidating or hard to action. In just a few weeks, these teams put together proposals that would resonate in any real-world business setting today. It is so encouraging to see that over the years, students have seen incredible value in participating in the Adobe Analytics Challenge as well. The lessons they got out of it have informed their first set of interviews after graduation through to the early years of their careers. Although not everyone walks away the winner, we’re confident that the students who took part in the Challenge have been great representatives of their peers and their schools, and will become incredible assets for whichever organization they find themselves in during their careers.