December 04, 2014 / Thought Leadership Why Marketing is Like Football

Russ Green

By: Russ Green

Why marketing is like football

Football season is in full swing, so get ready for some sports analogies as we take a look at how marketing and football both emphasize the importance of preparation, strategy, teamwork, execution and measurement.

Are you ready for some football analogies?

I remember watching a game that was won in an upset on the last play of the game with a Hail Mary" pass. It was especially interesting to me because I had spent time the preceding week with a client whose two main contacts are opposite sides of that matchup. I expressed my condolences to the one fan when he said it wasn’t really about the pass; there were numerous mistakes or missed opportunities all game long.

And I thought: what a perfect analogy to marketing communications!

These days, it’s the “last click measured” that gets the attention. Whatever generates the measurable click to the website that turns the hidden prospect into a website visitor. Or the offer or form that gets the anonymous web visitor to break anonymity and become a lead. But what about all of the other marketing communications tactics and concepts and messages that led the prospect to take action?

Back to the game, what about the 59:56 of football that came before the final four seconds and the final play? All of the decisions, plays and individual efforts of the players and coaches got the two teams to a tied score, setting up the final play as a potential game-winner.

Likewise with marketing communications. In today’s environment, it takes a lot of good strategy and hard work to connect with prospects and get them to the point of taking action in your favor. Some of that work can be measured and tied directly to the action. A lot of it can’t. But you know there’s a contribution.

This isn’t the first time I’ve used football as an analogy for marketing communications. But it’s the season, so what the heck. Here are some other simple analogies it may pay to keep in mind when thinking about marketing communications ROI.

Preparation: In football, it’s about practice. In marketing, it’s about gaining insight from the audience so you can build a strategy that’s relevant to their needs and situation.

Strategy: After a victory, good players start by giving credit to the coaches for coming up with a good game plan. In marketing, it’s important to have a solid strategy guiding all tactics and execution, so everything is working toward the same goal.

Teamwork: Football is so obviously a team sport, where everyone has to contribute on a successful play. In marketing, every tactic and message has to be unified and working together to build mind share with the audience in a crowded, fragmented environment of media and platforms.

Basics: In football, it's about blocking and tackling. In marketing, the basics are equally important. Being where the audience seeks information, day in and day out, is the key.

Execution: In football, all of the preparation and practice in the world won’t make it happen if the players don’t execute on game day. (On that play, the defender jumped too soon.) Same with marketing. In today’s digital environment, we are seeing a lot more mistakes and sloppy execution. They diminish the impact of your efforts. Make sure the execution lives up to everything you’ve put into it.

Measurement: Sports fans love statistics. Football is full of them. The score isn’t the only one. Each play and each player is measured in relevant ways, whether there is a direct relationship to the final outcome or not. In marketing, measurement is more important than ever, but we need to make sure the conversation goes deeper than the final score (sales) or the big play (clicks for leads). Each tactic can and should be measured in relevant ways, so its contribution to the final outcome is understood.

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