Marketing Above Expectations: More Lessons from the 2014 World Cup

No time, no budget, no resources… no problem. In marketing, we’re regularly under pressure with the odds against us and time winding down.

As we’ve seen thus far in this 2014 World Cup, though, even in the most dire situations, all it takes is the right vision in the right moment and the right drive and pure magic can happen. In marketing, our work may not warrant the same world-wide intrigue, but we too can create captivating moments with little more than the right opportunity, and here are just a few ways the World Cup has shown us how to do it.

Unlimited Marketing Possibilities: Would you want to see the success or failure of your organization in the hands of a 22-year-old? Traditional thinking would have us believe no, youth and inexperience carry too high a risk. Yet, as Columbia’s skyrocketing star James Rodriguez has shown us, a youthful eye for unlimited possibilities can also unlock vastly higher rewards. In business, it’s easy to get beaten down by limitations and expectations that suggest, “we can’t get to A with B…” or “we don’t have the X to do Y,” but how will we ever know for sure unless we try? As we’ve seen in Columbia’s World Cup success so far, trusting a 22 year-old can be the smartest movie of all when that’s the person pushing the envelope. In our own marketing efforts, however, we don’t have to be young to still youthfully test our limitations. All it takes is the courage to see how both the direct rewards of success as well as the rewarding lessons of failure together mitigate any risks of trying something new, or aiming for a higher level.

Change Management Opportunities: Historically, the United States has not been a soccer country. As little as four years ago, it’s likely that I would’ve been advised against writing this post as our American readers wouldn’t have found it interesting. Yet this year, this is my second World Cup post and there may even be more because our audiences do care about soccer, and a change is happening. Not only is the US Men’s National Team through to the knockout stages for the second World Cup in a row, but as the popular chant goes, “We Believe That We Will Win!” Why – because culturally, we’ve made the most of the USA’s success on the pitch by highlighting it across multiple channels and through a diverse range of voices – beyond just sports coverage.  From “Teddy Goalsevelt” to the Today Show, US soccer talk and support is everywhere. As marketers, we can not only learn from the multi-channel, multi-influencer approach, we can also mirror how this change has been managed. Like Team USA, we can’t just be effective in our campaigns, we have to effectively communicate the significance of our success to relevant stakeholders who can rally behind us. In other words, driving a change for better marketing requires better management of that change as well.

Make the Most of What You Have: Facing elimination with a one goal deficit to Mexico, the Netherlands tied the game with 2 minutes left in regulation and earned a penalty kick to win the game soon after in added time. Down to 10 men and tied against Greece in overtime, Costa Rica endured heavy Greek pressure to force a penalty kick shootout where they too won their game. Both scenarios show us how important it is to keep working even when everything seems against us. Like the Netherlands, limited time may intimidate us, but if we still take a shot with a well-placed piece of content, for example, we can still convert where we need to. Or as Costa Rican players played as a team wearing both defensive and offensive hats in order to get their result, if we’re willing to push ourselves to take on necessary additional roles, we can overcome limited headcount or skill sets in order to drive effective marketing campaigns. In marketing and in soccer, it’s not about winning when everything goes right; it’s about how to win with what you have – even if things go wrong.

Overall as marketers, our jobs revolve around creating memorable, compelling moments with our target audiences in order to drive business results. Through the World Cup, we see how some of the most highly skilled professionals of their trade create equally memorable, compelling moments of their own. Clearly, there’s a lot we can learn from soccer, so if you have any lessons of your own, please share them in the comments below.

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