Marketing: The other 'beautiful game'

Spurs champs.jpg

What would the business world be without sports analogies and clichés?  We love to say a company hit a home run, scored a touchdown, nailed a slam dunk or teed up a new product launch.  The list goes on.

So, now with a freshly minted NBA championship for the San Antonio Spurs, it’s the perfect time to look at how the Spurs’ style of basketball compares to – wait for it – a perfectly orchestrated marketing strategy. 

Basketball pundits are lauding the Spurs for playing a pure, team-focused game.  This clearly goes against the singular star approach in which one or two elite players lead the way and all others play support roles. 

In the Spurs system, players are expected to share the ball, pass it around constantly, and look for the open man.  Even an elite player like Tim Duncan, one of the best players in basketball history, plays this way – the Spurs way.  Spurs basketball has become known as “the beautiful game.”

Great marketing is the same.  It’s a team sport and it is most successful when all the players see it as team sport rather than an “I’m the star and I need the ball for us to win” game.   Advertising, sales, public relations, promotions and all the other players need to work together seamlessly. One doesn’t have to be the star while the others fall into second-class support roles.

Every great team needs a great coach, too.  Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has become a legend for his ability to perfect the purist version of basketball – played by a team rather than a collection of individuals. 

Marketing and its assortment of related specialties should be coached and guided in the same way, with each equally concentrated on the company’s shared goals.  Any piece of the marketing mix may excel at any given time, but none should be expected to carry the whole team all the time.  

Imagine the play-by-play announcer’s running description of the action on the floor – “Advertising with the bounce pass to sales.  Sales fakes a shot and kicks the ball back out to Packaging Design at the top of the key.  Back to Advertising in the corner.  Advertising with a behind-the-back pass to PR, PR to Promotions, and Promotions slams it home for two points!”  

Lots of sharing in that play and each player selflessly passing the ball to another until the moment is right to score.  Exactly as it should be. A beautiful game indeed.

 -         Eric Whittington