Marketing is Like Fútbol

I was never a big soccer fan – or fútbol as they say in Latin America –watching virtually nil before this year’s World Cup. But, I was amazed with the games, excited about the play itself, and drawn into the drama that is inherent to the sport.

Unlike the stops and pauses which give dramatic action to American Football and Baseball; the rhythmic, rocking action with pauses to catch collective anticipation with Basketball; and the confinement, speed and tight clock of Hockey; I see soccer as being very different in almost every aspect.

  • It is free–flowing, loose in movement, where players can go at different speeds (some walk, some run, some flop, some even bite)
  • It focuses on a strategy that can suddenly go awry due to a bad pass or a spontaneous opening, forcing continual shifting and adjustments
  • The time is open and nebulous, and you’re not sure when it ends
  • The ultimate payoffs – goals – are built over layers of attempts and tests, many of which fail
  • There is a style of play and a cultural approach that is unique to each team

Sounds a lot like points about marketing…and business!

Marketing – or business in its entirety – is a journey. It’s an exploration of who you are as a culture, and the continual probing and learning to satisfy users. You make plans, but then continually adjust them while you’re moving. There are star players, but everyone needs to play a role to make the whole business or department work. There are no real endpoints. There are hard goals – monthly, quarterly, yearly numbers – but also cultural goals like brand promises, internal values and authenticity that matter and convey the story of your business.

The big parallel is that it doesn’t end with precise times. In the course of a day or a week, the marketing team – and the business as a whole – doesn’t run on a clock. The work continues on as we learn from other businesses, leverage new tools, figure out how other services connect to collectively fulfill user needs, and continue to test tactics and messages that best tell our story. Day–to–day marketing is the strategic, planned, yet free–flowing journey of an entire team – a lot like what happened on the pitches of Brazil.

Just be careful about kicking soccer balls in the office.

By Chris Foster, VP of Marketing, Modern Postcard

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