Five CMO Lessons from the NFL


Q3 is winding to a close, and that means it’s time for me to start gearing up for one of my favorite seasons of the year: the NFL season.

Sure, I’m drawn to all the action on Game Day. But I also appreciate the weekly reminder about some important lessons that apply both on and off the field. You see, for me, football, like basketball and other sports I enjoy, is rich with parallels to the business world.

Let me give you a few examples. Whenever I watch the NFL, I am reminded that CMOs need to:

  • Keep the playbook up-to-date. NFL teams must constantly adjust to morphing league rules, changing rosters, variable field conditions, etc. Your marketing organization needs to be just as agile. To succeed in today’s 24/7 global marketplace, you must continually adapt as consumer behaviors, preferences and expectations change.
  • Trust in teamwork. Football is not an individual sport; marketing isn’t, either. No CMO can win by “going it alone,” especially now, when marketing plays a role in virtually every business function, from customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction to product development, brand awareness and revenue growth. As CMO, one of the key aspects of your job is to inspire teamwork –and not just within the marketing organization, but enterprise-wide. You can accomplish that if you…
  • Share strategic goals. Motivation arises from shared objectives, whether you’re aiming for defensive stops, touchdowns or revenue growth. Our research shows that customer experience is a strategic priority, so put your focus there. Establish cross-departmental working groups united around improving the customer experience –a goal that reduces friction because it transcends each department’s KPIs.
  • Be guided by data. Instinct and experience are important, but today’s NFL players depend more and more on data. As a CMO, you should, too. Now that meeting customer experience goals is increasingly critical for every part of an organization, make sure you all have access to data and can provide an experience that’s consistent, seamless and relevant.
  • Take a methodical approach. Hail Mary passes may be dramatic, but to end the season with a winning record, NFL teams need to consistently make progress “one first down at a time.” If your organization is taking steps to be more data driven, be patient. Paradigm shifts like this don’t happen overnight, and you need to chart your course carefully. For instance, you may not be prepared to deliver personalized content to every customer right away, but it’s likely that you can use what you do know more effectively. Maybe you can better tailor communications for your target market, or you can deliver better experiences based on the device a customer is using, or if you’re entering a market where your brand isn’t known, you can focus on building brand awareness and trust, versus selling, so consumers are more willing to share information with you.

What business lessons have you learned from the NFL or other sports leagues you follow? Please leave a comment and let me know. But I apologize in advance… if it takes me a few minutes longer than usual to respond, that’s probably because Andrew Luck and the Colts are playing.

Image: Hyku

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