What Marketers Can Learn from Football

November 18, 2018 Liz Mclemore

An American football team

My nephew once asked me why I love football so much, and I told him — football is life. So many principles from football can be applied to day-to-day life. There’s the idea of teamwork, everyone has a part to play; you’re ready to count someone out, but then they pull through in the fourth quarter. Sometimes, football just isn’t fair — the refs assess a penalty or call something incorrectly.

When I’m not thinking about football, I’m usually thinking about marketing. It occurred to me that there are many lessons marketers can take from studying their favorite team (mine is the Colts). Here is a pick six, if you will.

Draft your Team Wisely

NFL teams want to draft the best players and you should want the same for your team, both internally and externally. The vendors and partners you sign to work with you should be leaders in platform innovation, service, and partnership. You also want to make sure they complement the rest of your team. In basketball, one or two stars can carry the whole team, but in football (and marketing), everyone must play their part.

Create a Playbook

Having a plan is critical. As a marketer at heart, one of my soapbox points is the importance of creating, communicating, and executing on a plan. Sure, sometimes you have to call an audible and run a different play in response to competition or changes in the marketplace. But it’s easier to be nimble and responsive if you have a wide selection of plans your team knows how to execute. Create your marketing playbook as a firm foundation, with input from the whole organization.

Use Technology to Add Value

NFL technology is unbelievably advanced, and they do what it takes to ensure that the viewers (their customers) have an easy experience with their products (the games). I remember being bewildered that they didn’t always have the yellow line indicating where the next down was. What’s funny is that when they were first floating the idea, people thought it was going to be too distracting, but now, I bet you can’t imagine watching a game without it.

The takeaway is that your technology should make day-to-day tasks easier, and increase the value for your customers. Your solutions should scale and grow with you, rather than having to switch vendors that can’t keep up with your increasingly complex program and needs.

Pay Attention to Stats

While watching a game, you quickly realize the NFL keeps stats on everything: receiving yards, interceptions, pro bowl appearances, and so on.

In email, marketers are interested in open and click rates, but should consider metrics that will help them view customers over time as individuals, and clearly show the overall program health. It might be time to bench simple opens and clicks if you want to truly be forward thinking. Here are three metrics you should consider starting, with a little football spin from Jacob Davis, Cheetah Digital’s Senior Director of Strategic Services (and Steelers fan).

  1. Consistency – How consistent are a customer’s interactions with the brand over time? Are we dealing with a customer who engages regularly in a six-month period or one that engages sporadically within that same timeframe? “Consistency is its own kind of engagement, and warrants different treatment. Think Wes Welker vs Randy Moss — both great, but for different reasons.”
  2. Lifetime value (LTV) – Lifetime value is a calculation of the potential profit a customer will provide over a lifetime to your brand. “LTV is like your salary cap — you know what's coming and how it will affect your long-term decision making, like ensuring resources and efforts are focused in the most profitable areas.”
  3. Churn Risk – You should be able to identify who is most at risk of becoming inactive from an email engagement and/or transaction standpoint, before that churn takes place “Churn risk is free agency. You need to re-sign the right people to long term contracts, and let underperformers walk.”

Watch the tape

Your internal and external teams should keep a scorecard, to assess what’s been done and how it can be done better. An honest review of performance is important – you should not be running plays just because you ran them in the past. If they are not working, it’s time to try a different play or reevaluate the playbook.

Appreciate the Fans

If your customers are your fans, you gotta appreciate them. The loyal ones are comparable to season ticket holders, providing a great deal of revenue for your programs. The 80/20 rule applies to your list – 80% of your revenue comes from that faithful 20%, so speak to them in a personal way and figure out how to make them feel special.

I hope this analogy has encouraged you to look at your marketing program with new eyes. What should your team look like in order to win?


About the Author

Liz Mclemore

Liz McLemore is a Senior Strategist, Marketing Consulting at Cheetah Digital. She is a cross-channel marketing professional with nearly twenty years of experience in the fields of marketing, software development and technology. In her current role, Liz provides strategic program recommendations and actionable industry trends to several industry-leading brands. As a public speaker, Liz has represented Cheetah Digital across the country, providing expertise, insights and best practices in digital marketing. She began her career with the company ten years ago in Client Services, with clients spanning a variety of verticals including publishing, media, consumer products and services, travel and accessories and apparel.

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