Strategic Sports Lessons for Marketers

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Dusty tennis racquets are being dusted off, boot camps are suddenly on every slip of grass and pavements full of sweaty bodies speeding (or not) towards home. As the sun finally breaks through the grey eider down of cloud that forever seems to cover the UK our exercise levels seem to rise (or at least be more visible).

This is all against the backdrop of a summer that has already seen some record breaking sporting achievement, and with the Ashes, the Women’s World Cup and the European U-21 Championships the potential for even more bubbling away.

Three major achievements stood out for me over the past week. A breath taking Barcelona wrapping up a treble with their Champions League triumph, Sir Bradley Wiggins awesome hour record and the magnificent Jos Buttler leading England’s cricketers to a record breaking 400+ total in a one day international.

None of these happened by chance, luck or by just waiting for things to happen. It is really interesting to me the lessons we can learn from such elite sports people. They are focused on goals (literally in the case of Messi), objectives set from months and in some cases years out. Strategic plans focused around goals that stretch them, build them/prepare them for the next challenge. Their day to day “stuff” carefully organised to contribute to this big plan.

Take the example of Sir Bradley Wiggins, over the past decade cycling’s “modfather” has gone from Olympic track gold medallist, to Tour de France winner and Olympic road gold back to his new/old home on the track. The Rio Olympics still looms large on his goal agenda. Yet he has still found the training time required to prepare and achieve the world hour record. Last weekend in London he set a new world record of 54.526 kilometers completed in 1 hour, around 33 miles of hard, unrelenting cycling. The preparation to take on such a challenge, let alone the hour of sheer pressure and pain was immense. Still this remarkable athlete did so. He set a goal, worked out the best way to achieve it making doubly sure that he did so within the strict rules.

It wasn’t achieve by chance, luck or divine intervention. It was achieved through a robust and organised plan built around specific goals and objectives designed to bring him to his peak ready for that single hour.

How many of us in our businesses can say the same? How many of our marketing plans, website projects, and brand strategies can we honestly say involve specific goals? How many of our errors or wasted hours on projects could’ve been avoided through clear objectives or merely following a well laid plan?

By the way, I can guarantee Sir Bradley would’ve encountered more than a few challenges along the way in his carefully laid plan. The odd injury, days of illness, technical or engineering problems with the bike…the fact he had to shave his beard off, so some of the specifics of the plan would have to have been tweaked.

However what remained at the core of his plan for this hour challenge was a very clear set of goals and objectives, built up to maximise his chances.

The clients and contacts I sometimes talk to are not alone in having loose plans or taking the “build it and they will come” approach to marketing activities, it happens, far too often. Marketing is often seen as a place where “nice pictures” and “crazy ideas” comes from, and that can sometimes be the case. However, nice pictures and crazy ideas are the best way of gaining new customers or making the correct noises when they are set within a marketing plan that has clear and specific goals aka…a plan.

Nice pictures and crazy ideas will remain just that without the correct setting for that.

I use a simple structure for my marketing plans be they for ad campaigns, website lead generation or social media campaigns:

Example Marketing Plan or Marketing Strategy

1. Where are we now?
2. Objectives: What do we want to achieve? (specific)
3. Strategy: How will we achieve it?
4. Tactics: What will we do?
5. Measure: What are the key measures?

You may not be going for a world record hour in the cycling or a champions league final, but your planning regime should be the same. Aim for that very big and specific goal and you may just get there if you work hard enough.

Simon Brooke is a Director and creative thinker at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to or @Happy_Creative

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Strategic Sports Lessons for Marketers
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