Football season has arrived. Fantasy talk is at the core of office conversation. We’re on our way to the first-ever college football playoffs. Those of us in the Phoenix, Arizona area are making Airbnb schemes for Super Bowl XLIX. Most importantly, we saw Antonio Brown kick a punter in the face (he had a helmet on, it’s fine).
But this entire post can’t be about football … don’t blame me. Let’s look at some uncanny connections between football and content marketing. Seriously, the marriage between sports and marketing has been strong ever since Lou Gehrig graced a Wheaties box. Football fans and football marketing opportunists, take note on how this football jargon relates to the trade.
The last 20 yards of the field before the opponent’s end zone.
Possession in this space is limited, and converting (scoring touchdowns or field goals) is paramount. Three of the top five red zone scoring teams made the playoffs last year. Peyton Manning had the highest QB rating in the red zone with 120.7 on his way to his fifth MVP award.
The red zone is equivalent to deadlines, crunch time, getting things done when energy is low and pressure is high. This requires a team effort. Content strategists and writers must collaborate with speed and effectiveness. Writers have to be aligned with editors. Every individual who touches the content creation process must stick to the deadline. Why? Content consistency improves engagement. NFL teams are expected to score consistently in the red zone, despite the field being less open, thereby advantageous to the defense. And the same applies to your content campaign. When up against the clock, your squad must deliver timely content regardless of setbacks or murky expectations and guidelines.
No huddle offense
When the offensive team calls plays in rapid succession to counter an expiring clock or rush the game tempo.
(University of Oregon uses unique signs to communicate their no huddle offense.)
The red zone and the no huddle offense often coincide. The success of a no huddle offense is determined long before the game. It required fierce preparation and copious amount of reps. Every player needs to know his role on each play possibility and the quarterback needs to know everyone’s responsibilities at all times.
Working quickly to hit goals requires cross-department harmony. Unresolved email chains, hazy deadlines and poor body language will stifle production. Coaches have to tactically substitute players in no huddle situations; this is done quickly, even if it’s to the player’s disdain. For bad news in business, expert Karen Friedman suggests a similar no-nonsense, straightforward approach. Be direct and speak face to face.
An offense with different options on each play, the quarterback makes the best decision based on reading the movement of a designated player.
The read option is simultaneously a fad and an innovative offense. The athletic aptitude of quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III allowed NFL coaches to install read option packages that used to be reserved for college and high school football.
The read option is self explanatory yet riddled with variables. Options, variables, reads … see where I’m going here?
Content marketing is an information read-option. Analyzing analytics, developing audience personas and researching trends are the reads on the way to either a quality product or a campaign loss. The ability to react on the fly is vital. Your content marketing playbook needs to pivot as audiences change and react.
An offensive play used in short yardage situations where the quarterback hikes the balls and dives forward as fast as possible.
Football newbs may assume the quarterback sneak is a trick play, and at times, no one sees the simplest play in football coming. However in short yardage situations, the quarterback sneak is predictable yet often unstoppable. As Football Outsiders pointed out, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have mastered the sneak. Brady is 88 out of 91 (96.7 percent) on these runs (third or fourth down, 1 to 2 yards to go), including 56 straight conversions.
Just as the ball is in the hands of the field general for a sneak, strong leaders need to be established. Vague direction leads to confusion and information getting repeated or lost. Once the strategy is in place, it’s clear what work needs to be done and when. However sourcing and managing the right labor ( i.e., the most authoritative writer on the subject), and executing processes and communication sometimes requires the equivalent of diving into an angry pile of 300-pound linemen.
An offensive play where one player receives the ball in an apparent run, only to throw the ball to another player.
Despite one colleague thinking the flea flicker was a dog shampoo, it’s a sports thrill. Unlike the quarterback sneak, it’s a trick play and will be futile if the defense sees it coming. Surprise is just as important in marketing as it is in sports.
As Psychology Today notes, our brains are designed to notice the changing elements in our environment. People read to learn something new and go to movies to be shocked by the storyline. Don’t be grossly consistent with your social media or web content. Work in giveaways, user-generated content, engagement techniques and so on. Constantly striving for improvement will lead to a surprised and interested audience.
There you have it, understanding football helps you execute on time, communicate effectively, analyze your options, face challenges head on and surprise your customers. Next time you’re watching the game, read between the lines.