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The Top 4 Things the NFL Can Teach You About Marketing

A football laid down to a grass field

I’m very happy to feature a guest post from Laura Petrolino today. As you’ll see, Laura has a favorite past time: football. When you read her bio at the end of the post, you’ll ask the same question I did: “how does this woman have time to watch football?” She does, though, and this post is proof that she gets a lot out of it! –Pamela Wilson

brand marketing with tips from the NFL

Football is like life — it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority. –Vince Lombardi

brand marketing with ideas for your business from LauraFootball is more than a game. It is about strategy, about fully utilizing your resources, about adjusting to sudden change … and, of course, about pleasing your fans.

We can learn a lot about life from the game of football. Whether it be business, personal, spiritual or psychological; many of life’s great questions can be answered by analyzing the way things are done on the field, and marketing is no exception.

So listen up, team! What follows are the top four things you can learn from the NFL that will help make your marketing campaigns Super Bowl worthy!

Pre-season is a necessary evil

OK, OK: we all know pre-season stinks. You watch your starters suffer pointless injuries, the games lack gusto, the bench warmers play way too much. Unfortunately, as boring and anti-climatic as it might be, pre-season is needed to help you refine your regular season strategy.

Do your due diligence when laying out your marketing plan, too. Research and study your market, take inventory of your resources and don’t be afraid to try some starters on the field (test out your ideas) to see how they play before adding them to your official campaign.

Learn to embrace the pre-season and you will end up with a much more targeted, efficient and successful marketing campaign.

Have a goal

In the NFL, the teams have 17 weeks to make it to the Super Bowl. There is a huge difference when you play a game knowing …

  • you have a limited time line
  • you have a goal you are aiming for

… than when you play haphazardly, with no real end point or defined goal to focus on.

Your marketing campaigns should follow suit. Have a goal for each campaign, whether it be expanding your customer base, increasing return customers, introducing or pushing a particular product or service, etc. Know what you want the end result to be, and formulate the campaign around that goal result.

Don’t mistake flashy play with smart play

Many ‘star’ players have made the fatal mistake of exchanging a smart, strategic game in favor of a flashy, crowd-pleasing one. Sure, this garners lots of attention and media hits at first, but that quickly vanishes when the scoreboard isn’t working in their favor.

Your fans might like it when you dance around the field like a chihuahua on steroids, but they’ll love it when you play a quality, solid game that takes them closer to a championship.

Make the quality and consistency of your product or service the cornerstone of your marketing campaign and you’ll never go wrong!

Know when to quit

I have two words for you: Bret Favre. Need I say more?

Sure, Favre had a great season last year. Sure, he’d like to have a Super Bowl trip to cap off his ‘legacy,’ but things don’t look good for Bret and his Vikings this year.

Instead of capping off his 19 NFL seasons with arguably one of his best seasons to be remembered by, he risks leaving at the end of this season with his tail between his legs, looking like a tired, old ‘has been’ who didn’t know when to walk away.

Don’t be Bret Favre. It is always better to end a campaign sooner, rather than later. We all know the commercial jingles that are catchy when they first come out and then end up annoying the heck out of us because they play too much and too long. Always leave your customer wanting more.

And there you have it team. Are we ready?

I’ll leave you with more inspiring words from the great Vince Lombardi:

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle victorious.

What lessons have sports taught you about business? Let’s hear about how you’ve applied them in the comments!

About the author: Laura Petrolino is Managing Director of Flying Pig Communications, a communications and business consulting firm which focuses on the needs of startups, small business and non-profits. She also directs and operates 365 Days of Startups, a niche membership site providing educational resources, expert advice and peer networking for the startup and entrepreneur community. Find her on twitter @lkpetrolino and @365startups

Laura Petrolino

Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
Iā€™m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility ā€” and consistent revenue.


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27 thoughts on “The Top 4 Things the NFL Can Teach You About Marketing”

  1. Ha, ha…thanks Pamela! And to answer the question, ‘How do I make time for football?’

    -Really I don’t see it as an option, I have teams that rely on me jumping around in front of the T.V. screen, cursing at the refs bad calls and attempting to make the other teams quarterback fumble the ball with my amazing mind control powers….It is a HUGE responsibility, but I respect my role with honor and commitment!

  2. Pamela, Laura:

    Very cool, helpful article. “Know When to Quit” is a great one.

    Tip on how you can be a solopreneur and still follow NFL football: DirecTV’s “Shortcuts,” which rebroadcasts the games without commercials and without the breaks between plays. It takes about 20 minutes to watch an entire game — 25 minutes at the max.


  3. @Larry: Larry, Larry, Larry…..perhaps that is ok for the casual football watcher, but honestly that is like giving someone a mushroom for dinner and calling it a Kobe Beef Steak….I’m actually sort of queasy thinking about it.

    However….since most entrepreneurs (including this one) spending many weekend hours working, football is the terrific company to a very productive day!

    GO COLTS!!!

  4. Mushrooms instead of steak — that’s perfect!

    Yes, “Shortcuts” probably targets fantasy-football team owners, who are the ruthless mercenaries of fandom. šŸ˜‰

  5. Well done tying two of my favorite things together! RT’d it.

    Spot on analogy on your four points. Only thing I would have added is a well placed mention of Ochocinco as a real life example in the third point… lol – love my Bengals, but his shenanigans make me tired. šŸ™‚

    I’m entering the second year of my football startup. šŸ™‚ Living the entrepreneurial dream and the best of both worlds!

    Michelle, CoFounder

  6. @Michelle: I just looked at your site, super duper cool! You must have so much fun with that! I’m pretty jealous. You need to make sure you stop on over at, you’d have lots of fun over there.

    @Rob: I just sort of puked. You seem like a nice guy and we all have our faults so I’m just going to pretend that you didn’t actually say ‘go eagles’ on MY blog post.

  7. Laura thanks for a great article. Since finance is rarely flashy, I appreciate the reminder that I don’t need to do the Lambeau Leap to be successful. As a lifelong Packers fan (surprise!), and yes still a Favre fan, I regretfully agree with your assessment that he will come to regret this season.

    Along the same vein, the know when to quit idea can be applied across your entire business. I like to call it the sunk cost sinkhole. You’ve spent money on a new product, service, trade show, or even an employee and haven’t realized the returns you expected. I often see small businesses unwilling to walk away and just accept the loss. They keep thinking if they go a little bit longer it will turn around, and end up losing a whole lot more.

    @ Larry – I actually shuddered when I read your idea to essentially tivo the game. My team NEEDS me during the game šŸ™‚

    Go Packers!

  8. Hi Nicole:

    College football is my passion. You’re from Wisconsin. I better not tell you the team that I would walk on hot coals to support. Did you know I grew up in Jim Tressel’s hometown. šŸ˜‰


  9. @Nicole: Do you have one of those CheeseHead hats? If so we need a picture STAT. I agree thought, the hardest issue I have to work clients through is knowing when to cut your loses, learn from your mistakes and switch gears. Entrepreneurs are persistent by their very nature (which in general is a needed skill). Unfortunately, sometimes that persistence needs to be tempered with a smack to the head!

    @Larry: I’m pretending I didn’t hear that…I’m not sure which is more vile “Eagles” or “Jim Tressel”

    I’m an SEC girl btw……so really, we could get into this discussion, but it won’t end well šŸ™‚

    • @Laura – didn’t see this comment until after my post to Larry. No I don’t own one of the hats because I’m a Yooper not a Cheesehead. Sorry to disappoint!

      Yes I’ve had to deliver a few “smack to the head” solutions. Occasionally to myself! I wrote a blog post about it, and would like to offer the link but don’t want to be called out as a spammer…

  10. @ Larry – You seem like such a nice guy. Ohio State? Really? LOL.

    Actually I grew up in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) and only care about UW because my husband is a Badger. I’m a HUGE college hockey fan, and Ohio State is a big rival of the Wildcats (Northern Michigan University). I remember attending a game as a kid between Ohio State and NMU where a fight broke out (ok no surprise there) that actually cleared both benches! That is not something you see every day.

    Go Cats!

  11. @Nicole: I just had to google Yooper….

    Please post the link…after Rob is over here cheering for the Eagles and Larry….well I can’t repeat the name of the team that Larry is advocating for, posting your informational link would not even come close to spam!

  12. Laura,

    Nice job on this. Seriously!

    I’ll add a few lessons for your consideration:
    – Just because you are behind doesn’t mean the game is over.
    – Sometimes the underdog wins. Example: The New Orleans Saints last year.
    – It isn’t the dog in the fight, it is the fight in the dog. Examples: Jared Allen, Peyton Manning, Troy Polamalu. Speaking of dogs, Michelle, I think Ochocinco is more like a donkey on steroids than a chihuahua.
    – Work hard and you can make it to the big leagues. Example: Ndamukong Suh
    – Sometimes you have to put up with stupid things. Example: Why do we need commercials again? Why do they hold up the game for commercials?
    – Take great care of your fans!

  13. Great point on the goog things that can be learned for success from watching football. YOu even managed to squeeze a great analogy for the importance of the hated preseason.

    You are right it is like due diligence on a marketing plan!

    Anyway thanks for a very nice article. Have a wonderful Sunday tomorrow!

    Go Giants!!

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