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3 Things a CMO Can Learn From a Championship Team

Steve Olenski
Master Principal Sales Architect

Being a marketer as well as a journalist I am always looking for story lines. I am on constant vigil as well for ways to blend the world of pop culture and sports with the world of marketing — to demonstrate how something that occurs on a playing field can have a direct correlation to the world of marketing and in this case, the CMO. 

When Villanova's Kris Jenkins hit the game-winning three point shot last night to give the Wildcats their 2nd NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, it brought a close to one of the greatest basketball games I have ever seen. It also gave me inspiration. 

Here's 3 things I think a CMO can learn from Villanova's head coach, Jay Wright. 

1. Calm Under Pressure

For those who did not watch the game last night, allow me to set the stage. Following an improbable basket by the North Carolina Tarheels to tie the score late in the game, Villanova called timeout with just 4.7 seconds on the clock. They would need to go the length of the floor to attempt a game-winning shot else go to overtime where anything could happen. A very tense and stressful situation to say the least. 

As his anxious players gathered around him, Wright - ever the calm, cool, collected leader had no words, literally."I didn't have to say anything in the huddle," he said. "We have a name for it, that's what we're going to do. Just put everybody in their spots."

So no ranting, no raving, no panic. Just calm. His players knew exactly what was needed for victory and they went out and executed it to perfection. 

A few years ago in speaking with legendary NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana — who was so cool under fire he earned the nickname Joe Cool, what advice he would give to a CMO or leader when faced with these types of situations. 

He told me that staying cool is just a phrase. "What really happens is you tend to concentrate and focus more in crisis situations," he said. "What I was taught by Bill Walsh was the crisis may not always be as bad as you believe. Hail Mary fixes are not always the answer. Take a look at your business fundamentals. They have probably slipped and going backwards to get back on track may be your best decision. It was in our case in many games where we came back from behind simply by going back and running our offense from the base plays we put in day one."

In other words, things may not be as bad as you think and even if they are, remember the fundamentals. Keep things simple. Don't make matters worse by over-complicating them.

2. Humility

Newsday nailed it with the headline: Villanova has created humble template for success. In the piece, Wright is quoted as saying: “In our culture at Villanova University, being humble is very important. If you’re not humble, it’s hard to be coached. If you can’t be coached, it’s hard to get better. These are really humble guys coming in, and that’s why this team has fit our model best.”

Now what Wright was referring to was the program itself and its players, of course. And having humility amongst your teams is very important. Egos need to be checked at the door but that includes your ego, too Mr. and Ms. CMO. 

In his post-game press conference Wright, as per his norm, was quick to give his players and coaches all the credit for the victory. As a leader you need to know that your ultimate success is contingent on you putting your teams in the best possible position for success. "Just put everybody in their spots," as Wright said in explaining the game-winning play. 

3. Attack the competition 

Time and again throughout the entire NCAA Tournament one commentator after another marveled at the way Villanova dictated the style and pace of a given game. They were in control. They attacked the competition the way they wanted to; the way they planned to all along. 

They did not react. They acted. They identified weaknesses within their opponent and acted on them to their fullest advantage. And they identified these weaknesses by knowing their competition, intimately. Intense study of game film, picking up on trends and understanding what it is they like to do then taking those things away from them. This has been New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's recipe for success for seemingly forever in the NFL. 

As a CMO it is your job to know your competition intimately; to know the things they want to do and not allow them to dictate "the action" if you will. Do not react. Act. You set the tone. You set the pace. You set the course that they will try to emulate and just when they think they have in fact emulated you - you change course. You disrupt the norm. 

One of the ways to disrupt the norm is stay on top of the latest technological innovations that are happening at warp speed today. Download The CMO Solution Guide to Leveraging New Technology and Marketing Platforms to learn more. 

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