What We Can Learn From the Super Bowl

There Are as Many Lessons on the Field as During the Spots

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
While the Super Bowl has become the world's showcase for the advertising industry, I believe this year's game also has lessons for our industry that took place in between the commercials. Especially when it comes to winning new business.

I break these lessons down in several categories: The Underdog; Mission Impossible; The Player; Tilting the Playing Field; The Parade.

The Underdog: Eli Manning & Co. were about as big of an underdog as a team can be versus the undefeated Patriots. What they did was remarkable, but even more remarkable was how they did it. The Giants did their homework, studied film (legally) and identified the Patriots' weaknesses. For a small agency to succeed against a large shop, the same holds true. We must revel in our role as underdog, and work so much smarter to win. Like analyzing the pros and cons of choosing your small shop, and turning them into strengths for the client. Like establishing a can-do attitude for your agency, and especially for your pitch team. Like not talking trash, but speaking with poise and confidence to your client prospect. Attitude and preparation are keys to winning, regardless of the odds. And that applies to pro football as much as advertising agencies.

Mission Impossible: If the Giants believed everything the naysayers said about their chances of winning, they would never have showed up. Instead, they believed anything was possible. In the agency business, sometimes it's just not smart to get involved in a pitch that has low odds. But every now and then, a pitch opportunity comes along that is very large, in your sweet spot, and you know in your gut that you have to go for it. Your competitors will think it's great that you're 'wasting your time' pitching, while you map out your plan for victory. The point is, sometimes it's good business to use your small-agency resources to pitch something big and seemingly unattainable. Because if you win, it's game-changing for your shop.

The Player: Planning a big pitch is draining for any agency, especially for a small shop with fewer resources -- including people. But winning a significant pitch often allows a star to emerge from your team. Perhaps someone you didn't know had another level. Just like Eli Manning. Stars are born in Super Bowls. And victorious pitches.

Tilting the Playing Field: The Patriots were accused of illegally tilting the playing field by deploying unauthorized video tapings of opponents. There's a better way: the Giants were very quiet in the face of a storm of skepticism about their chances of winning. Instead of talking trash, they were quietly respectful of the Patriots, and at the direction of their coach, they didn't give their opponent anything to get motivated about. In an agency pitch, there are many ways to tilt the playing field. You can find out who sits on the board of the client company you're pitching -- do you know anyone? Access and influence can only help. Get in front of the client prospect as many times as you can BEFORE the pitch. It builds chemistry, and your agency will always learn something you'll need to know to win, that you otherwise wouldn't have found out.

The Parade: The Giants waved to their fans as tons of confetti streamed onto them from skyscrapers along lower Manhattan. When you win a multi-million-dollar pitch, you have to celebrate, too. Recognize your team with champagne; give agency-wide shout-outs in a staff meeting as well as any kind of in-house newsletter; deal out promotions for anyone who is deserving; and spot bonuses for those who were instrumental in helping orchestrate the win. The celebration and recognition/rewards will be a great morale boost, and your team will remember that when you come back to them three months later for another big pitch.

Prepare your agency for a pitch like a Super Bowl champion, and you'll increase your odds of victory. All this admiration of the NY Giants, from a jealous Eagles fan.
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