Your Company Should Be More Like the Spurs

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

by Brian Walker

When the San Antonio Spurs last week hired WNBA star Becky Hammon as the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) first female full-time assistant coach, all the attention and news coverage was understandably focused on her gender. She will become the first woman to sit on an NBA bench, travel with the team and work on a permanent basis with the (all male) athletes.

CNN called the hire “historic.” Hammon became a trending topic on Twitter. Billie Jean King, the original female sports trailblazer, sent a public congratulatory note. So did the White House.

While the hiring of Hammon was a progressive move by the Spurs and sends an important message about gender equality and inclusiveness, it also speaks to how successful organizations conduct their business.

The Spurs are champions. Last season they defeated LeBron James and the Miami Heat to win the NBA championship. This was the fifth championship win for them in 15 years. The Spurs easily and understandably could have stuck with the status quo. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?

Well-run companies, organizations and, in this case, a professional sports team, understand and embrace change and take calculated risks. They are secure enough to consider new ideas and perspectives. They know that to stay stagnant is to be left behind. They also know good talent when they see it.

It is in that spirit that Becky Hammon was chosen by the Spurs – not for her gender, not as a statement and certainly not as a novelty, but for what she can offer the organization and help them build on the franchise’s achievements. That is the ultimate compliment – a model organization, coming off the pinnacle of success, believes that Hammon can help lead them to even greater heights.

While her career will always be highlighted by this moment in time, it will be defined ultimately by her contributions to the success of the organization – as it should be.

Brian Walker is a senior vice president at MATTER.

Image by Katie Haugland via Creative Commons.

Postcard From Brazil

Wednesday, 09 July 2014

by Erin Weinberg

The statement “What a World Cup” has taken on a whole new meaning. 

After close calls, last-minute goals, over times, penalty shots, red cards and injuries, we have the Brazil collapse. Since I arrived in Brazil for my second tour of duty this tournament, it has been a sea of green-and-clean clad, happy fans. Every store front, restaurant and hotel was draped in banners and flags. It was clear that the great feeling about the team’s continued advancement had helped quiet the protesters and loud voices of opposition. People were optimistic – and not just the fans. Yes, there were isolated protests during the first few weeks, but no more than you see in Times Square on any given weekend in New York. The love of the game and Brazilian pride had taken over and it was a great thing to see and be part of. As Americans, we root for our teams, wear our jerseys, celebrate victory and suffer defeat  - but not the way Brazilians do. Soccer is a religion, simply put. When the national team plays, the country literally shuts down. Offices close, schools let out early and there is no apology for it. It’s the Brazilian way. So when Brazil took the field against Germany, the entire country was upbeat – almost euphoric – at the opportunity to play and vie for World Cup trophy on their home turf.    

And then it happened…one goal for Germany…then two, three, and so on. The stadium, the fans…the entire country was devastated. The utter disbelief gave way to humiliation, which is a feeling that translates in any language, and Brazilians wore it on every face. It was painful to watch our Brazilian colleagues literally suffer as if they had been physically beaten-up. Grown men cried. The night was filled with firecrackers and people on the street, but more so to make their way home instead of celebrating with their friends and countrymen. There were some moments of violence – a Molotov cocktail thrown, stores broken into – but for the most part, people just wanted to suffer in peace

The next morning as I made my way to a meeting, it was noticeable how quiet the city of Rio was and how everyone who had been wearing their Brazil pride had put their shirts and flags away, at least until Saturday. They will suffer the pain of defeat for now and unfortunately carry the loss into all future World Cups given the unbelievable outcome...but what happens beyond is the question. Given their captain Thiago Silva and superstar Neymar Jr. were missing from the line-up, the country could have forgiven a 1-0 loss. But 7-1? No doubt there will be plenty of Brazilian fans in the stands on Saturday when Brazil plays the Netherlands for third place, but what is the long-term impact? It will reverberate into everything Brazil does in the foreseeable future – including the Presidential elections in October. This will unfortunately scar a country so passionate about football that it bleeds green and yellow. It will be the asterisk next to Brazil’s name whenever they talk about the 2014 World Cup Brazil. Ultimately, I know Brazilians will stand and support their team but when they get up off the floor is the question.    

Five Considerations for Brands at the FIFA World Cup

Friday, 13 June 2014

By Mary Scott

The FIFA World Cup kicked off yesterday. As fans, we’ll be cheering for our favorite teams, rooting for compelling storylines and feeling riveted as the competition unfolds. But as communications counselors for companies and brands looking to tap into the unbridled passion of the games, we will be paying just as much (if not more) attention to the action off the field.

So how does a company get the most out of a sponsorship or activation while managing the surround sound and avoiding becoming a vehicle for someone else’s agenda? Here are five critical components to consider:

  1. Be True to Your Brand – Don’t change your story to match the asset. Leverage the asset in a way that maximizes value while remaining true to your brand. The connection to the event only works if it’s done in an authentic meaningful way.
  2. Don’t Get Lost in TranslationA common mistake – a brand fails to embrace the local culture of a market. Brazil has a culture all its own. Don’t force an American-centric concept and expect it to automatically translate. Be sure that programs are authentic and tailored for the local market perspective.
  3. Own, Don’t RentBrands are most vulnerable if they appear to be “renting” equity of the local market, swooping in for a brief activation and leaving abruptly once the tournament concludes. Brands should aspire to be a part of a solution and leave a positive legacy, which gives them the best chance of achieving results that last beyond the event’s conclusion.
  4. Words Mean EverythingWhile sponsors are a natural target for protestors, don’t make it easy. As an example, McDonald’s #CheersToSochi Olympic social program became a platform for consumers worldwide to share their political views about Russia. Careful thought and attention to language will help prevent similar situations.
  5. Be PreparedAnticipating the unexpected long before the tournament begins allows stakeholders to prepare for any eventuality. Taking executives through live simulations and table-top exercises is invaluable. Then setting up a virtual 24/7 war room to monitor activity across all channels is critical to determine when to join or walk away from the conversation.

In addition to fans, marketers will be watching Brazil and the FIFA World Cup with even greater interest, given this is the first of a doubleheader, with the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics a mere two years away. Never has the pressure been greater on Brazil and sponsors, as this is really about so much more than a game.

Mary Scott is general manager, MATTER.

Image by Thomás.