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5 Things Marketers Can Learn From Olympic Athletes


things marketers learn from olympic athletes

Despite fans not being allowed in the audience, it’s fair to say that the whole world really is watching the Olympics this year. Tokyo 2020 has proved the boost that we all needed. And while many get inspired to pick up a new sport, we were inspired about what we, as marketers, can learn from these world-class athletes–people who know a thing or two about generating results. 

Here are a few things we think marketers can learn from Olympic athletes. 

1. Adopt long-term thinking

Olympic athletes don’t get to the top of their game by deciding how to train each day and hoping they get gold. They work with their coaches to figure out how to make it happen–by creating a long-term plan, establishing clear goals, and seeing the bigger picture.

This is especially true for athletes in team sports who have to take the whole team into account. Take US gymnast Simone Biles, who recently made headlines for stepping back from competing, in order to run the risk of ruining her whole team’s performance. Biles didn’t only have her goals in mind when making that decision, she looked at the long-term implications on her team and the risk that she might have caused them. She also looked at her own mental health, realising that if she didn’t step back now, she could be worse off in the long run.

Simone Biles marketing

Marketing is a fast-paced industry with constant changes and trends emerging left, right and centre. While it’s important to adapt and keep up, it’s also important not to be short-sighted when making decisions. When a new trend comes around or there’s a sudden drop in performance, stop and take stock of it and think about the long-term effect on your strategy, before making sudden changes.

This also goes for marketing management. Rather than focusing on the daily results, look ahead at how this is impacting the wider strategy and team. Is something generating short term results but leading to team burnout? Then it may not be worth the risk to your team’s overall wellbeing and performance levels.

If you recognize that you need to adopt this perspective but struggle to actually implement it, start by getting an overview of your marketing plan and data in one dashboard. 

2. Consistency trumps motivation

Once Olympic athletes have their plan, they consistently execute it day in, day out, whatever the weather. While they may seem superhuman, they are just humans too and will have days where they don’t feel like training. What sets them apart is their dedication to do it anyway. 

Whether it’s training for the Olympics or optimizing a marketing campaign, motivation and creativity will be low some days, but consistency generates results. People buy from brands that are consistent with their story and messaging, Google gives authority to companies who consistently publish content on a topic. Brand building is showing up for your target audience everyday.

Don’t get us wrong, we understand that this can be hard to maintain when you’re working in remote teams across multiple brands, trying to juggle many tasks at once. And teams also thrive on consistency, it creates a better working environment and therefore better output. We built Mediatool with this in mind. That’s why you can create your own global hierarchy to ensure all your campaigns are labeled and tracked in the same way, to eliminate confusion and inconsistencies externally and internally. 

3. Be innovative

Striving for greatness does mean being consistent, but that also means constantly maintaining an open mindset, accepting challenges and being ready to pivot and try new things regularly. On the surface, it might look like the athletes are all doing the same thing, but behind the scenes they’ve worked hard on trying new techniques, adapting to their strengths they have over competitors and training in new ways.

Successful marketing teams do the same. As Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat”.  Think A/B testing, adapting to algorithm changes, creatives that stand out from the competition. Encouraging innovation and keeping an open mind will not only generate campaign results, but also keep work exciting and interesting for you and your colleagues–win, win! 

4. Tell your audience a story

Name your favourite Olympic athletes. Now think about why you like them. There are over 11,000 athletes in Tokyo 2020 and we bet you can’t name more than 10-15. The reason you know them so well and don’t know a thing about the other 10,990? They tell the audience about themselves, they tell us their personal story. And we either resonate with them, are in awe or empathize in some kind of way–we are the audience buying into their story. That’s why they’re our favourites and why we know their names.

Take Team GB Olympic Diver, Tom Daley, for example, who everyone feels they know as they’ve watched him grow up from being a teen athlete. This Olympic games he was spotted knitting while he sat in the stands and he received a collective ‘aw’ from around the world.

Tom daley knitting

(Getty Images)

While most marketers aren’t marketing for a personal brand with a personal story, the key is to act like you are. In order to create a connection with your audience and for them to become your companies’ fans, create a brand story that elicits an emotional response and that they can relate to. Just like the most memorable Olympic athletes. Be authentic and consistent with that story to build a community of brand ambassadors that cheer you from the sidelines, as well as buy from you. 

This is especially important in the wake of recent privacy changes in marketing and advertising. The marketing teams that will thrive in this new era of marketing are those that switch tact and put storytelling at the forefront of their strategy. 

5. Always monitor progress

To ensure they stay on track and are constantly improving, athletes continually monitor and measure their progress. If their performance is low in a specific area or they tried a new technique that isn’t generating the desired results, they listen to feedback,  learn from it and make adjustments to improve. 

In marketing, this is how you should treat your data. Your data is there to tell you what is and isn’t working. How you react and make adjustments is critical. Remember to keep the long-term strategy in mind and rather than simply reacting to results, looking at the bigger picture can help you to learn from the data in front of you. Don’t feel like you have the right data to make the right decisions? See if Mediatool can provide clarity. 

Of course this goes for qualitative data too, interviews, surveys and focus groups with customers and potential customers are essential to learning from your previous campaigns and producing better results. 

In the same way that Olympic athletes set goals, constantly monitor their progress and make changes to break world records, marketers should do this in all areas of a campaign to ensure they’re on track for new company PBs. 

If you’re feeling inspired to smash your targets and train like the best marketing athlete you can be, make sure you have the right technology behind you to help you get there. To find out more about Mediatool, click here. 

Like this blog? Check out articles and ebooks like this one. 

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