How Sports Can Influence Business

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Sports are (both watching and playing) are a great hobby that brings us together and shows us a good time, but could it also play a bigger role in business than we realize? If you think about it, there are many similarities between business and sports, and some principles that apply to one can also apply to the other. Here are a few that I’ve come up with.

Management Lesson: Make decisions based on data and analytics

The NBA’s Dallas Mavericks have a data analyst on the payroll. Owner Mark Cuban and head coach Rick Carlisle treat him as a vital member of the coaching staff, bringing him along during games as part of the bench.

How does this work? If you’ve heard of Moneyball, a movie that came out in 2011 starring Brad Pitt that’s based on a book by Michael Lewis, then you’re already familiar with the concept. By breaking down the performance of players into data, an analyst can recommend decisions that will optimize play. This can be used to determine lineups, trades and recruitment, influence training, and call plays.

While the jury is still out on whether it’s as effective as the author claims, it does point to an important tool for making business decisions: data. Knowing your numbers, more than just profit and loss, but also measuring metrics for recruitment, marketing, sales, and operations can surface information that can be a game-changer. Attrition rates showing a correlation with number of hires or certain salary levels? Adjust your recruitment strategy. Are new corporate customers opting out of your service or product after only a short amount of time? Then maybe looking into your B2B onboarding flow might show why their satisfaction is low.

If you measure everything, then you can start diving into the data and seeing what numbers you can influence. And that’s how you win a game, or a customer.

Marketing Lesson: Logos and brand equity

Pop quiz, think fast: What are the team colors of the New York Yankees? What’s the logo of the Oakland Raiders?

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Even if you’re a casual sports fan, you probably got the answers to these, which shows just how effective good branding can be. Sports teams leverage on team uniforms and mascots and logos to unite their fans. But it’s not just about wearing different colors so that you can tell your guys from the other guys in the court, it’s about establishing a sense of solidarity, of teamwork, by having a shared identity.

A memorable brand isn’t just about logos or colors (though in the case of sports teams, they certainly help set a team apart). Branding is about establishing a very clear identity for your business.

– What do you do that’s different?
– What do you believe in?
– How do you communicate this to clients and potential clients in every single thing you do, from your advertising to the way your agents interact with customers on the phone?

By having a clear identity- which includes a mission/vision statement- you not only tell potential customers what you’re about, but gives your employees something to believe in that will influence the little decisions they’re constantly making, every day.

FedEx, for example, has the slogan “The World on Time.” This tells you several things: their core values and unique service proposition (delivering packages around the world, and fast), how they operate (extremely streamlined processes, solid logistic chains), and their personality (dependable, with a global outlook).

What other lessons can businesses learn from sports? Let me know with a comment!

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