I don’t know about you, but I’m officially obsessed with the Olympics. It’s powerful to watch the world’s top athletes come together—despite differences in global politics, race, or religion—to compete in an athletic arena. These athletes demonstrate a lifetime of practice in a defining window of two or three minutes. And while their functional knowledge of their sport is critical, much of what makes them truly successful is a deeper foundation of skills.
Like the Olympics, effective marketing takes continuous practice—learning and adopting new techniques and strategies. We took to our community of advocates, Purple Select, and asked them, “If marketing was an Olympic sport, what skill would you need to win gold?” The results? Skills that I believe can translate in any environment to drive success, especially marketing.
Here are four skills elite athletes have mastered that you can develop and practice to take your abilities to the next level and become an elite marketer:
Am I the only one who saw what Michael Phelps’ ‘game face’ looks like? The most decorated man in the history of the Olympics had an epically grumpy face (meme-worthy, in fact) in the warmup room before his 200-meter butterfly race. People speculated that he was upset about his ‘rival’ from South Africa doing a dance-like warm-up in front of him, but really, after reporters asked him, he said he was simply focused.
Like Phelps, being almost single-minded on your journey to achieving your goals will set you up for success. While he understands his competition and the field that he is competing against, he comes well-prepared and his focus on the task ahead of him is the most important thing in the moments before a race.
Similarly, as a marketer, it’s critical that you understand the landscape that surrounds you, but spending energy worrying about what’s going on ‘in the other lane’ won’t make you achieve your goals any faster. Practicing (because let’s be honest, it doesn’t always come naturally) and honing the ability to focus on achieving a task will make you a more successful marketer.
2. Great Communication
When you think about all of the team sports in the Olympics, one that probably comes to mind is beach volleyball, where teams of two people face off against each other to cover a lot of court. How do you make sure the ball doesn’t hit the sand in the back corner,when you’re up against the net and there is only you and your partner? Communication.
In marketing, to make sure that the ball doesn’t drop, it’s absolutely critical for you to communicate with your immediate and broader teams so they can understand your strategy and know where you’re going. Not only does this reduce duplicative efforts within an organization, but it empowers your team with information, so that they can complement your activities and help you ultimately achieve your goals faster.
3. Determination and Grit
What’s the difference between falling off the uneven bars and staying on? Well, there’s gravity, and then there is sheer determination. When bronze medalist, Chunsong Shang of China, slipped off the uneven bars, she didn’t just dust off her hands and head to the bench. No, instead she stood up, centered herself, and got right back on the bars—she took control of the situation and made immediate adjustments, finishing her routine near-flawlessly. In that moment, her grit and determination was palpable.
But what does this mean for you as a marketer? Determination and grit are skills that make you a better marketer. You will be a stronger marketer if you aren’t deterred by a ‘no’ or another negative reaction to exploring a new channel, or ready to give up after having a campaign flop. Have you ever participated in a really tough or heated meeting? You need to be able to hold your own. Determination and grit aren’t just an understanding of where you want to go and the unflappable pursuit of it—they help you frame activities and interactions differently, often with the lens of ‘How does this affect my pursuit of x?”
4. Ability to Be Analytical
In the Olympic road race, there is an exceptional amount of analytics that go into the race ahead of time. Competitors map out the competition and their strengths and weaknesses ahead of time and compare it to the course’s challenges to plan a strategy that optimizes their strengths. For example, the US 4th place finisher, Mara Abbott is known for her strong climbing skills, while others are known for their flat land sprints. Abbott led the race for the last 10 miles, only to be overcome by three other cyclists—drafting off of each other—in the final sprint. The takeaway? Abbott’s performance was her best ever in an international competition, so while she didn’t get a medal, I would say that’s a win for her.
As a marketer you’re directly linked to the revenue performance of your organization. Like Olympic cyclists, it’s critical that you have the ability to map out your race—all the tactics and programs that you run to evaluate what will get you to your revenue goal, and even beyond that, show improvement. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and being able to communicate your performance to the rest of the organization will serve you well in not only obtaining more funding, but in optimizing your campaigns and programs.
Ultimately, there are tons of valuable lessons and skills that we can learn from the athletes and the competitions that we witness during the Olympics and carry on into our own practices. Are you watching the Olympics? What other skills have you seen that marketers can adopt to be more successful? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.