Modern Marketing

What I Learned About Marketing From Lindsey Vonn


This week at the Marketing Nation Summit, Marketo is excited to bring one of the most fearless athletes of our time to the keynote stage—Olympic skier, Lindsey Vonn.

Now, a quick disclaimer that I’m not an athletic person. I went skiing exactly once when I was 13. I fell down the hill, kicked myself in the face with my ski, took them off, and never put them back on again.

I already admired Vonn for putting on those skis every day and getting onto the slopes, but once I dove deeper into her life and career, I had even more respect for her. Her career is directly applicable to our marketing lives.

In this blog, I’ll explain the five things I learned about marketing from Lindsey Vonn’s career.

1.    Be Fearless in the Face of Adversity

Lindsey has had a career filled with injuries, from broken bones to torn ligaments, serving as roadblocks on her quest for greatness. They never stopped her. Not only is she the fastest woman on skis to ever walk this earth, she’s a bad@ss in the face of adversity. Currently, Lindsey is looking to raise the stakes for herself even higher. She’s petitioned the International Ski Federation to be able to race against men in a World Cup race in November 2018. Her quest to compete is not only inspiring; it’s something that marketers can learn from.

All too often, we’re afraid to make big decisions for fear of failure. Lindsey fully admits that she may not do very well when she goes head-to-head (or is it ski-to-ski?) with her male counterparts. But she knows she has to take the risk to get the reward. As marketers, we aren’t as risk-averse as many of our colleagues, but we do have a tendency to rely on the same tactics and campaigns that work. Take a risk and try something new—you never know what you’ll learn.

2.    Protect Your Personal Brand

Lindsey’s been just as successful off the slopes as she is on. With partnerships with powerful companies like Red Bull, Under Armour, Bounty, and more, Lindsey is not only financially savvy; she’s dedicated to making her image as positive and well-known as it possibly can be. She’s careful with her partnership choices because ultimately, her partners also help define her personal brand.

Your personal brand as a marketer will follow you from company to company. Your tenure at ABC Corp might be five years, but you will be you for the rest of your life. As you build your personal brand, it’s important not to make career moves for the money. One company may offer you a higher salary and bigger perks, but if their values conflict with yours (e.g. you’re known for being an environmentalist and you sign with a known polluter,) you’re tarnishing your brand. Choose wisely, and you’ll keep a consistent brand for yourself throughout your career.

3.    Be Aware of Your Impact

Not only does Lindsey impact lives on the slopes by encouraging others to give it their all and beat their own records, but she also runs the Lindsey Vonn Foundation. With this nonprofit platform, she’s committed to engaging the community around her and influencing future generations with positivity and opportunity. She’s supporting women around the world through scholarships, education, and athletics to help them grow.

While Lindsey doesn’t likely have an ROI number she needs to report back to the rest of her team, she does have a lot of people looking to her for inspiration. Likewise, marketers have to prove their impact constantly to maintain both their budgets and their jobs. As you set out to create each new campaign, do so with a clear understanding of its intended impact on the business.  Equip yourself, and your team, with a way to measure the process with success metrics along the way. Marketers shouldn’t fear the challenge of proving their impact. Instead, it’s an opportunity to show exactly how much you are moving the needle every day.

4.    Let Yourself Be Coached

It can be hard to accept feedback—especially if you feel like you’re doing just fine. Excellent athletes like Lindsey know that a good coach can improve their game. Lindsey knows she can’t do it alone. She’s had fantastic coaches and mentors over the years to help her improve.

In your marketing career, feedback is vital—but learning to accept it and apply it can be tough. Whether it’s a more experienced marketer or a teammate who can offer you an outside perspective, creating opportunity for honest feedback can really make your efforts soar.

5.    If You Fall, Get Back Up

Lindsey falls. A lot. Any great athlete can tell you how often they airballed before they scored that first mid-court three-pointer, or how they didn’t get it right the first time they tried. It’s important to remember that failure is only a momentary setback in your journey. If you fall or make a mistake, it’s vital to get back up and try again. It’s the only way to move forward and learn.

As a marketer, you will fail. You will spend hours, days, weeks, maybe even a year, working on a campaign that doesn’t live up to your expectations. You’ll spend hours on a project that never sees the light of day. You’ll send things out with typos that you SWORE you fixed. You’ll schedule emails that wake you up in the middle of the night because you remember you forgot to include the date in an invitation that’s scheduled to go out in an hour. You will fail. But, like Lindsey Vonn, it’s vital to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep skiing.

Who inspires you? Is there someone like Lindsey you’ve learned from? Tell me about your experiences in the comment section.