This is an excerpt from Sport Business Handbook-Revised Edition, The by Rick Horrow,Rick Burton & Myles Schrag.
But what if, as you are reading this, you are saying, “Well, Rick, that was good for Jordan back in the 1980s when companies like Nike or Gatorade could create image trajectories for athletes they liked. Let’s be honest, as we approach 2020, the media and marketing landscape is dramatically different. Companies like Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat didn’t exist then. Isn’t the marketing portion of deal making much different?”
My short answer, “no,” may surprise you. The concept of marketing (what it means to “market” a product, good, service, or individual) is always evolving but also fairly constant. Pricing, placement, product, promotion, payment, populations, pushing, pulling, people, and power (the heck with 5 Ps of marketing; here are 10 Ps) are all levers an agent, player, employee, or CEO must consider.
If you are going to zig when they zag, you have to know the marketplace. If you are going to play small ball against a team of giants, you have to make your threes. You have to believe you can beat the favorite (shout out here to Malcolm Gladwell’s wonderful book David and Goliath). If you are going to be counterintuitive, you have to really know what’s going on.
Today, my Syracuse students know we start by looking at the individual athlete and assessing the marketplace as it really exists. I tell them we all exist in a global economy. A digital economy. A 24/7/365 economy. An instant economy.
Today’s young people understand that technology is changing faster than most people can grasp what is happening. One of my favorite authors is Thomas Friedman and his brilliant book from 2016, Thank You for Being Late, where he discussed the realities of contemporary life and how our use of technology borders on all-consuming.
I know Friedman is right. When I’m attending NBA or NFL games, I look up to find the folks around me spending more time looking at their phones than they do the game. I know college players who care more about how many “followers” they have than how many points they scored. I know individuals who care more about getting a Tweet out first than wondering whether their Tweet is accurate.
Are those bad things? Maybe. But modern marketers must understand market dynamics in order to best represent any contract or agreement they are working on. The late Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People wrote about negotiations that are based on achieving “Win-Win,” a naturally better option than “Lose-Win” or “Lose-Lose.”
But let’s add to the concept of “winning” the idea of comprehensively projecting far more than the deal on the table. There is more at stake than just the chips in the pot. Let’s not play for the cash wagered but also for the table, chairs, and house.
If Nike’s success with John McEnroe, Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson, Tiger Woods, or Michael Jordan teaches us anything, it might be that marketing successful individuals (who are capable of thriving in powerful partnerships) is best achieved when all parties take the long view. And take the marketing portion of the agreement really seriously.
The fact that Jordan became a hugely successful businessman long after his playing days were over is pretty impressive. And not just because Nike wanted to increase market share and annual earnings for their stakeholders. Rather, it was because the objectives of the brand and the endorser could be really leveraged in the same ways people think about annual compound interest.