• Cheska Bennett

Marketing lessons we can learn from Netflix's The Last Dance.

Whether a marketer or not, I encourage you to watch epic basketball docuseries, The Last Dance, documenting the success and stories behind the Chicago Bulls in the nineties, even if only for the soundtrack. However, if you do find yourself watching, check out some of the marketing lessons we can take away which can rival the scene stealing moves on the court.

The financial benefit to long term influencers. Michael Jordan was at the beginning of his career when he was looking for a shoe brand to endorse. Converse wasn’t an option because they already had big players at the peak of their careers. Nike came along as the underdog and made a play. They saw the long term game. A higher up front cost but one which would pay off over time. Decades later that genius move is still as commercially beneficial now as it was then. To the tune of $3.1 billion last year in fact. The quick wins are ever tempting but this long term thought process drove unrivalled success.

Brands who know their business and values from day 1. Back to Nike. It was their recent technology, the focus on sports and performance which collided with Jordan’s own brand and vision in order to create the almighty Air Jordan. Those key Nike traits and values that have never faltered and therefore have never aged, wilted or fallen out of fashion favour. No confusion, no need to rebrand, but a company wide clarity and identified brand.

Competitive analysis. Whilst most sports will vet and dissect their competition, the Last Dance shows us how much competition analysis is ingrained in the players. Even now, decades later, they know the skills, successes, weaknesses inside out. These players didn’t step onto a court without a competition game plan. How often does a marketing plan really have a thorough competitor analysis ingrained in it? How much do we talk about it but follow through with actions to execute. Think back to the USA vs Croatia game (spoiler alert for those still to watch).

Jordan and Pippen had a player (Kukoc) in their sights, told the team their plan to conquer him (Leave him to Jordan and Pippen) and relentlessly they stuck to him, shutting down every play. Kukoc had a terrible game, in his own words, and the USA won the game, as planned. The competition was owned as much by every player as it was the coach and the game plan for every minute of every game. Just imagine the focus and success of marketing campaigns if this same mentality was applied.

Success and/or leadership has a price. Whether in terms of commercial success via a launch/campaign, or in your own career development this phrase could not be more worthwhile to keep front of mind. - Your relationships will change, not favourably. - Your tactics may change, including much loved suppliers. - Your market may dictate structural change, losing people.

There has never been a scenario when success came and everyone around you benefited and nobody around you had to go above and beyond. This ‘price’ needs to be factored into every decision. It isn’t negativity, but the price that will inevitably be paid. The preparation for which, on either side of the fence you sit, will prepare for that team understanding the Bulls discuss; Jordan was an a-hole, but they knew why he was doing it. And that was the game-changer.

Product fatigue. Jordan took a break from Basketball in 1993, and took up Baseball. It was a life passion of his, he was in the midst of significant personal grief, and he was tired of basketball. It’s the latter of which is notable here but we shouldn’t pass up the notion that personal impact affects professional impact. The benefits of a break during key periods of challenge outside of the workplace are well documented.

However, the interest here is his tiredness of the game. He felt he had achieved greatness, he wasn’t motivated in the same way anymore and his response? An unequivocal, “I’m going to get out of the game.” He wasn’t able to provide the best to the club, the city, his teammates. How often does this sentiment enter the marketing world? Complacency, reactive response marketing, big picture lack. Why isn’t marketing a fluid world of acknowledgment where we note our limitations and seek support. This could wind up as a different market or product range within a corporation, or it could be a new role. The lesson here, marketing is only as dynamic as the person with the ball in their court.

If you haven’t watched The Last Dance, put it on your list to do so, whatever your background career or otherwise, you’ll take home some form of motivation or coaching from the series. It’s a universal lesson in team, performance and ownership.

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