If you can't measure it quantifiably, then it isn't up for debate. It's a growing theme in advanced sports analysis. We all know there's more to sports than numbers in a vacuum, and to simply say so is beyond cliché, but just because we all know there's a number of subjective measures at play—from interpersonal dynamics to performance over small samples—that doesn't mean it's worth discussing. Without evidence, no one can ever be considered certifiably more right than someone else, and the conversation can't be definitively advanced, so such dialogue is discouraged. You're not supposed to talk just to talk, to ponder something because it's fun to ponder.
The same theme is prevalent nowadays in business as well. We have a set number of tools for which their value is a given. See: phones, business cards, conferences, meetings. Our advanced ability to track data has led us to demand quantifiable evidence for everything else—for everything new. Or untraditional.
"Why do we want to do this again?"
"Because it's cool. And our most passionate fans will really get a kick out of it."
"Yes, but how do we know? What does that do?"
In a blog post last week, Seth Godin related this phenomenon to clean bathrooms, and how DisneyWorld doesn't—obviously—keep their bathrooms clean because doing so directly generates revenue.
It turns out that just about everything we do involves cleaning the bathrooms. Creating an environment where care and trust are expressed. If you take a lot of time to ask, "how will this pay off," you're probably asking the wrong question. When you are trusted because you care, it's quite likely the revenue will take care of itself.
So how does this relate to sports, and content marketing in sports? Well, Monday I came a cross one of the finer examples I've seen of a team and its marketing department caring and serving its more passionate fans: that'd be Chiefs Live, a professionally-done live and social studio show put on by the Kansas City Chiefs.
I'm sure the show's been going on for some time, but Monday's episode is the exact reason why teams should do this type of thing. See, yesterday they officially introduced John Dorsey as their new General Manager. Dorsey previously spent 20 years with the Packers, most recently serving as GM Ted Thompson's right-hand man. Hiring GMs, particularly GMs like Dorsey, generally go somewhat under-the-radar, especially compared to the hiring of head coaches. The Chiefs did everything they could to counter that notion.
Immediately following Dorsey's introductory press conference he was walked down the hallway to Chiefs Live, where they'd been talking up their guest for at least twenty minutes. Then, when he got there, they're pulling up the list of the Packers' recent notable draft picks. As Dorsey described the Packers' philosophy of building through the draft, the team at Chiefs Live is pulling up highlights of Clay Matthews, Greg Jennings and Aaron Rodgers. Being a Packers fan, I'm a bit biased, but it took all of about ten minutes to start thinking they're building something down in Kansas City. It was impressive.
Now, think of the types of fans who tune into this type of thing, during work, in the middle of the day—people who appreciate the Chiefs serving up premium content to their most fervent fans. These are the guys who counter their "The Chiefs are awful and always will be" friends with "Come on now. This guy drafted RODGERS to replace Favre when everyone else passed on him. He plucked Randall Cobb from the second round when they already had all those receivers!"
There's no way to accurately quantify how that "pays off"—but it does.
I'm sure the marketing and digital teams in Kansas City face the same challenges everyone else does. This philosophy isn't intended to be construed as "give the marketing guys some resources and just trust them." But if you always rule out "let's do something cool for our fans" as a reason for doing something innovative, you're going to miss out on a lot of impactful strategies without ever giving them the chance.
Photo credit: Robert Alberino, Jr., KC Chiefs VP Media & Marketing