Monday, July 12, 2010

Biz, Sales & Marketing Lessons from FIFA World Cup 2010

At the end of the soccer mania that lasted a month, the “Beautiful Game” has offered many re-inforcements and lessons for business and life. Here’s what I got and would love to read about your experiences as well:

Lesson 1: Dare look beyond the data:
I have noticed at times, an obsession for data, as an end in itself. This curtails the free run of a spirited idea – the “right-brain-big-picture” leap-of-faith that powers you to dream big and win big.

Every time, I look at numbers, I ask “So what?” Look at some of the World Cup 2010 statistics below and you’ll know what I mean:

a) In the Round of 16 match, England showed better stats than Germany on all key points. They had more shots overall (19 v 17), more shots on goal (9 v 7), more corners (6 v 4) and even higher ball possession (52% v 48%).

So what? Germany thrashed England 4–1.

b) Argentina had better data than Germany on all key counts – overall shots (20 v 18), more shots on goal (7 v 6), corners (5 v 4), ball possession (54% v 46%).
So what? Germany dismissed both the stats and Argentina out of the WC with a 4-0 win.

c) Brazil had more shots - (15 v 11) and more corners (8 v 4) than Netherlands in the Q/F.

So what? The world No. 1 nation could not convert their chances to make it to the semis.

d) Of course, data mattered in the final crunch. Spain had better stats on most counts. But look closely and you will see that they managed a only single goal, that too in the 116th minute - at the end of the 2nd half of extra time

The lesson here is to engage in a closer examination of impressive statistics vis-a-vis their final objectives. How well do your data/stats convert to meet your organizational goals and how are the missing links fixed?

Lesson 2: Team Work Vs Individual Rock Star

An age-old sporting lesson was brought home once again at the World Cup – team work matters. Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi, Kaka – all super heroes for their clubs. But when it came to playing as a team for their country, they couldn’t keep it together.

Lesson 3: Dare to go beyond competitor reputation

A number of higher ranked teams were beaten soundly by lower ranked nations in various qualifying matches. Minnows Japan, Ghana, Switzerland, USA and Slovakia dared to look at the enemy in the eye and give them a run for their money and pride.

So what if your competitor is a 100-pound gorilla? If you are hungry about winning, you will. It’s all about preparation and keeping faith.

Lesson 4: Hungry to win? But play it fair

And finally, Uruguay’s Hand of God - II was a big lesson. Indeed it was very big deal for Uruguay to win over Ghana and get into the semis. But to what lengths would a team go to? Suarez (URU) cheated an entire continent and the spirit of the game to make way for his country.

Big deal or small – can we play it fair and square?

It’s going to be another long wait for the next world cup. But then, that’s what the Beautiful Game is all about. The Game may be over. But the lessons are for life.

What has been your take-away from this spectacular event?


  1. Awesome note, Azra very succinctly put...I believe that games such as these have replaced the instinct of war in humans and hence my declaration would be - Play On!!!

  2. Yep that's a very interesting perspective - thanks Anney for writing in

  3. Couldn't agree more with your points above. Statistics in any field of endeavour can be highly misleading and as we know manipulated to make a negative scenario look positive.

    Take for example the world of SEO or PPC. I can help your website rank No.1 all day, everyday. On face value the stats will show you that you have a great site with plenty of traffic. But what use is all the traffic if there are no conversions (sales)?

    So just like England, the "traffic" was solid and plentiful but alas, the "conversions" were not there. Germany on the otherhand capitalised on their opportunities and achieved higher conversions for their efforts.

    Basically, unless you achieve the goal you set out to reach, all the impressive stats in the world mean not much at then take those stats and seriously analyse what went wrong along the way and rectify it for your next attempt at glory!

  4. Ayal, thanks for tying it to some of the marketing stats..This was exactly the point I am making.

  5. Hi Azra, this is indeed a great way of looking at the world cup, for it was after all a great marketing job!! Another important aspect to note is the patience and perseverance of Spain... they never hit the panic button. All they needed was that 1 goal to win and it was the same case in almost all their games. They knew they could score 1 and defend...And they were the cleanest team of the world cup!!

  6. Hey Venkat
    Yes, there's so much to draw & learn from a great sporting event like the world cup. Not hitting the panic button is one more. It'll be great if businesses are able to quickly soak in the learnings

  7. Fantastic post, Azra. Great insight and observation of the game and what it means. However, I will not necessarily agree to Brazil failing to convert their chances. Soccer's an extremely emotional game, Brazil, an extremely emotional team and Kaka's departure was an extreme emotional blow to the champions. Which teaches us a couple lessons.

    -> Don't let the departure of a team mate bring the team down, and

    -> Don't let emotions cloud your judgement and your performance.

  8. Hey Partha, thanks for joining in.... I agree with you on Brazil missing Kaka and your underlying message...

    But remember, England had Rooney and Argentina had Messi. AND don't forget, Germany went beyond their hurt of missing Ballack (which was such a huge blow in the nth hour)to notch unbelievable victories.

    But the point in my blog is more on a bewildering obsession of people who say "give me data", "only data talks to me". I must hasten to add that having led many critical go-to-market strategies, I respect data and the insights that come from it. My concern is the "myopia" that comes with the obsession which becomes a limiting factor and when the "big picture" gets lost.

    We need to keep our nose to the nitty-gritties on the ground and still be able to soar above, like the eagle, to get the bird's eye view.

    Would love to have you join in more conversations ! cheers