Lead and they will follow

Jedd Cokayne, Business Unit Manager at The Media Shop takes a look at marketing lessons from one of the world’s greatest athletes.

As we start to wind down for the year, calm down to a mild panic and look forward to spending the festive season with friends and family, I ponder over the year that was 2021. Wow, we made it – we are a resilient bunch with the ability to adapt to ensure our survival.

To my great joy we have seen the reintroduction of various sporting and cultural codes and most recently the opening up of stadiums to spectators and the ability once again to watch my children compete in their various disciplines. It certainly warms the heart! There have been many sporting highlights throughout the year with the Springboks winning the Lions Tour, surviving ‘Rassie Gate’, being able to watch the Tour De France, Cape Epic and the Cape Town Marathon to name a few. One of the biggest events from around the world was the Tokyo Olympics where the best athletes in the world were given an opportunity to compete against each other on the world stage. What makes this so significant is that those same athletes had to adapt their training for another year to ensure they peaked at exactly the right time, no easy task.

Speaking of the Olympics I think back to one of the greatest athletes of all time who revolutionised the sport of athletics and to whom many athletes today owe a debt of gratitude. His name was Emil Zatopek, many of you would never have heard of him, however he was a global megastar in the 1950’s. He won five Olympic medals, held 18 World Records and was undefeated in the 10 000m for six years. But his most remarkable and memorable feat was his 3 Gold Medal clean sweep at the Helsinki Games in 1952 which included a debut marathon. In that era, he developed a system of high-volume interval training that was at first ridiculed by his competitors but soon imitated as the benefits were seen by all. This transformed the way elite distance runners trained at the time and is still copied today.

He was not the most gifted athlete to ever run but it was his dedication to training and his willingness to push himself beyond his limits that made him exceptional. His rise to greatness was just through sheer hard work and dedication to his craft.

Now I am sure you asking yourself what this little know athlete has to do with business and the various segments we work in. Personally, I think it has a lot of relevance, especially due to the circumstances we find ourselves in currently. All businesses are fighting for their pound of flesh, trying to claw their market share back and relook the way they do business.

Being a market leader in this day and age certainly has its benefits but can also leave you in a very precarious position. Now is the perfect time to revaluate all that you offer, update processes, upgrade technology and so much more. Emil rose to the top through sheer hard work and dedication however he didn’t rest on his laurels, he continuously looked at improving himself in the pursuit of the perfect race and in so doing drove his competitors to relook their own training regimes in order to compete at the higher level. Overall, this raised the standard of athletics at the time and will continue to do so as athletes strive to break records and compete at the highest level.

Many of the principles that Emil believed in and trained toward can we applied to any business segment. This doesn’t only apply to the segment leader but also to the competitors striving to be number one. One of my best quotes from him was “All it takes is effort, persistence and a cheerful indifference to discomfort”.

A couple of things to keep in mind

  1. Development increases with each task that is completed.
  2. Repetition is your friend.
  3. Don’t wait for your rivals, continue to develop, become ruthless in your pursuit of perfection.
  4. Change has to be achieved quickly and in motion, don’t rest up.
  5. Change brings about detractors until they are proved wrong. You will go from a fool to a genius.
  6. Modify and refine what you already know and makes you great.
  7. Don’t be afraid to test new methods, you will only fail once and learn.
  8. Learning should be tackled with ingenuity and effort, no gain is too marginal.
  9. Don’t ever be distracted, know what your end goal is.
  10. Prepare yourself in unfavourable conditions because the results will be shown later in the race.
  11. If you can’t keep going, go faster.

As we look toward 2022 and the new challenges we will face, some known and others not, where do you want to be and where do your customers want you to be?

Shape the category.

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