Apparently not. Marketing is an essential area within any business. And javelin is an olympic athletics discipline that consists of throwing a kind of spear as far as you can. With that in mind, it seems impossible to connect such different things.
Although some Marketing researchers may discredit me for the following statement (and I’d understand it), I’ll do it anyway:
“In my opinion, if you know how to execute a good javelin throw, you can also launch a successful marketing campaign.”
A javelin throw consists of four stages: the preparation phase, the acceleration phase, the throw itself, and the monitoring phase. When you have to launch a marketing campaign, you can consider the same stages: a preparation phase, an execution phase, the launch itself, and the monitoring of the campaign.
In the preparation stage, the athlete runs forward at a lower speed than the rest of the throw with the javelin positioned above his head. This stage entails the initial thrust. As a marketer, your campaign should have an initial preparation stage in which the aim is to define the objectives and to form a general vision before actually creating the campaign. From now on, as Marketing is a broad area, I’m going to focus on communication for the sake of simplicity in a short article.
The most important thing to consider in this stage is the business objective of your communication campaign. It has to be measurable, as for example “increase sales volume” or “increase ticket size”. This is critical because you can only ensure good executional decisions, such as which communication channel you should use, or what your message should look like, if you have set a clear objective. The athlete also has a sport objective which can be, for instance, qualifying for an international competition, which requires a minimum mark. That would be the objective that the athlete wants to reach.
Once you’ve set your objective, you can enter into what can be called the execution stage, which represents the acceleration phase of the athlete. During this phase, the objective shifts from preparation to getting yourself into the best possible position to throw.Based on this objective, you can make other key strategic decisions: who your target audience should be; what behaviour change you need to get from your target audience; and what type of immediate response you want to elicit from your audience. This allows the marketer to understand what the best executional approach may be in terms of the most appropriate type of message and media. The athlete follows the same process in deciding the optimal balance between speed and strength based on the mark he/she needs to reach.
In this phase, the athlete runs sideways, and has seven steps to position himself and the javelin correctly and to achieve the highest speed at the end, just before the throw. During this part of the execution stage is when the marketer should determine the exact details of how to reach the audience, how to tell their story to connect with emotions, and the balance of channels and budget needed.
As I’ve said before, the athlete has seven steps to adopt the perfect position to execute the shot. Before launching a campaign, seven steps should also be considered as a checklist to ensure that your campaign has everything it needs to gain a strong response. Although that doesn’t mean that it’s actually going to happen. These seven steps are the following ones:
- It’s visual and surprising.
- It matches your brand/value proposition
- It has a clear message
- It connects with the emotions of the audience
- It’s directed to your target audience
- It’s simple
- It’s launched at the right time
And then, when the acceleration stage finishes, it’s the turn for the throw itself. The most important thing here is the angle. Unfortunately, there’s no optimal angle. In athletics, it depends on two main factors: first, an external factor which is the wind, and secondly, an internal factor which is your own conditions; that is your personal speed-strength balance. The objective is to throw the javelin with an angle that minimizes the friction between the javelin and the wind and maximizes the lift of the javelin in the air. Usually this angle varies from 30 to 40 degrees. When launching a communication campaign, there are also factors that affect the campaign. First of all, external factors such as the stage of the industry in its life cycle, the competitors, consumers’ trends, etc; and secondly, internal factors like the company’s resources. Depending on these, the marketer should decide to launch the campaign at one or another angle.
But one common quote among athletes is that the throw is not over until the javelin is stuck in the grass. That also applies to a marketing campaign. What I want to point out here is that as with any action, the measurement of the results is an essential part because otherwise you won’t be able to learn from any of those actions.
Research has shown that if you finish the shot before the javelin is stuck in the grass, you automatically and unconsciously divert forces from the course of the javelin. That’s why you have to look forward at the javelin while it’s flying and until it’s in the grass. Almost the same thing happens in a marketing campaign, where you should focus on every executional detail throughout the campaign and always monitor the results of your campaign in terms of, for example, sales, response, etc.
As athletes, we expect to throw as far as possible; as well as marketers expect to reach the maximum of their target audience with the campaign. But when the shot is completely finished, that is, when the campaign is over, you cannot do anything to change the scope you have achieved. However, as the javelin is stuck in the grass, your communication has lodged your company in your consumers’ minds and the only thing you can do then is hope for this positioning to be aligned with the value proposition of your brand.
I want to finish this article with a quote by Les Brown that can be applied to almost everything you do in life:
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Written by Clara Remacha, Spain, International Master in Management 2015, EADA Business School Barcelona
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