At first glance, it may not seem like training for a triathlon and branding have much in common, but let’s take a closer look.
Here’s my take on just few examples of how triathlon is a lot like managing a brand:
- Triathlon is a multi-disciplined sport in which Triathletes need have a very clear vision
Unlike single-mode sports, triathlon combines swimming, biking, and running - three separate and distinct sports in their own right. While it’s certainly possible to perform well by being really great at one sport, those who are the most successful train to master all three. Even for non-professional triathletes, having a clear vision of why you want to train and complete a race is essential to keeping you focused on your goal. Are you looking for a new triathlon challenge? Are you fundraising and racing on behalf of a charity? Do you need a goal to help you exercise, get healthy, or lose weight? Do you want to improve on a previous race time? Your goal should be personal and unique to you – something you can own and get behind.
Branding is no different. What is your vision? Why should customers care? How are you making a difference? Share the soul of your story. It’s unique to you and only you can own it. Brand Managers also have a certain set of "core disciplines" they must become adept at, taking many months - years even - in order to be a top performer in their business. These include strong communication and presentation skills, being motivated / a self-starter, and having the ability to influence and persuade others. Market why you are in business, not what you do. Your branding should reflect and support your story, your voice, and your vision.
Elite Triathletes and Brand Managers alike are well-versed in each of their respective disciplines and know how to move fluidly between them.
- Success in triathlon is every finished race and to achieve this is you need to have a clear plan
The thought of completing a race can seem unattainable and overwhelming. Triathlon requires a huge investment in time; over the days, weeks, and months it’s not uncommon to hear athletes compare their training schedule to working a part-time job. And for the professional triathletes it's certainly not a half-assed effort; the quality hours of training compounds over time. Anyone can have a great workout, but it’s the consistently great workouts, built on top of good nutrition, recovery and rest, that help you push through the boundaries of what you thought possible. You need a clear plan to prepare, keep focused, and lead you to your end goal - race day. A plan breaks the training into chunks and makes attaining the goal more manageable and realistic. What do I need to accomplish today? This week? This month? The plan builds on itself and before you know it, you’re crossing that finish line.
Successful branding requires a clear plan as well. Building smart (brand / creative / activation) strategies take time - and executing them can take even longer. Brand initiatives making the biggest impact when are part of a larger marketing plan. First, you have a clear vision and a mission for your brand, and this helps shape the rest of work. What do you want to achieve (your goal)? Who are your customers (your target)? How are you different and why should your target care about you (key message)? How can you reinforce why you can do it and others can't (your unique support)? Where is your target and how will you reach them (marketing plan)? How will you measure success (results)?
- Successfully completing a triathlon race requires consistent training across all three disciplines (swimming, biking, and running
If you slack in one area or don’t put the time in to train consistently, your overall training and end performance suffers.
Brands are built through consistency in your visual campaign and your branding. This means developing a process to regularly work on your branding. Consistency strengthens your brand’s presence and overall perception. All of your customer touch points must be "in your brand". Any time a customer experiences your product or service they should be experiencing a single, solidified personality and message (in-store, phone, emails, website, social media, direct mail, advertising, etc.). Through consistency, your customers will become comfortable with your brand, creating trust and loyalty.
- Triathletes need to take a cold & hard look to understand their niche
Broaden knowledge about everything connected with your sport is something which give you that competitive edge. With a keen ability to distinguish marketing buzz from product efficacy in triathlon industry, you're definitely at advantage when new gear hits the triathlon market.
Being somehow connected with digital marketing can have the same effect. Every day there's a new tool, or platform, or technology introduced in market making claims such as "boost SEO", "optimize content" and "reach audiences". Clearly lots has changed in the years since, especially in sports marketing. As a Brand Manager, your responsibility is to be in-the-know on what's new, where it makes sense for your clients to explore, and when something is just a shiny distraction. And part of that work isn't getting any easier with coming new years. When it comes to pursuing of something "new, fast & hot", it’s always important to do your research and have a point-of-view on why it is or isn't right for your client, or your triathlon budget, for the time being, because you are in front the next "bandwagon effect" only a day away. (The "bandwagon effect" is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others. As more people come to believe in something, others also "hop on the bandwagon" regardless of the underlying evidence).
- Come to the finish line in any triathlon race is a unique, and an unforgettable experience
Goals aside, crossing the finish line of a triathlon race and winning finish medal is a great and unique experience. Did you learn something about yourself? Did you meet new people or help others? Were you re-energized, motivated, or inspired by the experience? A great experience factors in to whether or not you’ll consider doing it again.
Winning awards for amazing campaign and execution is also great feeling of personal satisfaction. No further explanation needed. Have you created a great experience for your customers? Are they so pleased with their experience that they want to try your brand again or recommend it to a friend? Do they feel a connection to your brand?
A clear vision, a clear plan, consistency, willingness of non-stop learning and creating a great customer experience are five things to keep in mind as you develop your brand plan. Hopefully this is motivation to get you to the start line – with your branding or a triathlon race!