The recent Super Bowl provided some insight into the thinking that goes into a successful effort to put on an event that will be watched by an estimated 108 million people. These same tips can be applied to things we do in our every days lives too.

You might be wondering … Why did I write this a week after the Super Bowl? Don’t we already know what happened? Of course, the answer is yes, we do know what happened. However, like most Super Bowl’s there is a lot of after game analysis. In this case and because we live in the Age of Social Media we have a specific scenario to think about. One that relates to the use of Social Media to respond to something that happened during the game and one that will likely change the way advertisers and perhaps fans see the game in the future.

This is really a post that aligns with the old saying about The Five P’s of Success
where Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

If you missed the Super Bowl … that’s Ok. It’s basically a very, very long commercial with 20-30 minutes of action. This Super Bowl also had an extra 30 minutes of inaction when the power went out in half of the stadium. This is not to denigrate the sport of football. However, no one should ever get confused that professional football is a business. It’s a $10 Billion dollar per year business all by itself. And there are billions more tied to the television rights, sponsorships and too many other ancillary things to even think about.

The Super Bowl Contingent – Teams, Community and Fans

The Teams:
The coaches for the two teams vying against each other have a singular goal … win the game. However, they have a lot of factors to consider with people, positions and personalities.

Just like in life.

The Community: The event organizers and the host city have a lot of things to consider including transportation, security, as well as the care & feeding of the thousands of fans flocking to the city. They also need to consider the people that LIVE in the city and the effect and impact the Big Game will have on them.

This is Life … on a concentrated scale.

In our everyday dealings and efforts to get things done we also need to consider a lot of conflicting factors and confounding efforts that relate to the same things the coaches and the community have to plan and prepare for … notably people, positions and personalities at work and socially as well as the transportation (and perhaps care & feeding) of them when getting to and from work.

What’s the Risk of Not Planning

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” ~Benjamin Franklin

What can we learn from the Super Bowl?

In case you didn’t know … Super Bowl XLVII was held in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 3rd 2013. It pitted the San Francisco 49’ers against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens won 34-31 after seemingly running away with the game in the first half. Then two very unexpected things happened.

What can we take away from a Planning and Preparation effort?

Below are five points the Super Bowl taught us about getting ready for the Big Game and a few things that could have been done differently. I submit these points can be applied to our every day lives too.

#1 – Plan ahead

This is pretty obvious. Know your opponent. In football this is somewhat easier because so much game film exists, many of the coaches and players know each other quite well too. They may have gone to college with them, played with them and may have coached with them too. They think they have a pretty good feel for the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of their opponent. However, people change. Situations Change. You need to be prepared to adapt to these changes.

No SWOT analysis is enough though. Football, just like any other business, can call an audible. You need to be ready to react.

#2 – Do the Unexpected

San Francisco’s kickoff team did NOT expect someone to take a ball that was kicked to the back of the end zone out into the field. As a result they might have relaxed a little … Then realized … too late … that they were caught off-guard by the Unexpected Thing #1 that happened next. He weaved his way through the defenders and ran it all the way back to the other end of the field to score a touchdown (and a new Super Bowl kickoff return record).

He did the unexpected and it paid off … BIG!

Side Note on Predictions:
Nate Silver predicted a Ravens victory if special teams was “on” their game. They were!

#3 – Expect the Unexpected

Just as you need to Do the Unexpected … you also need to Expect the Unexpected. If you can come up with crazy outlier ideas … you have to assume the other guys can too.

A few things that might have crossed the minds of the coaches at the event organizers before the game and a few things that probably didn’t are listed below.

  • Zombie Apocalypse? Probably not.
  • Sprinklers going on? Indoors? Probably not.
  • Communications between the coaches up in the skybox and the coaches on the field? This has a medium to high level of probability for occurring. They have a back up plan.
  • The lights going off and delaying the game? Probably not.
  • This is Unexpected Thing #2

Case in Point

The Night the Lights went out in NOLA

Did either of the teams expect the lights to go out? Did the NFL? Did stadium management? How about the TV crews?

It was pretty clear the teams and NFL didn’t expect it.

It was painfully clear the TV announcers didn’t as they were comically befuddled looking for things to say. I’m sure there will be a few blooper reels made from the comedy gems spouted by the TV personalities.

The stadium management knew what to do to get the lights back, but who is to say if they could have predicted the surge followed by such a significant blackout.

#4 – Get your War Room ready

Do this Before You Need It.

Think about contingencies. Consider What-if scenarios. Evaluate and plan for If-Then-Else conditions.

Put some thought to Doing the Unexpected and Expecting the Unexpected. Just like Oreo did with their “You can still dunk in the dark” advertisement and tweet.

Caveats and Things to Consider – Did the Unexpected Work?

  • Have you bought any Oreo’s since the Super Bowl?
  • How about any Doritos?
  • Or any sports memorabilia from your team?
  • I’m curious if the great buzz created a comparable uptick in sales activity Oreo and others that took advantage of the blackout.
  • This will be the real key for future advertiser interest.

#5 – Maintain your focus

When the unexpected happens … and it will. Kick Plan B into gear. If needed kick Plan C, D and E into gear. Your planning will enable you to keep your focus on what’s important.

Have a contingency plan. Go through scenarios that came up in the War Room and see how they can be applied.

For example, when the lights went off in the stadium:

  • Did either of the teams on the field have a plan?
  • Did the NFL?
  • Did the event organizers?
  • Did the marketeers?
  • I think a few did … Think Oreo.

Fourth Down is Your Secret Weapon

In football fourth down usually means one of the “Special Teams”  units come onto the field.  Where they might punt, attempt to kick a field goal, or they could fake it (Think Do The Unexpected). Similarly the other team puts their special teams unit out there too where they ostensibly want to block a punt or kick or as usually happens they need put the effort together to return a punt off a kickoff.  However, they also have the chance to Do the Unexpected … they can lateral the ball to another player, they can run a hook and ladder play or they can just have a fast runner that tries to thread the needle to run the ball all the way back. The point is … there is a lot of room for calling an audible and adding creativity to the game.

This is a chance for the offense to try and outwit the defense.

The Super Bowl is a metaphor for life. These five points aren’t exactly secrets. In fact, I hope these are some of the things you are already doing today. If you are doing some of them great. If you are doing all of them and even have a few more creative tricks up your sleeve then … Good on ya!

My goal with this post was to highlight a few ideas for approaching problems and challenges in a direct and pre-planned manner. While it’s not likely you’ll envision every possible scenario it’s worth the time and energy to think ahead to get ahead.

I think these skills can be used by people searching for their first or next job. I also think these tips can be used to hone and show your leadership and creativity and to encourage those you work with to think about these points when they are putting together the next big pitch for the boss or for a customer.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.