How digital campaigns are like a football team

By Tim Fagel

September 5 can’t come soon enough. This marks the first official college football Saturday. Recently, I read an email from AdAge that ESPN launched their spot highlighting the college football playoffs.

Tim Fagel is a digital strategist at Northlich.

Tim Fagel is a digital strategist at Northlich.

The spot got me excited for a new season of advertisements tailored directly to football fans. I can’t help but analyze the majority of TV advertisements and think about how I would fit the creative into a digital placement/campaign.

Something startling happened after I watched the video. I realized that college football and my work in digital have similarities. I’d go so far as to say digital campaigns are like a football team.

Let me explain.

My high school football coach told our team, “There are three phases in the game and every phase is as important as every other phase.” Any successful football team has a solid offense, an effective special team and a strong defense. If one of those doesn’t perform well, the chance of winning the game is slim.

During any successful digital campaign, there will be solid creative, an effective placement and a strong landing page. If one of those doesn’t perform well, the chance of a consumer completing an action is slim.

Let’s break down the three phases.

Offense: Creative

Creative is the driving force that attracts consumers’ eyes and ears. In sports, the offense delivers the excitement and entertainment by scoring points. The captain of the team tends to be the quarterback, and the quarterback plays on offense. In digital campaigns, creative tends to be the quarterback that scores the points and brings the excitement to the consumer. It drives consumers to take the brand into consideration and makes them aware of what the company is trying to sell. 

Special Teams: Placements

Typically, you don’t see or hear about the special teams unless they have done something really special or terribly wrong. From banners to videos to search ads, there really isn’t anything “special” about these placements, as there is an abundance of inventory available to all advertisers; yet this phase is important. Like a punt/kick return (special teams) in football, this phase tries to place the offense (creative) in the best possible position. Special teams are the middle phase between offense and defense that link the campaign together. With an effective special team, the offense can perform and score that much better.

Defense: Landing Page

Throughout sports, you always hear “Defense wins championships.”  I couldn’t agree more. It’s simple: If you don’t allow the other team to score points, your chance of winning is greatly increased. If the defense keeps the opponent’s offense on their side of the field, the opponents have no chance of scoring. Your landing page should be like the defense and keep consumers on your site as long as possible, or until they complete the action. It should also enhance users' experiences so they’ll be more likely to come back to the site, regardless of whether they complete an action. Many consumers will come to the site and many will not complete an action the first time around.

Much like landing pages, defenses are on the field for many plays. They might not cause a turnover or score every play, but when they do, there is celebration. Those celebrations are your conversions on your site. Some days there are many turnovers and other days there are no turnovers. When you have multiple days of no turnovers, you’ll need to take a look at your defense and optimize towards the best 11 defensive players to increase those turnovers again.

It is important that all phases of your campaign are aligned and working well together. Like a football team, if one of the phases isn’t optimized, the campaign won’t be able to perform to its potential. If the special team misses a field goal, don’t be so quick to cut the kicker. The next time the offense stalls, don’t be so quick to jump on the quarterback when it could be the defense that was giving up all those points. At the end of the day, each phase (creative, placement, and landing page) should cheer each other on so that by the time the game is over, there will be a victory and a celebration afterward.

And don’t forget to review the film the next morning to see how you can improve for next week’s game.