By Richard Helling
We are deep into another spectacular professional football season, and I think we all can agree that the games can be summed up with one word, “What!?” Of course, the “we” I am talking about here would be me and other suffering fans of the Denver Broncos. After yet another loss to the Raiders yesterday and my team putting up scores on several occasions that looked more like they were playing in the World Cup of Soccer instead of the NFL, I’m sure you can understand my enthusiasm or lack thereof. Hopefully, your team is doing better. Unless you are a Carolina fan, your team is absolutely doing better than my beloved Broncos. I bring this up for two reasons. First, it allows me to think about sports while I am at work. More importantly, it lets me give a nod and take a lesson from the heavy weight champions of taking a bad situation and turning it into a positive. I’m obviously not talking about the Broncos, I’m talking about the NFL. Let me explain.
By now most everyone in the world has seen the amazing video of the roof of the Minnesota Vikings field collapsing under the weight of the recent blizzard. After watching this footage, it is not surprising that the field will not be ready for use until next season. For a professional team to not have a field for a Monday night game in the national spotlight against an intra-division rival is the very definition of a bad situation. Enter the marketing genius of the NFL.
Since the collapse, the NFL and the University of Minnesota have been working together to stage an outdoor game at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. While most people would not view this as a particularly good solution since the game will now be played outside in Minnesota in December, the marketing department of the NFL went the other way with it. The marketing blitz started almost immediately.
This was a throw back game to when football was played outside. This game was going to be like the old NFL games before heated domes and luxury boxes. You know, just like back in the day when players were tough and when football was played in the elements. Some people will accurately point out that there are still a number of teams that play outside in cold weather markets. Green Bay, New England, Chicago and Denver come to mind even though it is painfully difficult to describe what Denver is doing as playing football. However, that isn’t the point. The point is that the marketing department has made the best of a really tough problem, and the NFL has taken this problem and sold it as one of its great stories of the year.
I mention this as a point of reflection and as a lesson that can be applied in the business world. The great story isn’t that an NFL game was played outside in Minnesota in December. The great story is that the NFL put themselves in the best possible position to take advantage of a bad situation. Unfortunately, not everyone has a slick marketing department that can spin things this gracefully, but we all can take a lesson from the NFL. Problems arise, accidents happen and things that couldn’t possibly even be imagined will sometimes occur. The difference between being good and being a real pro is determined by the way you deal with adversity. Now, if I could just get my Broncos to learn this lesson.