Let's start with the fact that I'm not an insatiable football fan (unless, of course, it involves my Kansas City Chiefs). However, the closing minute of Super Bowl XLIX was just crazy. Thinking about this overnight, I thought there were several lessons that might apply to leadership and nonprofit communications and social marketing.
Stay on Task: The excitement at the close of this game started with a pass that almost everyone in the stadium and watching TV thought had been broken up. Except for the receiver laying on the ground holding the ball. He stayed on task until the very end. His job was to catch the ball, and he did that even after juggling it. The last few days of the year are key in individual donor fundraising. The last week of a crowd funding campaign makes all the difference. The final days before an event can build promotional success and even excitement. Whatever the task, stay with it. Keep building momentum and energy until the very end.
Stick with Your Strengths: Know your strengths, and capitalize on them. After that reception, the first play from the five yard line was a run from Marshawn Lynch. Everyone knew that he would be the one with the ball. Still, he moved that ball forward. If you have one or more strengths, build on them. Use them as your foundation.
Use Every Resource Available: Who in the world is Malcom Butler? Bet most of you didn't know until the close of that game. Bet most of you who didn't see the game still don't know. He is an undrafted rookie, who didn't even enter the game until the third quarter. (According to ESPN writer Mike Reiss, Malcom Butler "wasn't even part of the team's original championship game plan".) He had never made an interception -- until the closing seconds of the big game when he intercepted what looked like a perfect throw into the end zone. You never know where your wins are going to come from. Build a plan for success. Yet, be willing to experiment. Be flexible. And if you discover that you have a gap in your game plan, fill it -- perhaps even in the most improbable of ways.
Experience counts: Following the interception, Brady is standing in the Seahawks end zone facing the problem of how to get out of there. His experience kicked in, and he drew the other team offside, with the resulting penalty giving him and his offensive line a sorely needed five yard buffer. Whether experience comes from within your organization (including a knowledge of your stories and history and strengths . . . and weaknesses), or from external resources with expertise you lack internally, meld those resources together and make that experience work for you.
Maintain Control: Whatever you do, keep your cool. At difficult times, in difficult circumstances, losing your cool can cost you the game. Emotions run high, but that is the very time that you need to stay calm. (And for those of you who don't know what I mean, a fight broke out at the end of the game, resulting in another penalty being tacked on, and effectively removing any remaining chance for Seattle to win the game.)
And speaking of control, remember that no matter how hard you try it's not always possible to control media content. In the remaining minute of this game, the announcers continued to talk about “deflate-gate”. Apparently they just couldn’t resist it. And my wife couldn’t resist hollering at the TV set: “Could you just shut up about the footballs and focus on the end of this game!”