Does Sport Breed Entrepreneurs?


The game of football has taught me to be a leader, a teammate, a critical thinker, a problem solver and most of all to be accountable for my actions. It has also given me the confidence to know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I played the game of football competitively for sixteen years (Starting at age nine and retiring from the NFL at age 24). In all those years of playing this game, I have adopted a few themes as part of my life’s DNA which I believe define me as a man as well as an entrepreneur and member of society. Characteristics such as integrity, character, commitment, work ethic, leadership, and being a community ambassador have become the essence of what the game of football has taught me to replicate as I create my legacy.

I learned a long time ago, on a football field, that your team was the most important ingredient in the formula for success. Without others, one’s individual success is impossible; and so people should be every organization’s number one resource. On the football field, it’s imperative to have a talented quarterback, because that is generally the most important position on every team. However, without the entire team working for the same goal and respecting the quarterback, the likelihood of failure is high. The same holds true in business. Constructing a solid team is vital to an organization’s success. It’s essential to find a solid leader, someone the rest of the team will respect and follow to that end. The supporting team may be a variety of personalities and plethora of different skills and individual characteristics, but ultimately, a team needs a captain to lead that team to success.

Vince Lombardi, a legendary NFL coach said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” When building a business, it’s foolish to think one can do it alone. Employing the right people is essential to your team’s success. Also, the reward is much greater when a goal is accomplished as a group rather than alone. Having someone beside you to celebrate with is certainly more enjoyable than solitude. Togetherness is crucial when accomplishing, as well as celebrating. A football team requires eleven players on every play to be together to have success. If one player does not do their job, the play usually fails. Too many failures ultimately equal defeat. It’s really that simple at the end of the fourth quarter. A coach can evaluate a game by simply pointing out the times a team did not work together as one unit and find reason for a loss. The same holds true for success. A coach can evaluate a team’s win by pointing out the consistency of togetherness and number of times a team carried out what they had planned to do throughout its preparation period. Business is much like winning a football game. You prepare for a test by doing research, scouting the competition, preparing a strategy, implementing that strategy and measuring your success so that you can replicate it and understand through statistics where your team is inefficient, and where to focus your strengths and resources to capitalize on future opportunities.

It’s in this preparation time that I believe the sport of football teaches and prepares those that play the sport to be leaders and future successful entrepreneurs. The first reason is due to the amount of time required to be successful. Work ethic is of optimal necessity for an athlete wishing to play in the NFL. The competition is ruthless and the process to make a NFL team is at times, dare I say barbaric. The process is so incredibly demanding that many fail due to the lack of mental toughness. This defining element however, prepares players for future success by engraining a sense of work ethic that is incomparable to most industries. Training camp in the NFL is six weeks of fifteen-hour-days; and completion of that is just to earn consideration for a final position with their organization. Making it to the end of camp doesn’t mean you made the team, it means you made it through another round of interviews.

The executive staff and coaches will make the final decision for your future employment with their organization. Often times your salary requirements will not be in line with what the organization is proposing, or your experience may not be exactly what they are looking for. It may have absolutely nothing to do with your ability or potential; the timing may just not be right.

Football has prepared me for life in business though a multitude of successes as well as defeats. As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to risk failure to attain your dreams and accomplish your goals. That’s what makes the reward so great!
I was told countless times upon college graduation I was wasting my time working out and preparing to play another football game. – And, after signing a contract but being cut before even having the opportunity to go to training camp my first year in the NFL, I thought maybe they were right… For about day.

I flew back to my hometown, woke up the next morning, and went to my high school practice field and ran gassers and sprints until all my frustrations of being fired were expelled… and that day I started to prepare for my next opportunity.

The game of football teaches resiliency and fortitude in a way no other sport can teach. The game of football takes so incredibly much physical strength and ability, but it also takes a unique mental composition to be the best of the best. Due to some very special people and an internal desire to succeed, I was more than ready for my next NFL opportunity, which came six months later in the form of a workout with the New York Giants… And later in the form of standing on the 50 yard line in Foxboro, Massachusetts while the National Anthem played over the loud speakers. A nationally televised game on ESPN and F-16 fighter jets buzzed the stadium as goose bumps and a tear formed on my skin; I overcame the odds of playing professional football and proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.

3 Tips to Solidify your Pro Athlete Endorsement

Finding the right athlete who stands above all the rest to endorse your product or brand can be a circuitous challenge if you do not have a proper strategy for aligning the right personality with the role. It’s important to have a clear outcome and goals defined first, before aligning an athlete with your brand. By creating a plan for your promotion strategy based on specific goals, a brand manager can use the Invizzible Ink Selection Model for choosing an athlete and be confident their project will produce a favorable return on investment. Setting goals may seem like an obvious statement, however marketers are sometimes captivated by the opportunity to work with an A-lister, that they miss their target audience. When this occurs, not only does the project result in an unfavorable outcome from an investment standpoint, but your brand suffers a set-back in a volatile economy. It makes far greater sense to understand your entire project and choose representation based on a desired outcome, not a desired athlete.

The Invizzible Ink Selection Model is a personalized and multifaceted marketing tool used by brands to ensure their goals are met. The foundation of the selection model was built on a number of essential marketing elements that have proven to increase brand awareness, resonance, and revenue. The formula itself is complex in its entirety, however many of the weights assigned to each variable are simply common sense understandings of the sports world and market. While experience has proven to be a leading variable for our brand, it’s not the only element with which we have to base our decisions. What we can share today are tips to consider when choosing the right athlete to be the ambassador of your brand. Remember: No strategy is aligned for success without a plan and specified goals…

1. Background Check… Not with the DMV either. Depending on your project, your brand may have a need for a grassroots ambassador, or a major Public Relations identity. In either case, its vital to the success of the campaign to have the right person in place. One way to ensure your brand has the right person in place is to do your homework. Researching candidate’s backgrounds, i.e. – college course of study, family, interests outside of sports are just a few criteria I research before recommending an athlete. For example, if your firm is looking for a sports figure to be the spokesperson for a national PR campaign, you probably don’t want someone uncomfortable in a public speaking role. Going to a search engine and doing some light stalking will produce a plethora of information valuable to gaining insight to a sports figure. An athlete with a communications degree, a broadcast journalism degree, or a similar course of study will position your brand with an interested and qualified athlete. When this happens, the believability of the athlete’s message is increased and brand resonance is attained. By putting the right people in the right places, as Jim Collins expalins in his book, Good to Great, a win-win scenerio is accomplished for both athlete and brand.

2. Does your Brand align with a foundation or charity? Many athletes today have their own foundation, 501 c3, or preferred charity and will align their interests or even passions with brands that support the same programs. Particularly to those brands or organizations looking to hire sports figures in your smaller markets, this bit of information may be a gold mine. If your organization can align itself with this type of athlete while being savvy and strategic, you may find yourself a partner as opposed to paying for a speaker.

3. Who are you getting? — A good teammate? Good in the locker room? Have they worked with other brands? — Brand managers in the sports industry need to know the answers to these questions before signing a deal. I’ve seen far too many examples of athletes showing up late or not showing up at all for an appearance on behalf of an organization or brand, that it literally ruined the event. Disappointed students at a school, fans holding jerseys to be signed at the mall, teams waiting in the locker room before taking the field… Seen it all and felt for all of them. At the end of the day, if your organization is going to align with an athletic figure… Remember, there is a person behind that figure. All-Pro linebackers do not equate to all-pro people. The kids at your local middle school would much rather meet a pro football player and hear his story of what it’s like to be a back-up and play special teams in the NFL, rather than be big-timed by the star and promised a reschedule.

Life Lessons mixed in Cognitive Psychology

I remember my first real teaching experience; Second grade at Brookside Elementary. I woke up that morning and had a purpose, a certain motivation to somehow make a difference. The darkness of the morning commute allowed for some anxiety as I sipped my coffee. The questions were floating around in my head as I paid close attention to road signs, cautiously driving to Brookside. Work at an elementary school – It always sounded like something I would enjoy and be good at but as for a career, how would I know until I tried it, right? My football career was up in the air after all the injuries and so I decided to try something different for a while; at least until I was healthy enough to go to another try-out.

After stumbling through my first day and finally walking all the students outside to their busses, one of the little girls returned to the hallway hysterical, crying and shaking. I remember being alarmed and thinking, what is the matter with this poor girl! Confused and not real sure what the acceptable gesture was for the situation, I kneeled down, embraced her in my arms a little and tried to talk to her. She had blurted out between wails that she lost her jacket. The school secretary heard the commotion and soon came and assisted me with this dilemma; which I greatly appreciated because it was helpful to have a motherly figure around at this point. I decided that I would go in search of the jacket and bring it to the bus. The girl calmed down a bit and was off to bus twenty-seven, and I off to find the blue jean jacket.
I only took a few steps though until I realized this poor girl was absolutely terrified to go home without her jacket; or any bad news for that matter. She was scared for her safety. Luckily, I found her jacket on a chair in the hall. I picked up my pace back to the bus to give her the jacket but she had turned back in search of the jacket as well and met me in the hall. When I neared the doors of the building she made eye contact with me and as I kneeled down to give her the jacket she hugged me very tightly, as though I had just saved her of something terrible. It was a hug fueled by terror; not the hug that you imagine from a sweet little second grader. She didn’t say a word, just hugged me and took off for bus twenty-seven.

Why do I still remember the tightness of her hug; the smell of her hair; the shaking of her shoulders, the color of her coat and the number of the bus she rode off in?

The answers to these questions much like the answers to questions floating around your marketing department brainstorming sessions are in an understanding of Sir Frederic Bartlett’s work in Cognitive Psychology. The simple answer, because my schema of hugging a sweet innocent girl was interrupted. I have a six year old niece who is an absolute sweetheart. I look forward to visiting her and anticipate her smile and hug when I pull in the driveway and see her peeking from the kitchen window. When we become accustomed to a certain reality and fundamentally believe something to be a certain way or we are used to having something a certain way, it is human nature that over time we will expect it. When that normalcy is interrupted we have an emotional reaction to it, which causes us to talk about it – or write about it in a blog using a translucent blue-shade of Invizzible Ink.

Much of marketing is about experiences and connecting those experiences with real life consumers. Consumers are human beings, breathing and warm and influenced by a variety of dynamics that they can touch and smell and see for themselves. Consumers want to experience your brand for themselves; they aren’t interested in what a stranger on television tells them about a product anymore. Consumers want to feel the terrified hug and smell the little girl’s hair. As advanced as media has become, they still haven’t brought me a product I can smell, taste, touch, or feel… Invizzable Ink –