[Ed.: “I Have An Idea…” is a series written for College AD by the author of Brands Win Championships, Jeremy Darlow.]
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” – Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO
Do you want to know how to raise a great marketer? Give them license to fail.
I’ve yet to work with a company who didn’t pass on an opportunity for fear of something going wrong. I’ve yet to meet a person free of insecurity or anxiety. And I’ve yet to visit an athletic department completely void of apprehension. But what if we weren’t afraid? As it relates to life, that’s certainly a bigger question than can be answered or even tackled by this article. That, as they say, is well above my pay grade. However, I do want to ask the question as it relates to athletic administration and college sports. What if your university or even program wasn’t afraid? What would be different? How would you look? Act? Talk?
Over my career and life, I’ve had certain wisdoms from people I admire (and even some I don’t) permanently burned into my mind. One of those messages that I’ll always carry with me happens to also be the title of this article. “Don’t live scared.” But we do. We all do. We’re scared of the unknown. Of trying new things. Of taking risks. Unfortunately, those also happen to be surefire tendencies that can leave a brand manager without a job.
Marketing isn’t math. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s only black, gray, light gray, lighter gray, off-white, white. Marketing is nothing but shades. Sometimes things work to perfection, but more often than not, they don’t. It’s the expectation of perfection that equates to a marketer’s Kryptonite. Perfection breeds bland, safe, lifeless execution and activation. Perfection breeds the fear, insecurity, anxiety and apprehension we’re surrounded by every day. Perfection breeds failed brands.
Too many brands get to a certain scale that becomes poisonous to the creative blood that ran through their veins and got them to that point in the first place. And while that brand tries to rid itself of this self-inflicted toxin, the brands with less to lose and nothing to fear are catching them. This scene plays out every day and in every aspect of our lives. Work. Relationships. Sports. College sports. Your athletic department is living out this scene right now.
The only question is, which side are you on?
Jeremy Darlow is a brand marketing professional who, during his time at adidas, has worked with schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, and UCLA, and athletes like Jimmy Graham, Dwight Howard, and Lionel Messi. He works to help NCAA athletic programs and athletes build and elevate their brands to elite levels.