By Ben Zimmerman, president at SmartMedia Technologies.
In the wide world of sports, few events rival the lore and (dare I say) drama of the Major League Baseball playoffs. And nothing gets me more pumped than the World Series. Legends are born during the Fall Classic, as the diamond becomes a stage for players to etch their names into the annals of history. The crack of the bat, the pop of the catcher’s mitt—I could wax poetic for days. But at the end of the day, I’d argue baseball is a lot like the marketing agency world.
Both demand a relentless commitment to the grind, a passion for the craft and an unwavering ability to switch gears quickly. In baseball, players must endure the rigors of a six-month season but also react to a 100 mph fastball. It’s a balance of enduring patience and flash judgment calls. Agency professionals must strike a similar balance. Whether meeting a same-day deadline or nurturing a long-term client relationship, staying focused and committed is crucial.
Using this logic, America’s pastime becomes a stand-in metaphor for the undulations of running a marketing or advertising agency. Upon closer examination, the parallels between baseball playoffs and agency life are more striking than one might think.
You need passion for the hustle.
In both baseball and agency life, passion is the driving force behind success. Players in the MLB playoffs are fueled by a love for the game. I’d go as far as to call it an art for their craft. But they’re also driven by an insatiable desire to win and a belief in their abilities. These are the big leagues we’re talking about. Agency professionals must also be passionate about what they do. Passion breeds innovation, dedication and a willingness to go the extra mile. A genuine enthusiasm for work can help sustain agency professionals through demanding moments.
Agency professionals must take risks, explore new ideas and push their creativity to secure and retain clients. This means staying up to date with trends and developments in the marketing industry. It means thinking outside the box and using creative marketing techniques and tactics to drive unique, memorable campaigns. It also means following through and tracking the impact of your efforts. Measuring metrics and milestones can help you celebrate wins and identify areas for improvement.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
A baseball team must operate as one strong unit to achieve success on the diamond. Each player on the team plays a unique role and brings an irreplaceable skill set, and their collective efforts are essential to secure victories. Like a well-oiled machine, a team’s lineup is designed to fully optimize each player’s strengths. Star pitchers rarely hit home runs, for example. (There’s a reason for the designated hitter.) A team is also driven by camaraderie. This trust is driven by a belief in winning, but it’s also rooted in a conviction in the talents of each individual component.
The same is true for building and maintaining company culture. First, it’s important to define core values and mission. This can often mean building an agency that’s rooted in collaboration, celebrates achievements, prioritizes diversity and inclusion, and provides opportunities for growth.
Creating company culture means more than typing out a manifesto, however. Leading by example and regularly assessing and adjusting culture to align with goals and values helps create an environment that promotes creativity, teamwork and employee satisfaction.
Much like building a strong internal team is necessary for morale, cultivating a client base is essential for company health. Passionate agency teams should be laser-focused on delivering measurable results for their clients. This can be done by setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals. Instead of a vague goal like “increase sales,” specify how you’ll “increase programmatic advertising sales by 15% in the next three months.” Implementing a robust tracking and reporting system to regularly monitor progress is equally important to help ensure that goals are met.
Short-term precision and long-term vision are key.
While baseball is often regarded as a slow-paced season that unfolds over 162 games, the sport is accented by dynamic bursts of excitement. Much like stealing a base, this quickness on the field reflects a player’s ability to make split-second decisions. Quick-footed players exemplify an ability to respond to rapid change, showing the importance of adaptability.
Being able to pivot swiftly and decisively is also a hallmark of agency life. Adapting to changing circumstances and seizing opportunities when they arise is essential. One moment, you might be strategizing for a long-term campaign, and the next, you’re responding to a reputation management crisis that demands immediate attention. Just as a baseball team must switch from offense to defense in the span of an inning, agencies must be prepared to shift gears to address client needs and market dynamics. Regularly analyzing your competitors’ strategies can help you stay competitive and identify gaps in the market.
The similarities between baseball and agency life run more than skin-deep. Success in either arena is not solely about talent or strategy—but also about dedication, resilience and a commitment to the grind. So whether you’re sitting in the dugout or a board room, remember that the lessons learned from America’s pastime apply beyond the diamond.