Tag Archives: sports

Modern Marketing: Are You Throwing Javelin or Shooting Hoops?

I might be biased as a Fin, but javelin throw is the most entertaining track & field sports ever. However, what makes good spectator sports is not necessarily good way to do marketing. Many companies are still stuck in the old ways of doing marketing, which painstakingly resemble the Finnish national sport:

Javelin Throw: Traditional Marketing

Seppo Räty, the best Javelin dude in the world

Seppo Räty, the epitome of no-frills javelin thrower

– Fixed amount of trials: In javelin you get six trials to prove that you are worthy. In traditional marketing you do couple of campaigns a year.
– Individual: You only worry about your own performance.
– No room for improvisation: You do what you have practiced and try to duplicate your practice performance. If things start to go sidetrack, it is hard to make changes in competitive situation. Same with big marketing campaigns, when they veer off-the-track you cannot really save them. When javelin is released, you can only hope for it to be a good throw.
– Make it or break it –situation: You either make the throw or not. Your bi-annual campaign is either hit or not. Success of the whole year is judged based on that single try.

Basketball: Modern marketing

In your face

This dunk is one of the many baskets done on the single game.

– No limit on trials, but limited amount of time: Trials depend on your opportunities you get during the game. The best players seize the good opportunities, but occasionally take bad opportunities as well.
– Collaborative: The success is not only based on the individual, but on how well your team is playing and also the level of your opponent.
– Room for improvisation: Practice is important and creates the core of what you do well. Your core skills also contribute to the average probability of succeeding (among other things). That is why it is important to invent as you go along. Success is about talent, hard work & many trials. More you try, the luckier you get.
– End-result matters: Individual throw can go in or not. Only thing that matters by the end of the day is the total amount of shots you got in and have they contributed to your team win. Some shots are more important than others though. One of the most important skills nowadays is the skill to recognize those important shot opportunities and seize them.

If we want to succeed in this changing world, it is not sufficient to improve our technique in the existing game. We have to totally change the sports we are in.

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The Illusion of Hot Hand

I have been playing basketball nearly all my life. I also play in two teams here in Singapore and the quality of the basketball league and how good it has been organized, has been really positive surprise. Not that positive surprise has been my shooting game, which has been uneven to say at least.

I have not had “a hot hand”, like they say.

One of the common beliefs in basketball involves streak shooting: if you have made your last shot you are more likely to make your next shot. Those who have played NBA Jam in nineties, remember that the player was “on fire” after three straight shoots.

This “hot hand” is purely a myth.

Good last shot does not predict your next shot in any way. Actually you might be more likely to miss it. Numerous studies prove this point. Amos Tversky and Thomas Gilovich went through years of NBA team Philadelphia 76ers statistics. The conclusion: Every field goal attempt was its own independent event. Jay Koehler and Caryn Conley got the same result by observing NBA three-point shooting contest.

Ok, now I know the facts. Do I believe in hot hand?

You bet, I do.
(Like actually 91% of serious NBA fans)

“Hot hand” is not based on actual statistics. It is in your mind. When you have the feeling that you are “on fire”, you tend to play better. Because simple truth in basketball is: the more you shoot, the more you tend to score. Average field goal percentage in NBA is little bit below 30%. That means that even the best players in the world miss about two out of every three shots. You need to have the illusion of “hot hand” to keep yourself positive when missing all those shots.

Winning streaks do not limit only to basketball and other sports.

People try to find patterns in random events where they do not exist. I have heard from numerous ad people that when you start losing pitches they always come in three. The reality is that every pitch is its own independent event. If you feel that you are on the roll, the setbacks feel just random mishaps. And if you feel that you have “cold hand”, every loss fulfills your prophecy of losing streak. So to succeed in business, it is important to try to be in state of streak shooter and then go with that emotion. And when you encounter losses you have to remind your rational self about the statistics and just try again.

There is not anything wrong to believe in “hot hand”, just do not fall into superstition when you are not “on fire.”

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