At BMP we had a planner called Steve Harrison.
Steve had played football to quite a high amateur level.
He was a goalkeeper.
I was talking to Steve about West Ham’s goalkeeper, Mervyn Day.
He was a big favourite with the crowd because he constantly made spectacular saves.
Steve said that wasn’t the sign of a good goalkeeper.
Steve said the fact that you had to constantly make spectacular saves, to fling yourself acrobatically across the goal, meant you were out of position.
Steve said the great goalies were the ones where the ball just seemed to come to them.
Goalkeepers like Gordon Banks.
Of course they’d occasionally have to make spectacular saves.
But most of time they made it look effortless.
They’d be constantly reading the game, covering the angles, and they’d be in the spot the ball was most likely to end up.
It didn’t look like a great save because they’d done all the work beforehand.
So they didn’t have to fling themselves across the goal.
It reminded me of an interview Jonathan Pearce, the football commentator, had with Bobby Moore.
Bobby Moore was captain of the only English team ever to win the World Cup.
Jonathan Pearce said he’d played a lot of football himself before becoming a commentator.
Bobby Moore asked him if he’d ever fancied turning professional.
Pearce said “There was no point: I couldn’t head the ball, I couldn’t run much, in fact I never crossed the halfway line.”
Bobby Moore said “Leave off, you’re talking about my career.”
Jonathan Pearce said that stopped him dead.
He thought, he’s right.
One of the greatest players in the world and he didn’t run around doing spectacular things.
But wherever he was, the ball just seemed to come to him.
Because Bobby Moore was known as perhaps the greatest reader of the game, ever.
Watching the attack develop, watching the players running off the ball, not just the player with the ball.
Seeing which of the opposition was most likely to receive the ball.
Getting into position before they did.
So the ball just seemed to come to him.
In marketing terms, he was running a constant SWOT analysis on the game for the full ninety minutes.
SWOT is a marketing tool that’s fallen out of fashion.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
More fashionable formulas have taken over.
But it seems to me most of these fashionable formulas are just flashy gimmicks, crowd pleasers.
Because a lot of marketing is out of position.
We’re not constantly reading and anticipating the game as it develops.
So we’re surprised by what crops up.
And we have to do something spectacular to try to save the situation.
But that’s not the way the great practitioners in any sport or business behave.
Worrying about the latest flashy gimmicks instead of concentrating on the fundamentals.
We should be reading the game, analysing what’s developing, and we should be in position.
Like all the greats, we should constantly be doing a SWOT analysis.
Then there wouldn’t be any surprises.
Then we wouldn’t be out of position.
Then we wouldn’t need to make any spectacular saves.