Labron James and Kyrie Irving picked up the trophy but these are the people who helped win the championship and here is how they did it.
All winners display the same traits, the Cavs are no different. They didn’t invent the playbook, they just perfected it. Heres my take on how they did it ….
It was 2007 and most people in pro sports had never sent an SMS message let alone heard of an app. Except Lee Douglas. Lee is a sports marketing genius who relentlessly pushes the boundaries about what can be done to market a team. We had started FanDriveMedia and were looking for clients. Lee said “call the Cavs…they are the best marketing organization in the NBA….get them on board and the others will follow”. He was right, as usual. We went to Cleveland, they liked our pitch and they bought our product and never once asked “who else is doing this?” Their only comment was “We wanna be first”.
(2) Winners ask for what they want.
Most teams are filled with people who love to take meetings, listen to sales pitches and schedule more meetings. Not the Cavs and not their CMO Tracy Marek. Tracy comes into a meeting knowing what she wants and doesn’t need to be sold. She tells you in a polite way and then depends on you to find a way to give it to her. If you don’t, you’re out. If you do, you’re in. I should know, we have had been cashiered once and hired three times by the Cavs.
(3) Winners understand their sphere of influence.
Technology is tricky field to master. It changes at the speed of Twitter and what is cutting edge one day is like AOL real time chat the next. That’s why winners focus on what’s NOT going to change. It’s easier to figure that out and translate that downstream. Sports organizations need leaders that are consistent and steady. They also need revenue from sponsorships, ticket sales and partnerships to survive and keep the lights on. As the COO Kerry Bubolz is the steady hand that keeps the organization focused through the good and the bad.
(4) Winners leverage the strengths of others.
Modern sports teams provide mountains of data. It’s the blood that keeps the teams alive. From ticket sales to Facebook likes to who buys beer at a Monday night game against the 76’s, nobody knows sports data like Damion Chatmon. When the Cavs were “holding up” the entire Eastern conference and attendance was in the can Damion was asked….”what the data says about how to sell more tickets” and his reply was just like Lt Commander Data on Star Trek….”Have the team win more games”. Simple but so true.
(5) Winners self-promote.
We’ve worked with many people in the Cavs organization over the years which mean we’ve seen a lot come and go. Being in business means putting your clients before yourself but sometimes that can be hazardous to your own business’s health. One of our first contacts was an unnamed game producer who always put himself 1st and took credit for everything regardless of who actually did the work. He was so good at promoting himself, that during the losing years, he jumped ship for the promise of a great career in roller derby or wrestling or something like that. So while he was successful in promoting himself he actually opened the door for others more talented, giving them the chance to become winners. So here’s to you and your famous line….. “I’m fighting to keep you guys, but you’re makin me look like an idiot dude.” Didn’t see YOU on the floor last night.
(6) Winners shake off the losses.
The three years after Labron made his “big decision” were tough for the Cavs. In those years The Cavs had 1 win for every 3 losses; a winning percentage that even the Cleveland Browns bettered. Losing that often can make it hard to sleep at night. Especially when you are Len Komarski, the person in charge. Try spending 3 years being one of the worst teams in the NBA …it’s a tough pill to swallow. But nobody did it with more class and style than Len Komoroski. Always keeping a positive attitude knowing that tough times don’t last he used it as a time to learn how to make the organization better, which prepped it for the good times to come. Anyone who knows Len will tell you that he will still be the same guy today as he was when the season ended in 2011.
(7) Winners pursue the awesome experience.
In pro sports its common to say you are all about the “fan experience”. It’s a cliché, a buzz term, that everyone from the owner to the kid interviewing for a job use as a means to make a statement when they really have nothing else to say. But nobody and truly NOBODY in pro sports care about their fans more than Dan Gilbert. Not Mark Cuban, not Micky Arison, not Ted Leonsis or Tom Gore. Cleveland is not LA, Miami or even Dallas. It’s old and gritty and gray and oftentimes very cold…and Dan Gilbert isn’t even from Cleveland. He’s from Detroit; but the number of 1st with this guy could fill up this page. The one which sticks out the most is how he was the first owner to open the arena when the team was playing away in big games. And he made it free to the fans. That’s right, he didn’t use it as a way to make more money. He did it as a way to pay back the fans because he understands that success in sports isn’t always about winning, but it is about always making your fan feel like they are part of a winning organization. People gravitate to winners and today Dan Gilbert and the Cavs organization and anyone who has ever called themselves a Cavs fan is a real winner.