When Everyone Gets a Trophy, Nobody Wins

I had an “Aha!” moment on the sidelines of my nine-year-old son’s soccer tournament over the weekend. Alongside fellow parents, we watched with growing exasperation as the situation unfolded on the field. It wasn’t the fact that our team was losing; it was that they weren’t trying – at all. This is no ordinary recreational team. These boys have all tried out and earned a spot on the top team in their age division. We, as parents, have ponied up a large chunk of change and easily four to five days and nights a week of our sons’ – and our own – time for them to play in this competitive league.

We’re there to support, cheer, bandage, soothe, taxi, juggle, carpool, finance and more in the name of the game. In my case, I told our son if he wanted to play in the “big leagues” we will make it happen for him. All we asked from him was to do his best and play with heart – win or lose. But does the laissez-faire attitude toward winning or the final result end up hurting everyone in the end? I think yes – in youth sports, but also in business.

We now live in a society where everyone gets a trophy merely for showing up. Win, lose, pick daisies, walk, run, stare into space – it makes no difference. You still get the brass ring so what’s the point of even trying or giving it your all? This attitude sets our kids (and the future workforce) up for disappointment and potentially disaster – and the same goes for companies. Just being a better athlete/product/company doesn’t give you a license to stop trying or innovating. If you do, you’ll ultimately be left empty-handed in the dust.


How would San Franciscans feel if their beloved Giants decided in 2010 to give just a 50 percent effort during that last game of the regular season? Would Michael Phelps be the winningest Olympian if he rested on his laurels? Imagine if we were all still working on our Mac Classics. Apple is chronicled and revered for its commitment to product innovation and trying to continue to wow and win, with a top-notch customer service model to which businesses large and small aspire.

At Fineman PR, “a game” is the only game – as an agency, as professionals – every day and for every project. Our mantra is to do whatever it takes to bring our clients a fresh approach, think beyond the basics and get ahead of a story or the current trends. As Don Draper from Mad Men puts it, “Don’t settle for 50 percent when you could have it all!”

So forget the walking. RUN! Bring it! Play the game like you mean it and truly earn the reward.

These principles apply both on the field and in the game of business:

Communicate – Fight for and maintain a share of conversation, share of voice (and, ultimately, share of wallet) in the marketplace. Make noise; create a steady drumbeat of news and information about your company, brand and products. Silence is deadly.

Listen – Listen to what your team and consumers are saying – and respond. Engage in the dialogue so they feel heard.

Keep it real – Your customers/consumers want to identify with your brand. Show them what you stand for and give them a reason to care. Is it innovation, quality, consumer advocacy, localness or community involvement? Be genuine and transparent and provide the back-story of your brand values.

Don’t be selfish A shot at a quick moment of glory may damage the overall long-term game/strategy. Think big and how what you are doing can impact the bigger picture. A short-term win may not be worth it and may teach your team nothing.

Play with heart – Consumers want to know that you are giving it your all to win their business and their loyalty. Commit. They will know if you are “all in” and will bring that same commitment – in spades.

Just as I will scream my lungs out supporting my son, your customers/consumers will shout from the highest (social media) mountain top their commitment to your brand. Don’t forget them. Give it your all and everyone wins.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *