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5 Olympic Lessons for Marketing Project Managers

Posted on Aug 3rd, 2021
Written by TopRank Marketing
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    Olympic and international flags image.

    Shattered world records. Nail-biting competition. Limitless sportsmanship. The Olympic Games are a sight to behold.

    via GIPHY

    While we had to wait a little longer for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, they’re still captivating audiences with competition that pushes the limits of athletes and of humans.

    As a long-time spectator of the games, however, I’ve found that some of the most memorable Olympic moments hold real-life lessons and even happen outside of the competition floor. Already at these Olympic Games, I’ve taken note of several moments that are unforgettable in life and in work. Especially as a marketing project manager, where we often have to coach our team members, I’ve learned several lessons from the first week of competition. To learn what those lessons are and how they can impact your marketing projects, read on.

    Lesson #1 — It’s okay to say, “no.”

    Simone Biles, the GOAT ?, shocked the world when she pulled out of the women’s artistic gymnastics team final. And shocked us again when she pulled out of the women’s individual all around.

    via GIPHY

    But when you learn the reason why, wanting to avoid personal injury due to the “twisties” and to focus on her mental health, it’s easy to see why she withdrew. In fact, it makes complete sense. There are times where saying, “no” is the best, most brave thing you can do.

    In marketing, business, and even in life, it’s really hard to say, “no.” When clients or execs come to you with requests, it’s only natural to want to say yes. We want to please and delight those that we work with. But there are times where saying, “yes” could lead your team to become stretched too thin, stressed, and overworked. “No” can be a powerful term in those situations and can help safeguard your team against unnecessary crunch. I would also advise that “but” can be a very useful word here as well. “Yes, we can service your request, but it means your other deliverables may be delayed.” With a small “but,” you’re able to make room for the new request while still safeguarding your team.

    Lesson #2 – Celebrate the victories, big and small.

    When Australia’s Ariarne Titmus won the gold in the women’s 400 meter freestyle, I don’t think anyone was more excited than her coach, Dean Boxall:

    via GIPHY

    It was an epic celebration that went viral shortly after. It’s hard to watch that and not feel the excitement, the hype.

    Energy like that is infectious. As a marketing project manager, you want that energy among your team. You want morale to be high so team members are engaged in the work and motivated to achieve success. And this Olympic moment is a good reminder to celebrate your project’s success, both big and small. Those wins can do wonders for your team morale and energy.

    Lesson #3 – Persevere.

    This Olympics, Hidilyn Diaz won the first ever gold medal for the Philippines. And it came in women’s weightlifting.

    But what I find so inspiring about Hidilyn’s story is when you look at her history in this sport. In 2008 in Beijing at the age of 17, she finished second to last. In London in 2012, she missed all of her clean and jerk attempts, resulting in a DNF (did not finish). But she shook it off and persevered. In Rio in 2016, she took home the silver medal becoming the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal. And even then she wasn’t satisfied, competing and training for another five years to compete in Tokyo, where she took home the gold and made history yet again. That’s amazing dedication, determination, and perseverance.

    Perseverance is a great quality to have as a marketing project manager, and Hidilyn’s story is a great reminder of that. It’s not uncommon for marketing projects — or any projects or work for that matter — to experience setbacks. But it’s important that when setbacks happen, we forge ahead. We pivot. We adapt. And who knows, if we persevere long enough, we may break records and barriers not unlike Hidilyn.

    Lesson #4 – Experience isn’t everything.

    Watching the women’s skateboarding street finals was a trip! I could not believe the ages of these young athletes. The gold and silver medalists were both just 13 years old and the bronze medalist wasn’t much older at the age of 16.


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    And in watching them perform, I couldn’t help but be reminded that age is just a number. In work environments, it can be easy to judge someone based on their age or level of experience. After all, reviewing one’s experience is how we determine one’s role on the team and the work they can make the greatest impact on. These skateboarders just go to show that excellence can come from anywhere and anyone. All we need to do as project managers is give individuals the tools and resources to get there. Experience isn’t the end-all be-all we sometimes think it is.

    Lesson #5 – Diversity breeds success.

    206 countries. Over 11,000 athletes. 309 medals up for grabs in 33 sports. It’s the most diverse gathering of athletes in terms of sport, race, and nationality. I also think it’s the perfect case study for why diversity drives excellence and innovation.

    Just take a look at the current medal count and imagine if only certain countries could compete. While those countries would go home with more medals, it might be a hollow victory. An athlete that might not have been on the podium or even in the final heat, is suddenly a medal winner. Current Olympic and world records might stand when they would have been shattered otherwise. It’s the wide range of international competition that continues to push athletes to their limits.

    When it comes to forming the teams for your marketing projects, make sure they are diverse ones. The more perspectives you have, the better your project will be in the long run and the more success you’ll find.

    Take Your Team to Olympic Heights

    Project management and people management are one in the same. For our projects to be successful, we have to effectively manage people in the process. Watching the Olympics, it’s clear to me that there are a lot of people management lessons we can learn from Olympians, their coaches, and their actions.

    For your own marketing projects, use the advice above to keep the people on your teams motivated, happy, and successful. In need of more marketing project management advice? Learn about the common barriers to marketing project management and how to overcome them.