Great brands, like great basketball teams, are built on cooperation and a commitment to mutual success. And both can be shattered by the actions of just one player. In basketball, five individuals work as one unit to drive a 9-inch ball down a 94-foot court and place it through an 18-inch hoop ten feet in the air. Each player has a chance to excel – to be the best at his game – but in the end, what sets winning teams apart is their ability to work together, carefully executing plays that orchestrate fluid exchanges between players to create an opening for one player to make the shot.
Sure, on a fast-break, one superstar can go solo, board-to-board. But can he win the game playing one-on-five? Of course not. The self-absorbed player often does more to tear the team apart than to win the game, and in the end, even his own career suffers.
Hey, don’t take my word for it. In the book I Can’t Accept Not Trying, Michael Jordan tells us, “there are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team.” Or more simply, “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
Turns out, Michael’s words of wisdom apply equally well to brand. Brand is built by everyone in the organization. Each individual must work with the rest of the team to ensure that their individual behaviors and their interactions provide a consistent and brand-positive message for customers. The employee who puts his personal goals before those of the organization – even if that individual is the CEO – places the organization’s brand in peril.
So, as we watch the battle for the NBA Championship unfold, let’s see if we can pick out which teams rely on one player’s skills and which have developed a strong sense of team, and let’s see if Michael Jordan’s comments apply as well to basketball as they do to organizational branding.