It’s All About The Organization

It’s easy to feel compassion for the plight of the small market team. Fewer potential  ticket buyers, fewer potential sponsors, smaller TV audience, departing superstars. How does a small market compete against their big city rivals?

Last year’s NBA and NFL lockouts focused on the issue. New revenue sharing arrangements were supposed to help small markets play on more equal footing, allowing them to spend equivalent money on player salaries in spite of lower revenues. In the NBA, the new arrangement did nothing to prevent superstar players from bolting out of small markets as soon as they could. Seemed like nothing, not even CBA rules directly addressing the issue, could prevent big market teams from having a huge advantage.

But if you ignore the sensationalist stories about CP3, Melo, Lebron and Amare all bolting for the bright lights of the big city, you find something completely surprising. Look at the standings in the NBA today. On Feb 2, 2012, the teams playing above .500 include: Oklahoma, San Antonio, Houston, Denver, Portland, Utah, Memphis and Indiana. In the meantime, the star studded New York Knicks are 8-13. The NFL is no different. This year, two big city teams (NY and NE) square off in the Super Bowl. But last year, it was PIT and GB. In Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals are the current World Series Champs. Market size seems much less relevant that we might think.

Far more interesting to me is the fact that organizations that win tend to do so perennially. The Spurs (NBA), Cardinals (MLB) and Steelers (NFL) are always good. The Denver Nuggets appeared to be doomed when Melo left. But today they are just 3 games out of first place in their division. When this year’s NFL playoffs began, 8 of the 10 teams that qualified had previously won at least 1 Super Bowl. By conference championship weekend, each of the remaining 4 teams had previously won the big one at least once, with three of the 4 having won multiple Lombardi’s.

Yes, superstars win championships. Few teams that win it all do so without at least one legitimate superstar. But superstars come and go. Montana, Bradshaw, Favre, Staubach, Magic and Bird all retired, yet their organizations went on to win championships without them.

It’s not about market size. It’s not about superstars. It’s about the organization. Winning organizations find a way to win regardless of roster or market. They win because of outstanding decisions, responsible salary cap management, great coaching, front office consistency and dedication to a team philosophy that doesn’t change. Check out what is happening in Denver, Portland and Utah this year in the NBA. Each team has lost superstars recently, but they continue winning. Small market teams: stop whining. Focus instead on the organization. Look in the mirror. Great management and great corporate environment matters more than things like market size. Winning is in your hands. Market size is beyond your control, but it is not critical to success.



About Bill Sanders

SVP of Personal Brand Management at PMK*BNC. Helping icons from all walks of life to connect with their fans and monetize their brands.
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41 Responses to It’s All About The Organization

  1. Ross Grandolph says:

    Great post Bill! I couldn’t agree more, it doesn’t matter about market size it’s about the culture created by ownership. Look at an owner like Clay Bennett with the Thunder. He moved the team to a smaller market from Seattle (1.8 M TV homes) to Oklahoma City (712,630 TV homes). He drafted well, hired smart people in the front office, and has created a winning culture.

  2. Jimmy says:

    Great read Bill. This post is exactly what all professional sports organizations should be reading. It begins and ends with the culture created by the ownership and leadership of the organization.

  3. d says:

    This was a great post about small market teams and them being competitive. The blog basically pointed out that many of the teams in the NBA and NFL that are having success are small market teams. In the NBA, this included Indiana, Oklahoma City, and Memphis. It also talked about that teams that win consistently in small to medium markets, the San Antonio Spurs for example. It argued that being the size of the market was not as important as great management and great corporate environment. It stated that the small market teams should stop whining and worry about things that matter more than things like market size. In the end it says, winning is in your hands. Market size is beyond your control, but it is not critical to success. This blog post falls right into public relations and dealing with the community. I see teams like the Green Bay Packers and there are a public relations “dream.” The last time I checked, Green Bay had a population of 101,000. There are the best example of a small market team worrying less about market size and more about what they can control.

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