Ad Sales Life

Lessons learned on ad sales management from Super Bowl LVII


I'm into sports. I'm not a fanatic, but I admit the drama, the strategy, the conversation and the planning are all very intriguing to me. Like our industry, overseeing a winning sports franchise requires a grand design of systems, trust and relationships — making it an easy place to draw inspiration.

You probably noticed this play out at a high level during this year’s Super Bowl. Both teams were in sync, executed terrific strategies and delivered exceptional performances. However, the proverbial unsung hero of the Super Bowl was the dynamic between the players and coaches on both teams. What made this game, like any organization, great was witnessing the execution of a grand design rooted in the trust and relationships of leadership and teammates.

If you haven’t checked on the interpersonal dynamic between your sales team members and sales leadership, now is a good time to do so. These relationships propel your strategies to meet objectives. Mutual trust, respect and shared organizational goals will sustain short-term progress and long-term success. It’s not insignificant, so if you are wondering how to measure the efficacy of these relationships in your organization, these three powerful questions and relatable parallels to the news media industry stood out to me during this year’s Super Bowl.

When was the last time your sales team met an annual goal?

Both teams in the Super Bowl only reach that pinnacle by winning regularly. Consistently underperforming sales teams and sales managers are a great place to start for evaluating team relationships. Sometimes, all that is needed is a reset of expectations and priorities. Other times, there is a situation where the team members and manager are unhappy in their roles or collaborative relationships. In either case, it’s up to you as the revenue leader to position your teams for optimal success. Leverage your strategy and system for regular daily wins, but the trust and relationships of your sales teams and managers yield championship-caliber annual performances.

Are they defending, deflecting or deferring?

Accountability is an absolute must for any successful organization. Winning franchises take accountability from top to bottom and left to right. Everyone is accountable for the success or failure of the organization. Everyone has a vital role in the grand design and strategy. As a revenue leader, you should get a pulse on how the sales team members and managers speak of each other when they’re not in the same room. Are the individuals defending their colleagues, or are they deflecting and shifting the blame on each other? Perhaps they defer or neglect to address their team’s social dynamics rooted in bleak relationships. Does everyone believe in the system, abilities and skillsets surrounding them? Great sports franchises identify areas for improvement quickly and often. In many cases, simple team chemistry and relationship quality could obstruct a team from winning a championship.

How do they respond to challenges?

Like any organization, sports franchises face adversity virtually every day. Each challenge or circumstance is unique and can define or destroy a team’s enthusiasm. Setting a goal and monitoring how the individuals on a team respond to the challenge is a testament to the leader’s intangible ability to coach, the skillset within the group to perform and the trust and relationship between the two in meeting that challenge. One of the most significant scenarios in our industry is when great talent gets paired with outstanding leadership. Identifying if or when a team can show up to meet the task at hand should indicate how dynamic the relationships are within that group.

A good team can get to the Super Bowl, but winning one takes a great team. Relationships within any organization require courage, discipline, respect and vulnerability — and great teams have them at all levels. Everyone must earn that trust in each other daily because everyone relies on each other’s performance to have a winning franchise. It’s a delicate balance, and one lousy moment can sometimes permanently damage a relationship. Don’t take for granted what these individuals go through every day. As a revenue leader, always consider the health of the relationships between your sales team members and leaders. Not every year will be a Super Bowl year, but if you plan on building a sustainable winning dynasty, the foundation must be trust, respect, shared goals and enduring relationships.

Richard E. Brown is a News Media Alliance Rising Star recipient, the former director of renewals and digital sales strategy at LPi, and the former director of digital operations and sales of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He recently served as the head of digital subscriber churn for Gannett | USA TODAY NETWORK and is now the senior director of retention for The Daily Beast. He is a member of the board of directors for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation and is the owner of RE Media Holdings, LLC. Richard is available for consulting and can be reached at


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