The Little League World Series (LLWS) came to a startling close after holding the world’s attention captive for the past several weeks. The incredible drama produced by the actions of a few 11-13 year olds on a youth-sized baseball diamond is worthy of applause and consideration in and of itself. These kids play the game because they love it, and most of them behave like they cannot get enough. Despite earning no money (for the kids), no guarantee of winning, and certainly no certainty of future success; these athletes present themselves as incredible examples of pursuing dreams and living with passion.
Additionally, there are some lessons from this beautiful athletic portrait that can be applied to the business of storytelling in marketing. Three lessons, in fact, to remind us of the importance of a good story, and to solidify our foundational jobs as compelling storytellers.
The quality of the product or service (this case the product on the field) does not directly resonate with audiences in the same fashion that heart, loyalty, and passion always will.
The product on the field is not the highest quality of amateur baseball. There are leagues with older, more skilled players that cannot bring in these kinds of ratings. The missing ingredient? Desire. The tears that stream from both the victors and the defeated pull at our heart strings and make us want to see (and feel) more.
Often times, we get so caught up in our product set or service expertise that our brands don’t compel audiences to listen. While the product is obviously important, ultimately, we as consumers want more. We want to be moved emotionally. We want to feel something. We want to know the brand we buy is interested in more than selling widgets.
Users want to participate in brand messages that provide a sense of urgency, or have a definite date of expiration.
Major League Baseball provides the pinnacle performance for the sport of baseball. Speaking in terms of quality, there is no better product that is produced in the world. It’s fascinating, then, that the LLWS outperformed the MLB in ratings when the two were pitted against each other head to head.
How is that possible? There are brand names and cult-like followings in the MLB. Conversely, almost no one knew the names of Mo’ne Davis or Jackie Robinson West just a few weeks ago. Yet, the MLB has been hammering audiences with stories since April (earlier if you count spring training), and will continue to inundate audiences until early November.
The LLWS tells an urgent message. If you miss out on seeing a girl strike out the side against boys, or the first all-black team make the finals in decades – you may never get the chance to see either feats again. The season is short and powerful. Our marketing should take a similar approach at times.
Audiences (still) love the story of an under-dog.
All of the stories in the LLWS are incredible in my opinion. However, there are always those special athletes that perform above the incredibly high expectation we’ve come to enjoy from these remarkable kids.
This year, Jackie Robinson West became the first all-black team to represent the nation in the Finals. America rallied behind this team as a nation and fell in love with the personalities and the talent boasted from this group. For added drama, a determined girl from Philadelphia decided to ignore stereotypes and outside opinions and pitch her way into the nation’s spotlight. Mo’ne Davis mowed through opposing lineups with ease throughout the tournament and became the 18th girl in the 68 year history of LLWS to perform on the big stage. Even more spectacular is the poise and demeanor she displayed while throwing accomplishment after accomplishment onto what’s sure to be an already-filled trophy case.
We love the underdog. We see ourselves in the underdog and we yearn to out-perform expectations and prove ourselves like these child athletes.
Let your brand do the same. Tell the stories around your brand that communicate an underdog message. This may be about the founder, employees, consumers, or investors. What “Average Joe” did something amazing because they interacted with your brand? Audiences need to hear about it.
I was sad to see the LLWS wrap up Sunday afternoon, yet felt a sense of joy even as I watched the South Korean team celebrate their hard earned victory. We all feel the urge to enjoy the natural youthful energy we observed on the field. Your audiences are no different. How will you tell your story in a way that allows your audience to be a kid again? Heck, if these incredible kids can do it – can’t you?