Marketing and Advertising

How Agile Marketers Maneuver through Winter

Brrrr… it’s time to gear up for the winter season. Marketing maneuverability will be key.

There is a unique team culture that surrounds winter sports, but perhaps none more polarizing than ice hockey. Hockey culture is characterized by a group of tough players and loud fans as tightly woven as my boiled wool scarf. They are as passionate about their sport as any in the world. The sport boasts a rich history in the Winter Olympics dating back to the 1920’s. And as temps descend in the upper regions, boys and girls will grab their blades and head to winter ponds worthy of a scene in a Christmas card.

“There is no individualism, the team is everything, we play through anything, and exist for each other.” 

– NHL, Hockey Traditions and Superstitions

Where do you weigh in?

If you believe that hockey culture is a net positive, you’ll associate it with values like toughnessteamworkloyalty and certainly, speed. If you view hockey culture as negative, then you might associate it with aggression, masculinity, perhaps even racism or toxicity. How we answer this question is a function of the cognitive bias we bring to our experiences with the sport or the social media and broadcast images we see.

Arguably, there are a few things marketers facing the winter season can learn from the game of hockey. Most CMOs will enter the new year with the broad strokes of their 2022 marketing game plan mapped out. They feel ready, complete with new budgets and able resources.  These leaders will be better equipped to lead, having practiced the art of distance-management this past year.

A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” 

– Wayne Gretzky 

Lighting the Lamp

As the competitive challenge for most brands continues with light speed towards the digital economy, type-A marketing leaders may need to forego hierarchical process in favor of increased speed and agility. The sea change of external circumstances on the horizon will likely warrant an unplanned pivot in strategy, messaging, or spending mix during next year. Despite our admirably disciplined annual planning and budgeting efforts, it’s no longer a set-it-and-forget-it world.

While pivoting is common practice in start-up culture, the larger the enterprise, the more difficult it is to execute a marketing pivot. Brand mission and values provide important guideposts, yet hockey stick growth comes from marketing maneuverability. Good marketing strategy includes a foundation of ongoing commitments especially when media or partnerships are involved. Yet success also requires fluid and fast action tactics, some offensive and some defensive in nature.

Mastering the Pivot

Determining when to it’s time to pivot is key. In some companies, constant change in direction without losing speed will create unnecessary chaos, diffusing the energy of teams. This risks the ability to execute well.  


  • Are you often playing catch-up in a too crowded field of competitors?
  • Has your organization flat-lined, with slow-to-no growth coming from services and products you are promoting out of habit?
  • Has your customer shown loyalty to new platforms and channels that you’re just dabbling in?
  • Does your hypothesis not match your reality?

If the pain point can be solved, with more research, money, or perhaps customer development, then the CMO challenge is often focused on building the case for change in a particular direction. If growth is in single digits despite the work and money you’re putting into it, then a full pivot is in order.


Marketing champions are better able to maneuver if they have quality data to inform real time decisions and the right team of resources to act upon it. Many companies are still trying to master the pivot away from dependence on traditional media into online channels for better ROI. Nothing builds the case in the c-suite like sharing in real-time what your top competitors are spending. Agile marketers track media investment and competitive messaging across dozens of channels and social platforms (not to mention testing into new ones being introduced each month).

Who wouldn’t command the Zoom with some relevant factoids on hand?

  • Did you know a retailer like Target spent $15.2M on Facebook, $4.8M on Instagram and $1.2M on Twitter in September, and Home Depot leaned heavily into Facebook ($24M), with $4.4M on Instagram and $200K on Twitter?
  • As a dog lover it makes total sense to me that a brand like PetSmart would spend $4M on month on Instagram alone!
  • And it sort of surprises me that consumers think “holiday stress will be less” when they choose the brands that offer the buy now and pick-up in store option we see trending

What do you need to know?

TIP: SO Winmo is our favorite go-to intel platform; it was originally founded with the mission to help more advertising professionals prepare to serve their advertiser-clients. They now offer complied data services for brands and advertisers as well. Users can track when competitive advertisers are planning and buying media, and understand exactly how digital and TV ad spend is being allocated. With real-time sales alerts, custom lead recommendations, and accurate sales predictions, it’s easy to stay on top of your competitors and prepare to pivot to capitalize on emerging external trends. Check out their site or read about the top social spenders by category (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for 19 of the top verticals.

Hat Trick

Marketing maneuverability this winter will require equal speed and agility with forward motion towards making our goals.

While first party customer data plus competitor data certainly helps builds the case for agile brand marketing moves, the right team of external partners is key. These agency resources can help advertisers, big or small, mobilize faster in the marketplace. Recruiting to your Agency Roster (or even for your Reserve List) is confidential and easy when you rely on our CultureFit™ Agency Review Process. 

Finding the best qualified agency that also fits your own team culture is as elegantly smooth as a Zamboni on ice. We have been mastering our own Hat Trick for thirty years. We can help you recruit the top agency players you need on your team for the next season.

Everything Good starts with Cultural Fit.™ 

Late Breaking Update: Whether you love it or hate it, I don’t think any other winter team sport comes close to hockey in terms of its fast-paced speed: the energy, the slap shots, the game strategy, the committed players. The constant action keeps hockey fans on the edge of their seats. The ice hockey competition of the 2022 Winter Olympics will be played at two venues in Beijing. And while the US isn’t sending an official delegation, in protest of China’s abuse of human rights and forced labor laws, US athletes are not banned from competing on the world stage. In fact, the women’s hockey tournament will have ten teams competing for the first time. 

That gives us some serious goosebumps!