The death of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has given baseball fans reason to pause and contemplate the man’s impact on the sports world. But the lessons to be learned from this international icon are far more valuable to entrepreneurs who understand the value of marketing and public relations.
Over 37 years of ownership, George Steinbrenner built a brand that was easily recognizable and extremely valuable.
In fact, Forbes magazine (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-13/steinbrenner-oversaw-15-900-rise-in-yankee-value-chart-of-day.html) estimated that during George Steinbrenner’s tenure as owner, the value of the New York Yankees increased by about 15,900 percent.
The core of his philosophy was wrapped up in the term “tradition,” which those in the business world recognize as being an organization’s core brand attribute.
According to USA Today (http://content.usatoday.com/topics/quote/Organizations/Companies/Publishers,+Media,+Music/New+York+Times/0c1i03DdWEcpn/01yLcAJ9DvdEy/3) Steinbrenner once said that, “When you put the pinstripes on, you’re not just putting a baseball uniform on, you’re wearing tradition and you’re wearing pride, and you’re going to wear it the right way.” This approach is one that understands the basic tenet of good PR and marketing: make a promise and then strive to keep it, at every level of the organization.
This philosophy is the ultimate brand builder and grows maximum value within a business. Everyone who worked for the Yankees understood what the organization stood for, everyday. Their customers, the general public, clearly understood the club’s core messages because the Yankees pursued their goals with clear intent every year, even when they did not win the World Series.
This is a long-term perspective that is all too often overlooked in the contemporary “microwave society” that demands instant results. Because it is not a quick fix or as glamorous as a silver bullet that turns around a company, building an image based on consistent adherence to core values is often seen as antiquated.
Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart is credited with often saying that people thought he was an overnight success when the truth was they had just “heard of me last night.” Love or hate the box retail pioneer, the company understood that his success was predicated on making a promise to customers and then keeping it, day after day, year after year.
The bottom line is that successful branding is really business code for building tradition. On a day when the world considers George Steinbrenner’s legacy, his greatest contribution may actually be the blueprint he laid out to organizations that want to succeed: build and keep traditions that create winners.