5 Lessons from the Championship-Winning Teams of 2014

YR End Blog Pic

As 2014 comes to a close, here’s a look back at the champions of the major American sporting leagues and what communication lessons could be learned from each of these title-clinching teams.

(NFL) Seattle Seahawks – Proving that defense really does win championships, the ‘hawks beat up the Denver Broncos, 43-8, while paying the Super Bowl in New York…in January…outside. Riding a wave of momentum all season, the team was backed by its “12th Man” of fans while using the slogan “Why Not Us?” on their way to the big game blowout.

  • Lesson – Mutual Engagement Drives a Successful Shared Experience: Engaging your brand “fans” and involving them in your success helps to drive not only their engagement, but a feeling of inclusion. Plus, the team’s internal slogan gave everyone in the organization a common rallying cry, uniting them in their goal.

(NHL) L.A. Kings – Honestly, I don’t watch much hockey…maybe it’s my adverse reaction to a championship on ice being played in the middle of summer. But, the Kings did win their second title in three years in 2014, in a commanding 4-games-to-1 performance. They also did so while playing in 26 playoff games, the longest of any Stanley Cup-winning team in history.

  • Lesson – Enduring the Long Road Can Lead to Dominance: Playing 26 playoff games in any sport seems like a daunting task. However, focusing on each series and not looking too far down the road, helped the Kings keep their focus during their impressive journey. While it may seem impossible on the outset, persevering during the long, challenging times can lead to a momentous accomplishment.

(NBA) San Antonio Spurs – The franchise won its fifth title in five games over the Miami Heat and put itself into the debate of being the most recent NBA dynasty.

  • Lesson – The Big Team is Better than the Big Three: San Antonio is known for not being flashy, but always having the right team members step up when it counts. In 2014, it was young forward Kawhi Leonard that helped propel the Spurs to beat the Heat. Eventually Miami’s big three of Bosh, Wade, and James broke up, proving it’s not always good to be “king.” More importantly, it illustrated that multiple teammates fulfilling their specific roles can be better than a few members trying to do everything.

(MLB) San Francisco Giants – Earning their third title in just five years, the Giants won the World Series in seven games over my hometown and beloved Kansas City Royals. So just how did this team by the Bay stop a Royals team from the city of fountains?

  • Lesson – Sometimes All You Need is One: Despite the Royals’ incredible run in the postseason (they won the most playoff games possible without winning the title), the Giants possessed a pitcher in Madison Bumgarner that simply shut them down every time he took the mound. En route to becoming arguably the best World Series pitcher of all time, he proved that while one may be the loneliest number, sometimes, one great solution can overcome several good obstacles.

(MLS) L.A. Galaxy – The soccer franchise became the first in Major League Soccer win five titles (2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014), with a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution.

  • Lesson – Keep Evolving to Maintain Greatness: Perhaps just as impressive as the five titles are that the franchise has appeared in half of MLS’ championship games since its inception in 1996. The nine appearances over the league’s 18 years have occurred with different players and coaches, each tweaking lineups, rotations, and strategy, but all equaling amazing results. Even if it’s not broken, you may still want to try and fix it.

So overall, what was the general theme from all of these winning teams? That is, besides the Pacific time zone apparently being the one to play in?

Simple: The teams used what worked for them. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, when a team – of players or employees – relies on its own innovation, that’s when championship performances are made.


Thank you for following Lessons from Left Field as it began in 2014. I look forward to sharing more communication takes with you from what the sporting world brings us in 2015.


A Champion is Crowned

Photo by PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images

After a month that captured the world’s attention – and every four years, more of the United States’ as well – Germany moved into a tie for second place all time with their fourth World Cup title. They, along with Italy, now only trail five-time winner Brazil, who hosted this year’s tournament, and may be best remembered for what they didn’t do, like play defense when it mattered most.

Germany wasn’t perfect in this tournament, after all they “shockingly” tied Ghana, but they stuck to their principles and were:

  • Consistent: They always seemed to be the more skilled tacticians on the field. Always have some strategic communications solutions regardless of the issue.
  • Precise: Passing in tight areas created chances. Communications campaigns can be complicated; or they can appear flawless with perfect execution.
  • Opportunistic: If you gave them space, they made you pay for it…just ask Brazil. When you see an opportunity to enhance an internal or external perception, go after it, and quickly.

Germany kept their emotions in check (again, see Brazil players crying before they even won or lost their knockout game), kept level heads (Suarez is still flossing after his on-field meal), and handled their win with class (lined the Argentine players and applauded them as they accepted their runner-up medals).

The communications profession is often known for every day being different. But, consistently coming up with solutions, executing your plans, and seizing either media relations or employee communications opportunities can lead you to a title in your own right: a successful communicator.

And wonder if the U.S. will ever win the World Cup like Germany? Only time will tell, but the Americans are following a similar strategy as the Germans and are bringing in an abundance of young, albeit initially unproven, talent to grow into stars. Oh, and the coach that set up the framework for Germany’s current title? Jurgen Klinsmann, the current coach of the U.S. team.