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For the uninitiated, Barcelona FC is one of the most celebrated and successful clubs in the history of global soccer. The resume speaks for itself: twenty-one league titles, twenty-five domestic cup titles, and four Champions League titles to name but a few items in their overflowing trophy cabinet.
So, what are the elements that have made Barcelona so successful and how can advertising and marketing agencies learn from Barca’s success?
Although Barcelona has been blessed with enviable individual talent, it’s their philosophy that is most attributed to their success and permeates every aspect of their organization: scouting, training, recruiting and performance on the field. “It is about creating one philosophy, one mentality, from the bottom of the club to the top,” said former Barcelona Technical Director Pep Segura.
For Barcelona, their philosophy revolves around a slight update to the Dutch philosophy of “total football.” Barcelona employ a method of play commonly referred to as “tiki-taka”. One- and two-touch soccer, each player passing and moving.
Xavi Hernandez is considered one of the best midfielders in the game and may go down as the best of all time. He sums up Barca’s philosophy in an interview with The Guardian as such:
“Education is the key. Players have had 10 or 12 years here. When you arrive at Barca the first thing they teach you is: think. Think, think, think. Quickly. Lift your head up, move, see, think. Look before you get the ball. If you’re getting this pass, look to see if that guy is free. Pum. First time. Look at [Sergio] Busquets–the best midfielder there is playing one-touch. He doesn’t need more. He controls, looks and passes in one touch. Some need two or three and, given how fast the game is, that’s too slow. [Dani] Alves, one touch. [Andres] Iniesta, one touch. [Lionel] Messi, one touch…seven or eight players with one touch. Fast.”
Agencies capable of educating its employees early and often on a clear philosophy and purpose will be well served functionally and creatively in the long run. Finding purpose behind your work inevitably creates a more rewarding work environment. Like Barca, the simpler the philosophy, the better.
A recent article on inc.com defines a company’s philosophy as: “A distillation of [a company’s] culture or ambience into a group of core values that inform all aspect of its business practices. Having a strong company philosophy is a good way to guide your employees at decision-making crossroads, but it can also be a strong branding tool, and generally make your workplace more congenial.”
What’s also important is how Barcelona’s philosophy has been engrained into their youth ranks and all the way up to their senior team. Much of Barcelona’s enviable talent can be attributed to the way that they trained and indoctrinated their youth players from day one. Barcelona’s academy, La Masia, developed 10 players who were part of Spain’s World Cup winning side in 2010 including three players who were finalists for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, best player in the world award: Messi, Hernandez, and Iniesta.
Likewise, agencies without a clear philosophy or culture may still be able to attract great talent, but are unlikely to retain that talent without fostering a sense of identity and culture among its employees. Educating and indoctrinating employees at all levels in the company’s philosophy not only reduces turnover it also ensures continuity as junior employees rise up through the organization. Likewise, Barcelona’s youth team trains and plays with the same technical and tactical rigor as its senior team. This creates a seamless transition as youth players are called up to the senior side–they already know the philosophy, the training methods, and style of play.
Barcelona’s system of total football and tiki-taka relies on fully developed players that can play any field position and possess a complete complement of skills. The interchangeability of tactics and skills mid-game creates a level of flexibility and unpredictability that other clubs simply can’t replicate. Their defenders attack, their attackers defend, and their midfield is considered the best in the world. There’s a greater understanding of the game beyond one specific position or role that makes Barcelona’s players so dynamic. Says Marti Peranau, a sports journalist and former Spanish olympian high jumper who knows as much about La Masia as those who run it, says “technique, tactical intelligence and mental speed” are the three traits that they look for in potential players.
Although there are specialized skills within an agency like design, programming, and copywriting, agencies that develop well-rounded employees who have an understanding and adept knowledge of core marketing tenets will create more productive brainstorming sessions, better creative, and the flexibility to adapt as the marketing mix changes. Like soccer, the tactics may change, but the tenets remain the same.
What does your workplace do to foster a culture of champions?