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The New England Patriots traded out of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft in a move that exemplifies coach Bill Belichick’s team-building strategy. In this article, I break down what the move can teach us about the importance of strategy when it comes to marketing.

If you’d prefer to ‘watch’ this blog, rather than read it (and you can excuse my slightly dodgy “lock-down” haircut, you may do that below.

The American Football draft has been taking place over the last three days and while there’s been a lot of excitement about who went Number One overall, which Wide Receiver was picked first, and where the hot young Hawaiian Quarterback’s gone, the thing that was most interesting to me was something that is so boring and so predictable that it’s barely made a ripple. 

I’m talking about the New England Patriots’ decision to trade out of the first round.

For those not familiar with this process, this means the Patriots voluntarily gave another team their place in the draft, allowing their opponent to pick first and accepting that they risk losing a player they might have their eye on.

As surprising a move as this may seem, for various reasons it’s not uncommon in the NFL draft. Saying that, it’s practically expected from the New England Patriots. They’ve gone without a first-round pick four times in the last eight seasons.

Why? The answer is their head coach and de facto general manager, Bill Belichick.



Belichick has a reputation for being the sort of coach who doesn’t really go for ‘stars’. Yes, he’s coached the most successful team of the last 20 years, so course he’s had players who are celebrated – not least of all the greatest quarterback of all time Tom Brady. But even players like Brady – who, by the way, was selected 199th overall when he came in to the league – don’t have a reputation for being flashy. They aren’t show-offs. They tend to be guys who work hard, are humble and sacrifice themselves for the good of their team. The Patriot’s motin recent seasons? Simply, ‘Do Your Job’.

For Belichick, the team is the star.



A quick rewind: some of you will have seen my previous comment piece in which I talked about how adopting a sports management approach to your tactical marketing activity can help get the best results for your business even in uncertain times.

For example, Email Marketing can be used to drive revenue from new customers – what I describe as an attack-minded activity if you follow the sporting analogy. But it can also be used to build loyalty and keep your current customers happy and engaged – a “protect what you have” or “Defensive” activity. The trick is understanding what the current circumstances are and how to best use each marketing activity to drive results given those circumstances. 

To return to the sporting analogy – that article looked at the players on the pitch and the tactics you employ to get the most out of them.

What it didn’t look at was the role of strategy and leadership. The players on a team only know how they’re expected to play based on the personality, beliefs and systems of their manager. Similarly, a marketing strategist with a clear identity and set of philosophies can drive results more quickly for a company through making sure every technician working on the account is clear on the approach.

It’s about ensuring all marketing activities align and are coherent.



By the way, there is no universal right and wrong style of strategising – in sport or marketing. Different approaches suit different circumstances so that, while Belichick’s approach works perfectly in Boston, it may not go down well in Miami… though I’m sure the Dolphins would love to have had the recent success of the Pats.

Marketing strategists are the same. One strategist, who is great at driving quick sales from     marketing activity, will be well suited to one company, while a strategist whose strength is building communities and loyalty around brands will be better suited to another.



The New England Patriots have been the most successful NFL team of the last two decades in large part because Bill Belichick has a considered, consistent and compelling strategy. He knows what he expects from his players and therefore, who he wants to bring into the building. Trading out of Round One of the draft is part of that strategy. He doesn’t want egos, he wants under-rated guys, with chips on their shoulder who are prepared to work hard and ‘do their job’.

Companies looking to bring in a Chief Marketing Officer – my suggestion is that you think of them like your favourite team’s Manager. Find out what their philosophy, their approach, their strategy is, and hire according to your company’s needs and values.

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