By Joe Pulizzi published April 15, 2012

5 Content Marketing Lessons from Jackie Robinson #42

Jackie-Robinson-290x230Today is the 65th anniversary (April 15th, 1947) of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in professional baseball. In his honor, EVERY major league baseball player will be wearing (the now retired) number 42 on the baseball diamond today.

If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that my favorite color is orange and my favorite number is 42 (hence our first company, Junta42).

Although most of the credit for using 42 is because of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from Douglas Adams, where the number 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, there are other significant reasons as well

  • When I officially launched the business, my two sons were ages 4 and 2.
  • It’s the angle at which a rainbow appears.
  • Because of the band Level 42 (Lessons in Love was my favorite song to play the bass guitar with).
  • and, of course, Jackie Robinson.

On an importance level, it’s hard to compare what Jackie Robinson, and players like Hank Aaron and Larry Doby accomplished, but (as usual) I’d like to put this in the context of content marketing.  Here goes.

5 Content Marketing Lessons from Jackie Robinson

  1. Multi-dimensional – Most people don’t realize that Jackie Robinson was amazing athlete in a number of sports.  Yes, baseball, but he was dominant in football, basketball and track.  The same goes for content marketers today.  No longer can we be good at just blogging or just video.  We need to be adept at creating and curating content in all channels where are customers are at, including text, video, audio and (yes) even print and in-person events (see the Content Marketing Playbook for more).
  2. Worst to First- Becoming an excellent content creator is much more about learning and growing than natural talent. Case in point, while Robinson was at UCLA, he lettered in basketball, football, track and baseball.  His “worst sport” according to many was baseball, where he hit .097 in his only season. Some organizations shy away from certain content types because they aren’t comfortable or proficient with them.  If that’s the case, work the process and make it work for your customers (or, outsource it until you are).
  3. C-Level Support – When Robinson first broke into the majors with the Dodgers, there was significant racial tension in the clubhouse between players.  Many of the white players were contemplating sitting out ballgames in protest to Robinson being on the team.  This ended promptly, when Manager Leo Durocher stated, “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f_____’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded.” For content marketing to work in an organization, the silos and petty content ownership issues have to go.  This is a C-Level issue.  Senior managers that don’t set a mandate for content marketing to succeed could face an internal battle that will stifle the customer experience for the short and long-term.
  4. What’s Your Content Mission? – I believe that for a brand to be truly successful with content marketing, their content not only needs to attract and retain customers, but needs to stand for something greater than the product or service. This is the content marketing mission statement.  Jackie Robinson possibly did this better than anyone, taking the issue of race to the next level by playing himself in The Jackie Robinson Story, serving as editor of Our Sports magazine (focusing on race issues), and becoming the de facto expert on African-American issues on television talk shows, newspapers and magazines. A rising tide raises all ships. 
  5. It’s Not a Campaign- Possibly the greatest thing I admire about Jackie Robinson is that, even through all the negativity, hatred and obstacles, he never stopped fighting for what he believed was a better way. After baseball, he became the first black person to become vice president of a major American corporation and continually worked to advance the cause of black people in business.  He also became active in politics and used his notoriety to bring positive attention to issues he believed were important to his mission.  Simply put, after baseball, he never stopped trying to make a better world. So many brands think that marketing and advertising are all about the campaign.  Sometimes they are, but content marketing is all about developing valuable, compelling and relevant content on a consistent basis, not on a timetable. Whether it’s through an enewsletter, a video series, a blog, or an event series…content is a promise to your customers that must be kept, every minute of every day.

Would Jackie Robinson stop after a six-month campaign?

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Clever post and lots of good points.  I especially like the point about the silos.  Marketing efforts and content in particular should encompass the whole company or brand.  People are looking for information about every facet of the company.  If the content focuses too much on one aspect, opportunities are missed.  

  • http://www.parentingtodaytips.com/ Rodneycdavis

    I liked the “rising tide” concept. You develop enough momentum and even death cannot stop your ideas. But it was Robinson’s relentlessness that maintained that momentum throughout his brilliant career.