Patriots, Komen Fumbles Offer Lessons for NPOs


Photo by stephen_d_luke

Last week was terrible for Komen for the Cure. It was even worse than the day my beloved New England Patriots had at the Superbowl! Whom you’re feeling more upset with this morning depends on which team let you down more. But either way, they both lost–big time.

If you’re looking for a great recap on the Komen mess from last week and the analysis what happened by some really smart people, check out this post from Shonali Burke. If you’re just looking for a good rant, read my post on the Komen meltdown.

Nonprofits can learn so much from the missteps of both teams. Here’s my take on lessons learned from two tough losses. One dyed in Komen pink. The other in Patriots blue.

Pink Lesson #1:

People call anything related to the marketing of causes “cause marketing.” I saw it mentioned dozens of times last week that Komen’s cuts to Planned Parenthood were a cause marketing disaster. As one who defines cause marketing differently, I never saw the crisis as a cause marketing failure. However, the fact that many people did, highlighted the need for better explanations from nonprofit leaders on what cause marketing is. This is important stuff. Defining cause marketing just might prevent a public relations disaster that drags down your corporate partnership program with it.

Pink/Blue Lesson #2:

It’s not always what you do. Sometimes it’s what you say afterward that matters more. This was on display with both teams. Whether it was Nancy Brinker of Komen digging in her heels on cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, or Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen complaining that “My husband cannot f–king throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”

Unfortunately, Gisele’s post-Superbowl comments are what might sting the most from this Patriots loss. Whether you are Komen or the Patriots, you need to manage communications carefully. For both teams, this means listening to what others are saying, and being thoughtful before you speak.

Pink/Blue Lesson #3:

You can’t keep dropping the damn ball and expect to win the game. We saw this repeatedly from Patriots receivers on Sunday and all last week from Komen. You can’t make mistakes again and again and expect to come out on top. Whether it’s in the final quarter or the last few seconds of the game, you will lose.

Blue Lesson #4:

Despite how badly things went for the Brady bunch Sunday, there’s always next year. That’s the great thing about sports. Most fans only remember the winning team of the day. You can recover from a big loss and still end up a winner next year.

At least you can in football. That’s why I’m hopeful for my Patriots.

But I’m not rooting for a Komen comeback. The game they’re playing has a lot more at stake than bragging rights. And this isn’t their first or even second offense. Now that Komen is down, I hope they stay there.