Super Bowl Winning, Forty-Niners Legend Wide Receiver Jerry Rice on Leadership and More

Earlier this month I shared some lessons from Super Bowl-winning quarterback and fellow Forty-Niners legend, Joe Montana who, among other things, discussed how brands should approach the topic of risk-taking. You can read the full story here 

Today, it’s lessons from Montana’s former Forty-Niners teammate and fellow NFL Hall of Famer – and multi-winning Super Bowl champion – Jerry Rice. The phrase “Montana to Rice” is among the most iconic in all of football for the simple fact that these two connected many, many times, much to the delight of Niners’ fans everywhere. 

Here’s my conversation with Jerry Rice. 

SO: What are some of the lessons you learned playing football that you applied to life after the game re: the business world? 

JR: I apply so many of the same principles from football to the business world every day. Some of the most important things are the values of professionalism, being on time, teamwork and work ethic.

SO: How can those same lessons be applied to CMOs, CEOs, etc., the people in charge of running brands both large and small? 

JR: It starts at the top. You have to set the example and outline expectations. At the 49ers, we had that with our owner – Eddie DeBartolo – whom I consider the greatest owner in professional sports. He set the standard, but he made sure to hire the best people and let them do their jobs. He treated the stars on the team the same way he treated the ball boy. These same principles apply throughout business.

The keys to success, in whatever role you have are the same. Be professional, dress to impress, show up early, stay late and respect the members of your team regardless of their role. Everyone is working towards the same goal, so each person’s contribution is important to succeed.

SO: The chemistry between yourself and Joe Montana, then later Steve Young is legendary. Why is chemistry so important and how does that apply to the business world? 

JR: Without chemistry, we couldn’t have had the long-term success we did and won so many Super Bowls. But chemistry isn’t something that comes naturally. For us, it took countless hours of practice and working together to develop it. Joe was right-handed, Steve threw with his left hand, so we had to put the time in to create the perfect chemistry. We eventually had a good understanding of each other, and it became second nature, but you can’t take short cuts to get there. The same can be said for business.

As I said previously, teamwork and work ethic play a huge role in achievement. A business, for example, whether larger or small, can’t succeed if the CEO is the only person focused on a specific outcome. The entire company has to be working hard towards the same goal.

SO: When we spoke, you told me of the constant battle you had with complacency; how you were never satisfied despite setting records, winning championships, etc. Why was it so important to always stay one step ahead of complacency and how would you say that relates to the business world? 

JR: A major factor me, which I mentioned in my Hall of Fame speech, was how my fear of failure drove me to succeed. You can’t let yourself get comfortable. There’s always someone out there looking to out-work or out-perform you. As soon as you let up, you open the door to fail and let your competition take advantage.

Businesses have to constantly set new goals as they achieve the old goals to continue growing and outperforming the competition. You have to give 100% and put the work in so you’re prepared for the next game/challenge/project.

SO: We also spoke about the topic of “personal branding “and you told me of the importance of your personal brand during your playing days and how you represented the team you were playing for at that time. Why is maintaining one’s personal brand so important as it relates to representing or serving as an ambassador of sorts for a given brand/company/organization? 

JR: I always wore my uniform with pride and tried to conduct myself with integrity and respect for myself, my family, my teammates, ownership, and the fans. When it comes to endorsements, I work with brands that I feel align with my values. I accept ambassador roles with companies who have products I use or wear so that the relationship is authentic and not forced. You are agreeing to represent a certain company and you have a responsibility to represent them in the best possible way.

The Final Score 

While we don’t know who won the Super Bowl, yet – we do know how you can find out which brands won the Super Bowl! Register today for the free webinar on Monday, February 12 at 2PM ET, during which we will reveal which ads performed the best, what makes a Super Bowl ad stand out and much more!