The Lessons a CMO Can Learn from a Super Bowl Winning Quarterback

The Super Bowl. Just those words alone mean so many different things to so many different people. For football fans, it means the culmination of another season and hopefully for your team, a chance to take home the title.  

For consumers it means a chance to watch all the ads. As many parties and get togethers that will be held on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the game, an equal number will be held strictly to watch and comment on the commercials. 

As per our norm, System1 will do a deep dive into all the ads that air during the big game. More on this later.  

Let’s face it, Super Bowl advertising has become big business, literally. It’s reported that the cost to run a 30-second ad during this year’s Super Bowl will be $7 million. Keep in mind, that number is only reflective of the media buy. There are of course other costs to factor in such as production, talent and so on.  

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be covering many different angles when it comes to the Super Bowl and advertising.  

For this first one, however, I want to share some lessons that a Super Bowl winning – check that, a Super Bowl multi-winning quarterback – can teach CMOs and leaders alike.  

Joe Cool  

His name is Joe Montana and for those not familiar with him, he won four Super Bowls as a member of the San Francisco Forty-Niners. He was given the nickname Joe Cool for his innate ability to remain calm even in the face of extreme pressure.

Years ago, I spoke with Joe during my time at Forbes and the lessons he imparted then are still highly relevant today.

Here’s my conversation with Joe Montana.

SO: How would you say being an NFL QB is like being a CMO/Leader?  

JM: You are in charge of a group of diverse talented people attempting to get them to play, execute and win at whatever that business is. For example, getting people to believe in each other and trust in each, knowing mistakes will be made, yet helping people thru those mistakes instead of pointing fingers. I used to say when people would ask me ‘What do you say out on the field when someone makes a mistake?’

Well, I tried to find out what happened, why it happened and how can I help them not to repeat the same mistake. I would say… ‘we all are going to get yelled at when we get to the sideline so let’s work together and stay together.’ Believe and help each other cause we will all have our turns at making mistakes. We can’t get better by pointing a finger.


SO: How a company/brand handles a crisis is very telling. You faced many crisis in many games during your career. How were you able to seemingly stay so cool in the heat of the moment and what advice would you give to a CEO/CMO etc. as to how to best handle a crisis? 

JM: Staying cool is just a phrase. What really happens is you tend to concentrate and focus more in crisis situations. What I was taught by Bill Walsh (head coach of the Forty-Niners) was the crisis may not always be as bad as you believe. Hail Mary fixes are not always the answer. Take a look at your business fundamentals. They have probably slipped and going backwards to get back on track may be your best decision. It was in our case in many games where we came back from behind simply by going back and running our offense from the base plays, we put in day one.


SO: Risk taking was part of your M.O. when you played. You took chances when perhaps others would not, and you were successful more often than not. What would you say to a CEO/CMO, etc. who is perhaps risk-adverse and prefers to play it safe? And as a follow up can someone take too MANY risks? Is the key to know when to “go for it” and when not to?

JM: There are times to take risks. Without putting yourself on the line, at the appropriate times, you may be good but will never be the industry leader. To get to the front of the pack you have to take chances —calculated chances. Knowing when that time is what determines a leader and whether people will follow.

Who Really Won the Super Bowl 

While the scoreboard in the stadium will reflect the final score and show who won and who lost, the real winners will be the brands that scored the highest in System1’s Test Your Ad platform, which predicts long-term market share growth based on how creative makes people feel.

Register today for the webinar where we will reveal which ads performed the best, what makes a Super Bowl ad stand out and much more!