The Post Lancegate Era. Plea to allow doping in pro sports.

Doping in sports - ©

Doping in sports – ©


I guess anyone knows the story of Lance Armstrong by now. Just for the sake of ease I’ll refer to it as Lancegate and it points to “an all-American hero that fell to earth”.

Lance Armstrong’s recent doping confession to Oprah revamps an old discussion about doping (or the usage of banned performance-enhancing drugs) in professional sport(s).

What is the problem with doping?

The use of drugs to enhance performance is considered unethical by international sports organizations and especially the International Olympic Committee. The reasons why we ban those substances are related to health risks, the noble idea of equality for all sportsmen and the desire of the public to think of sportsmen as heroes – doing all these spectacular things in a “clean” fashion.

I believe exactly those same arguments can be used to state that doping shouldn’t be a problem. And why there shouldn’t have been a lancegate.

Why doping shouldn’t be a problem. A plea to allow doping in pro sports.

First of all the unethical aspect. Why is doping labeled as not ethical? Frankly I don’t know. And it doesn’t make sense. All things mankind has ever done in medics and pharmaceuticals are equally performance-enhancing drugs in the sense that they clearly enhanced our life time. Our timely performance of living is enhanced due to drugs. We didn’t label that as unethical. Additionally, we drink wine (alcohol is a hard drugs people, it’s just socially accepted!) to enhance our dining experience. There’s hardly anyone labeling that as unethical.

Second, the health thing. It just might be that doping isn’t healthy. True. Nor are alcohol, cigarettes and medicines. Can we allow people to decide individually what they take and for what reason? I guess most smokers do know they are having an unhealthy habit. I guess all sportsmen using performance-enhancing drugs equally know they are messing up their bodies. Additionally, one could state that doping are in this respect little different from the use of new materials in the construction of e.g. swimming suits or Formula 1 cars. Those things provide a similar unfair advantage over other competitors. What’s the difference between a substance and e.g. better equipment?

Further more, the way we feel about doping today reflects our culture of “equality”. Everybody is the same. We all have the same opportunities. That’s a great idea. However, we all know that’s not true. With regards to professional sports, it’s quite clear that someone born in the e.g. USA has a way better environment to grow up in to become a sports hero than e.g. somebody in Angola. Just think about sports education, sports infrastructures, etc.

Asterix potion made him heroic.

Asterix potion made him heroic.

Finally the argument that the public (“we”) has the desire to believe the sport is “clean”. More important however is that the public wants to look up to sportsmen. They are heroes. They inspire people. Do we really care that the hero plays according to the rules? I believe we don’t. Let’s go back to the origin of the word “hero”. A hero was originally a courageous figure in a legend or a myth that did spectacular things throughout the story. Not rarely those “heroes” had a (semi-)divine origin and their acts exceeded the human capabilities. Just think of the Greek Heroi or the modern Spider-man and Superman as an example. Or one of my favorites: Asterix & his potion!

If we want sport heroes we’d better frame “doping” differently. And that’s exactly what Lance did. He framed doping differently.

And that’s exactly why there shouldn’t have been a Lancegate. Your thoughts?

When Archives turn Newsworthy: Cyclo-cross’s disruptive innovation…

I’m a big fan of recycling. Unless when it’s about stuff one writes. This time however I’m glad to “promote” one from the archive:

Cyclo-cross’s disruptive innovation that made competition irrelevant – JANUARY 9, 2011.

I believe I have good reason for recycling this. The article – that uses concepts like “blue ocean strategies” and “business model innovation” – demonstrates a particular disruptive skill in CX cycling that allows to outperform competition. It’s the case of Sven Nys. One of his main advantages is that he leaps over obstacles by bike where other riders need to get of their bike. Exactly this benefit made him the 2013 CX World Champ last sunday!

Watch the video of the 2013 CX WC final lap below. If you don’t understand the Dutch comments, look as from the 4th minute. The obstacles that Nys tackles like nobody else can be seen at 5:30. As from then, it was straight to the World Title.

Special interest in stories linking Business & Sports? Check the sports button in the upper navigation menu!

Sports & Business. Not that stupid after all?

Tactics Board from sports apllied to the world of business

Tactics Board from sports apllied to the world of business

A category of this blog bears the label “sports”. The articles within this section always link sports with business.
The posts aim to simplify more complicated business stuff by giving examples from the world of sports. In addition it strives to learn lessons from sports and apply them in a business kind of sphere.

Up until now, the sports category has 6 posts. The reason for that is that I always wondered whether this specific endeavour made any sense at all. Or as my last post finished :

Can businesses learn something from sport? Or is sport just sport?

I believe we can transfer insights from one societal aspect to another. Below are two cases from other people that back up this point. The question remains ‘why’ however.

Sport is not just sport. Content Marketing Strategy is like football.

Below is a free translation of a sports analogy used by: @steven_insites in a Dutch Marketing Magazine so to explain content marketing.

It’s like Football.

Developing a content conversion strategy is similar to putting together a football team. And it’s all about scoring in football. But in order to score the team must get the ball to the striker. Some teams use long passes to get there, others carefully advance through short passes. But in the end the ball needs to cross the line.

The marketer is the coach, the team composer. It’s up to him to decide how to get the ball crossing the line. But anyway, don’t expect to win without a proper strategy.

Sport is not just sport. The Jeremy Lin example.

Learnings from Jeremy Lin

Learnings from Jeremy Lin

Another case demonstrating that learnings from sports can be transferred to business is the story of Jeremy Lin. This case deals with basketball, underdog positions and the power of social media.

During last week Jeremy Lin became a sensation. The New York Knicks guard became a sensation first on new media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook but soon enough captured the attention of traditional media as well.

The Knicks guard is in tremendous shape and does crazy stuff on the court. Even that crazy it led to the neologism “linsational” or “linsanity”. This remarkable story detailed in the N.Y. Times shows us the power of bottom-up marketing for underdog players.

In this particular case people were surprised because they didn’t know Jeremy before. There are not that many Harvard players, not that many Asian-Americans. He’s an underdog. But he works hard and it pays off today.

So where’s the lesson for business?
SMEs and underdog players can turn their position into an advantage by offering great products (Jeremy plays incredible) and let that spread from within the fan network (Twitter, Facebook) towards the public sphere (traditional media, such as N.Y. Times). And yes, this includes working really really hard.

Why can we learn something from a completely different sphere?

I believe it’s proven we can learn a thing from an entirely different phenomenon. But why?
Is it because all are just aspects of the same society?

Daum fired at FC Bruges? On Strategy, Leadership and Branding.

Leadership Daum Style at FC Bruges

Leadership Daum Style at FC Bruges

I am sorry if I just tricked you into a fake news item. Cristoph Daum is still the coach of FC Bruges. The headline is reasonable though, looking at the latest results of historically one of Belgium’s best football clubs. Added to that is the “culture of coach swapping”. The logic it dictates is somewhat of the following: if we don’t perform well, fire the coach and bring in a new leader. And it’s exactly from that swop culture that we can learn a thing or two about strategy, leadership and branding. The main message for today:

FC Bruges’ Coach Swap Story demonstrates how Strategy and Leadership drastically impact Branding.

There are many ways to develop a strategy to obtain goals. Within this process, the vision of the leader is rather critical. After all, his or her vision guides the decision for a specific strategy.
I believe this choice instantly impacts the “style”, “soul”, “positioning” or “brand”.

Let’s try to make this more clear by visualizing the case of football.

Strategy, leadership and branding. Learnings from football

Strategy, leadership and branding. Learnings from football

FC Bruges Coach Swap Story

Looking at the above scheme, something is remarkably striking in the FC Bruges Story. Let me just do the telling, meanwhile you do the scheme-mapping exercise, ok?

Adrie Koster, formal coach of FC Bruges. Dutch guy.

Adrie Koster, formal coach of FC Bruges. Dutch guy.

As from 2009, the Dutchman Adrie Koster, coached the team. As a leader he defined the strategy to obtain goals from an “always win perspective”. As a result FC Bruges played attacking, creative football and scored a lot. Neutral spectators loved the team. It had style, soul. It was a good brand. But the team didn’t always win. And after four successive defeats, the club fired the coach. He did not reach the objectives. The “always win strategy” was left. It didn’t work. A new strategy and leader was sought for.

At the end of 2011 FC Bruges appointed a new leader: Cristoph Daum. A German coach with a solid track-record. His goals were the same as those from Koster. But in order to fulfill them, the leader envisioned another approach to realize the objectives. He took the “win more than others do perspective”. Consequently, the same group of people were no longer recognizable. The team played uninspired and relied on proven tactics like dropping high balls in the penalty zone, free kicks and corners. It resulted in a lot of “1-0 wins” for the team however. And in fact, 1-0 quickly got labeled a “Daum Score”. But the longer this leader is in charge and brings the strategy to live through not really sexy tactics, the less the team is liked be outsiders and fans because of its style. The brand isn’t perceived as something “good” anymore. The soul is gone. This story from the world of sports clearly shows that strategy and leadership influence branding.

What if Daum really got fired?

Well, let’s answer the question by applying the theoretical scheme applied above.

FC Bruges Coach Swap Story. On Strategy, Leadership and Branding.

FC Bruges Coach Swap Story. On Strategy, Leadership and Branding.

Can businesses learn something from this story on Strategy, Leadership and Branding?
Or is sports just sports?

Whispering Web – The Book.

I’ve made your life easier.

Well, I made it easier if you were to read everything ever posted on this blog. Consider how many clicks that’d take. At least a thousand, right?

Below is a book that collects all articles written in the first year of this blog. Reading all articles in this manner will take you about 70 clicks. I saved you just about 930 clicks. And I might argue that 930 clicks require at least 2 doctor visits because of a painful wrist. I’m not a doctor price specialist but I believe two visits quickly will cost you about 50 EUR or Dollars.

Hope you enjoy slide-reading through it.

Cyclo-cross's disruptive innovation that made competition irrelevant.

This weekend several national championships cyclo-cross were organized. We looked at Belgium’s cyclocross championship held in Antwerp. This national championship almost equals a world championship as Belgium has delivered the best athletes within this sport for decades.

What’s even more interesting, a few years ago a Belgian rider – Sven Nys – started dominating the sport by introducing a disruptive innovation that made competition irrelevant. Sounds like a story that relates to the concept of the Blue Ocean (BOS) as developed by authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. Let’s dig a little deeper into the story and try to derive relevant lessons for business practices.

Disruptive innovation: Sven Nys leaps over objects while driving

Red Ocean Strategy in Cyclocross - jump while running

Red Ocean Strategy in Cyclocross - jump while running

When talking about innovation, we often think of technical/technological innovations. These are rather important of course but are often incremental by nature. The innovation Sven Nys introduced years ago that disrupted the sport was not a technical one. It was e.g. not about an improved tire or a lighter bike frame – as those technical innovations were incremental and simultaneously available for all competing riders.

The true disruption happened when Nys introduced a skill: the ability to leap over objects while riding a bike. Other riders overcame the objects by jumping of the biking, lifting the bike by hand while jumping over the object. Speaks for itself that the manner deployed by Nys was faster. This often allowed him to make competition irrelevant during races. Nys created a Blue Ocean. Others were to follow his example soon of course and today one can see many riders leaping while riding. Is the Blue Ocean red again?

Relevance for Business?

We believe this case shows that innovation doesn’t have to come from technology – as you often read in the literature and cases, especially in the areas of BMI (Business Model Innovation). Additionally, the case clearly shows that you should never stop looking for new innovative practices or tools – since others will follow and might even excel the original innovator. Today there might be another rider who can leap over higher objects than Nys can.

Nuance: notes on Sven Nys

The above story is oversimplified. Sven Nys is a phenomenon, he’s way more than “the one able to jump over the obstacles”. During his career he also expanded into mountain biking and is quite good at it. To get an overview of his impressive career, have a look at the Wikipedia page.

Possibly related articles (not automated – suggested by author):

  • Basketball’s Disruptive Innovation
  • Clap skate in speed ice skating – this is in fact a technical innovation but nonetheless quite compelling. Something we just know about in one way or another. Not investigated thoroughly by us.

Football & World Power: 2010-2014-2018-2022 (continued from part I).

Tweet about the allocation of the organization of world cup football by managing director at think.BBDO in Brussels

Tweet about the allocation of the organization of world cup football by managing director at think.BBDO in Brussels

With the allocation of the FIFA World Cup Football for 2018 and 2022, observers mentioned that it reflected the emerging markets. It truly does! But what’s more, the trend was already there during the World Cup Football 2010 in RSA.

We even devoted a blog post to the way by which the adverts surrounding the pitch reflected the global shift of economic powers. Nevertheless, which countries have been granted the rights to organize this first-class global event? Are these the emerging markets?

Upcoming FIFA World Cup hosts and their economies

The trend seen in the adverts in the 2010 event is also there when one looks at the countries that have been assigned to organize the future events. All countries that are to organize the world cup, show a growing/booming and interesting national economy.

  • World Cup 2014 host Brazil “Brazil is one of the fastest growing emerging economies in the world. With large and growing agricultural, mining, manufacturing and service sectors, Brazil economy ranks highest among all the South American countries and it has also acquired a strong position in global economy.” (Source: trading economics)
  • World Cup 2018 host Russia “The Russia Gross Domestic Product is worth 1231 billion dollars or 1.99% of the world economy, according to the World Bank.” (Source: trading economics)
  • World Cup 2022 host Qatar “The country’s economic growth has been stunning. Qatar’s nominal GDP, estimated to be $128 billion for 2010, has recently been growing at an average of 15%, and the 2010 growth rate is estimated to be 19%. Qatar’s 2007 per capita GDP was $67,000, and projected to soon be the highest in the world. The Qatari Government’s strategy is to utilize its wealth to generate more wealth by diversifying the economic base of the country beyond hydrocarbons.”(Source: U.S. Department of State)
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