This post was going to be “Business Lessons From Rugby”, but
the result of the England
v Wales game on Saturday has put this contributor off his favourite sport.
(Editor’s Note: regular listeners to our podcasts will have
no difficulty identifying the author of this particular post)
If that were not enough, Super Bowl XLIV – a particularly exciting game,
ending with a long overdue bit of good news for New Orleans – might tempt
anyone to consider “Business Lessons From American Football” as a better
However, the antidote to any disillusion with rugby is a
viewing of Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s
magisterial film of how Nelson Mandela, played to perfection by Morgan Freeman,
used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to unite South Africa.
It is also a film with practical lessons for business.
Mandela’s greatest triumph was essentially a rebranding exercise: he rebranded
South Africa in the eyes of the world and his own government in the eyes of
South Africans. In doing so, he demonstrated a natural instinct for marketing.
1 A picture is worth a thousand words.
Mandela’s appearance in a Springboks rugby shirt did more than anything he
actually said or did to convince the rugby-mad white minority that he was not
takes courage. Any friendly approach to potentially unfriendly strangers,
be they white rugby players or prospective customers, risks rejection, but that
risk must be taken if you hope for reward.
3 It costs nothing to be pleasant. As a
legally elected President with an overwhelming popular mandate, Mandela did not
have to be nice to anybody, but he was nice to everybody – and it was his
charm, not his authority, that got his way in the end.
4 A market that does not expand will
eventually contract. President Mandela was secure in his control of his
core “market”, the black majority. His great insight was understanding that he
needed to build support beyond that core if South Africa was to be a true
nation, rather than a state in which one race had simply replaced another as
the oppressor. That vision may be the product of an extraordinary generosity of
character, but may also be due, at least in part, to a rational calculation
that his new South Africa needed the support of all its races in order to
prosper. It is tragic that other African leaders have not shared that vision.