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Sports, the Oscars and business — what Sunday’s snafu can teach you

There are few television events that are destination viewing nowadays. Sure, you and a few million Game of Thrones fanatics might eagerly await the new episode every Sunday night, but for the greater cultural zeitgeist, that’s not the case. With the advent of DVR and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon (and the OTT devices that can stream those services directly onto your big screen), it’s just not necessary to have your butt in your seat exactly when a particular broadcast starts.

There are, however, a few notable exceptions.

Live sports are one of the most important advertising entities these days precisely because people don’t like watching sporting events on replay — it takes away from the experience when you don’t catch it live. This is doubly true for big pop-culture events, like the Super Bowl, where the country has built an entire industry and cultural experience around the event. You see, sports are exciting because you never know what’s going to happen — like the greatest quarterback of all time leading his team to overcome a 25 point deficit and win the Super Bowl in overtime.

The same is true for awards shows.

Humans are tribal — we seek out like-minded individuals and bond over those similarities. For many of us, that comes in the form of collegiate or professional sports teams. In a way, those teams act as a regional signifier that the city/state/region it represents can rally behind as a proxy for local pride.

A similar thing happens with awards shows. If you’re a huge movie fan, you’re likely to see many of the films up for awards at the Oscars. Even if you aren’t that huge of a fan, you’re still likely to see a couple of the performances up for recognition. And much like choosing a favorite team, you choose sides when it comes to the movies you’ve fallen in love with. For instance, I think Amy Adams performance in Arrival was brutally snubbed for Best Actress (she should have been nominated at least, even if I’m fine with Emma Stone winning). And it dang sure should have won for all the technical categories, especially over Hacksaw Ridge. But that’s just me — there are many other tribes when it comes to these award shows.

But, being that the viewing public never knows what’s going to happen at these awards shows, it makes it destination viewing — one of the few televised events that holds that moniker any more.

Which what makes the Best Picture snafu so debilitating.

Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) has been the official balloting authority for the Academy Awards for 83 years now. They run ads to that effect and hype up the near-holy responsibility (at least as they frame it) of conducting the balloting and tallying the results for one of the most prestigious awards ceremonies in the world. They run ads during the show highlighting their responsibility and the professionalism with which they put themselves to the task; which is why Sunday hurt that much more.

Once PwC’s representatives get to the show, the hard part is over. The secrets have stayed in tact, the tallying is over, all they have to do is give the correct envelope to the correct presenter when that presenter walks out on the stage.

Yet, somehow, they messed that up.

It’s basically the literal incarnation of the “you had one job to do” meme. You hand the envelope to the presenter for the category about to be awarded.

The rest, as they say, is history. I’m sure you either watched it live or have seen a blooper/replay from the event by now.

Why the long post breaking down what happened, then? Well, it’s because it provides an invaluable lesson to businesses everywhere:

If you make it your mission to be great (and to be known) at one core competency, you better not fail at that competency — and you damn sure better not fail when more people than ever are counting on you to do that thing well.

Every company has a core thing they’re known for. For ENO8, it’s sifting through the newest technological innovations and applying the best of the bunch to new custom software solutions. For PwC, it’s accurate analysis/auditing. And when you fail at that foundational competency in such a spectacularly public way (and for such a silly reason, I might add), it can be devastating to the brand awareness and fondness you’ve worked so hard to engender.

tl;dr — if you market yourselves as being great at something, then you better actually be great at it, especially when everyone’s watching


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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