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In fewer than 25 days, the sporting world will yield the main stage to Rio, for the Games of the 31st Olympiad. Media trucks jammed with international gear and international crews will flood the sporting venues of the 2016 summer games. We will listen to dramatic backstories about coaches and athletes in the crucible to excel and overcome. There will most certainly be an emphasis on family and friends, that will whet our appetite like appetizers for countless game days.
The networks will produce these inspirational, human interest stories to keep our focus on the color analysis, play-by-play of the contested heats, and subsequent commercial programming. Carefully measured research has determined that this is what the broadest segment of major network audiences will expect.
A parallel, yet different audience with a deeper sense of focus and attention will be the competitors on the starting blocks of events like those of track and field. They’ll be listening for their cues. The culmination of years of sacrifice, dedication, tireless practice and perfected performance will be unleashed by a few instructional spoken words. Bang, a resulting puff of smoke and they’ll be down the raceway built for the fleet-footed.
USATF National Track and Field Officials Committee refers to the important people who ignite each track and field heat, appropriately as “starters.” Their role to shepherd world class athletes out of the launch gate is an unheralded, but weighty one.
These people seem to have the simplest and quickly dispensed role of climbing to a perch, pointing a pistol skyward, uttering a few words and sending the competitors into motion. But their task is more complex than initially apparent.
Because the track heats begin with the split-second responses of the athletes, this role is vital. Vital enough that starters are instructed to be mindful of the impact they have on the athletes psyche, concentration and performance. Starters are asked to bring a presence of calm to the field to allow athletes to concentrate on nothing but their performance.
The starter’s audience trusts in these basics. The starter also understands that the high school, NCAA and international competitor are different and that each category requires a different kind of preparation. Consequently, a similar set of instructions and the starter modifies the messages accordingly.
In business, the process of selecting the right audience or target market is an important one that requires thoughtful consideration and preparation. But a clear understanding of who that audience is, what you can specialize in and what your value proposition is can equate to a better long-term return on effort.
In our next segment, we’ll share the contents of a “starter’s” equipment bag and how it is used to support his audience of athletes. We’ll also consider some of the applicable lessons we can draw to the business world.