How to coach your creatives and clients like a world cup team

Annika Welander
3 min read

As a former D1 athlete and not-so-closeted sports fanatic, I look to great teams as a model for Someoddpilot’s creative practice. The World Cup format is a reminder that our studio’s success is a product of how well we collaborate outside our walls. Like the best players in the world putting aside their club affiliations to compete under a common flag, our creatives mesh into client brand teams to develop truly meaningful work

So what can these national teams teach us about client-agency dynamics?

you gotta respect the jersey

Playing at an elite creative level with revered brands means the project team will be thick with people at the top of their game. But there’s no room for egos on the field. We only win as a unit. A great account and client duo (team captains) will be of one mind and get everyone working off the same playbook. When people respect each other’s positions, we get full-field coverage and the ball moves efficiently.

Our partnership with Footjoy is seamless because their expertise in the golf marketing function leaves us space to focus on what we do best: epic creative work. Smith Optics' deep bench of mountain athletes and extreme capture crew provide our campaigns with footage we wouldn’t be able to snag via our in-house production team without risking life and limb.

you need to plan for penalties and injuries

Effective creative processes are incredibly kinetic, and the best agency/brand teams are advanced improvisers. When things go sideways, all parties need to engage with grace, and ideally with a very short memory (you want to be a goldfish). The project will fail if anyone operates from a place of fear. Strong players will double-down on empathy and communication when the plan is unsettled. Weak ones will want to pick up their ball and go home.

We took Savers | Value Village through an IPO on the NYSE, and that project had every head on a swivel because the go-live date was at the mercy of market conditions. Patience and an eye on the long term goal sustained us through the wobbles and guaranteed success.

if you build real trust, your winning team can become a dynasty

Great teams should keep playing together. Trust and shorthand are hard-earned. We are a project-based creative studio, but our higher calling is to function as brand stewards; our client relationships last 5-10 years (we’ve been in business for 25).

Our long tenure working on Patagonia’s activism efforts culminated in Patagonia Action Works, a digital platform and product that facilitates climate volunteer opportunities on a global scale. A few of the Patagonia brand-side captains have left the team since, and they’ve recruited us to play elsewhere under new (brand) management.

Brand and studio legacies are deeply, intimately connected. Pick the right partner and peak performance will feel joyful and effortless.