Pages Navigation Menu

Tennis Tiebreaker Mini-Breaks and the Social Media Age

Tennis Tiebreaker Mini-Breaks and the Social Media Age

The inspiration to compare the tennis tiebreaker mini-breaks to the Social Media Age came over a 2-week span. I “crashed out” of two divisions in a tennis tournament by losing 3rd set tiebreakers in each match. Then I watched John Isner push around Rafael Nadal in two sets – only to lose both of them to Nadal in tiebreakers. Then I tuned in to Serena Williams losing to Victoria Azarenka in a tough three setter – you guessed it, she lost the 3rd set tiebreaker!

So how do tennis tiebreaker mini-breaks compare to the social media age? Glad you asked – here are my thoughts:

1. Amps up the Pressure

So you’ve played hard-fought points for an hour – or perhaps you split sets and battled in a third set – and all of that hard work is going to come down to a few minutes in a tiebreaker?!?

Social Media Age: Your competitors are doing it, so you should be on social media IMMEDIATELY, right? Your consumers are talking about you on social channels, review sites, and blogs – and you can no longer control the message. All of this hard work to craft a stellar reputation for your brand, and you mean to tell me it could all be blown up by somebody doing something stupid with my product and posting it to YouTube?!? Or they give my services a bad review, and it seems like they have 50 million followers with axes to grind? There is a massive mountain of data available on social channels, to help you better understand your customers who will no longer fill out a survey, but how do you aggregate and analyze that data…umm, NOW?!?

2. Magnifies the Mistakes

If you lose a point in a tennis game, you have time to recover. If you lose a game in a set, you still have time to break back. However, if you lose a point in a tiebreak – it is the equivalent to losing a game in the set. You only get a few points to get back even, so every mistake is magnified!

Social Media Age: In an age of social sharing, every mistake or bad review has the potential to go viral. In fact, the virility is often determined by how you handle the crisis. Commit to monitoring your brand mentions, and then engage consumers before the train goes off the rails. Reassure them, thank them for their feedback, try to address their issues. Pick the right people in your organization for this task because it requires courtesy and competency.

3. Tempts to Go for Too Much

The primary reason you get into a tennis tiebreaker is because you are playing an evenly matched opponent. Up to this point, you haven’t been able to maintain an edge, and get your “nose out front” and take the lead in the match. When players get into a tennis tiebreaker, they recognize it is do-or-die and how important it is to get that mini-break. Some players tighten up under the pressure, but some go for too much versus sticking to their fundamentals. The result…they lose!

Social Media Age: We see studies and charts every day that express the importance of a digital marketing strategy. Whether it is the number of people that consult their social networks before making major purchases, or it is how content creation on a corporate blog drives lead-generating web traffic, we feel the pressure to go for too much at once. Rather than “adding a wrinkle” to our game by supplementing our existing sales and marketing efforts with a phased approach to digital, we try to make wholesale changes that are WAY outside our comfort zone. The result…we get burned. Either we can’t sustain these new communication channels, and they backfire on us as disgruntled customers complain, or we stretch our resources too thin and suffer on all fronts. Always be thoughtful about changes to your business strategy! Do not wait forever to enter the digital fray, because you WILL be passed by competitors willing to improve their game, but you do have time to practice before putting your brand’s game on the line.

So have you ever lost a hard-fought tennis match in a tiebreaker? Have you witnessed some of the spectacular examples of brands feeling the pressure and going for too much in social media?

Photo Credit: Victory Wave by Chip_2904, on Flickr

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Brian Vickery

I love my Vickery Girls - and grandsons! My career has blessed me to the point I was able to start a new consultancy in 2018: Analytic Integrity. I look to provide analytic experience, and business integrity, to an Analytics world while helping data-driven organizations mature. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterLinkedInGoogle PlusYouTube


  1. These are all SUCH good points, and I’m sorry you lost! I think #3 is one of the most important takeaways here. Especially as the pressure is amped up (#1), there is a danger of not keeping one’s head, or cool, right? And that can really decide whether you win or lose. I think that was one of the thing that impressed me most about Bjorn Borg’s tennis; he was always so cool and measured, even if he was feeling the stress, he never let it show.

    • Shonali Borg…Edberg…Sampras…Evert…Hingis. All of them kept their head, and they were some of the best to play the game.
      Even taking social media out of the equation, some folks have trouble keeping their head when the pressure is cranked up. Social just magnifies it for the WORLD to see.

  2. Tennis is the fastest sport I have ever seen live. Lots of fun.  Much of it has to do with momentum, and sustenance, which to your point is not something most people can continue.  I think the mistakes are magnified, but less dramatic and important than social media wonks make them out to be.

    • geoffliving They did a fun commercial a few years back – where they compared a batter in baseball having to defend a small area with a ball traveling at them at 90+ mph. Then they showed a tennis player having to defend a much larger area with a ball traveling at 130-140mph. It is definitely a fast and fun sport.
      And a lot of it comes down to anticipation and recognition of patterns and pattern disruption!
      Some brands would probably do better in social media with a little anticipation and getting into established patterns of communications. Regardless, they definitely have less time to react in a socially connected world.