Yahoo - The Oakland Raiders Of Digital Advertising

With the NFL season in full swing, I started thinking about ways I could compare/contrast the worlds of digital advertising and football. It occurred to me how many similarities there are between the Oakland Raiders and Yahoo. Before calling for a “quick kick” and treating this like a 3rd and miles to go situation, consider the following: 

Proximity – the easiest common denominator is that both companies are based in Northern California (of course the Raiders may relocate, again).

Legacies of greatness, followed by ongoing struggles– between 1976 and 1983 the Raiders won three Super Bowls. The Silver and Black played with a hard-nosed edge (particularly on defense) that made many opposing QBs cringe. The 90’s and 00’s were not so kind, although the team did make one Super Bowl appearance and would have had another if not for the infamous “tuck rule” against the Patriots (as a Pats fan, I am still thankful). Overall, it’s been a downward spiral for the organization since the days of Rich Gannon calling signals, who went as far as saying the current players are stealing from the franchise given their poor attitude and performance (at 0-6 this year, Gannon might have an argument). 

In similar fashion, Yahoo was arguably The Name in digital media in the late 90’s and even early into 00’s. The company’s revenues and stock price skyrocketed as its search and display business packed a 1-2 punch that was difficult to beat. In recent times the company has struggled to find its identity: is it a technology company or a media company? Yahoo Finance continues to be a bright spot as arguably the world’s leading financial destination but the company seems intent on becoming a “full stack” ad tech platform.  The platform push makes sense in that one piece (i.e. Finance) cannot shoulder the load any more than Sebastian Janikowski can kick the Raiders into the playoffs.

Continually re-shuffling the deck – the Raiders have had six different head coaches since 2003, while Yahoo is on its 7th CEO during the same time span. As many know, there is at least somewhat of a correlation when it comes to stability of leadership within an organization and its ability to excel. On that note, compare executive tenures at Yahoo and the Raiders with that of the New York Giants or New England Patriots in the NFL, or Google and Oracle in the corporate world. 

Tremendous brand recognition – it’s difficult to find another NFL team logo that matches the brand cache of the Raider’s skull & crossbones. And while not nearly as intimidating, the purple and gold of Yahoo is just as easy to recognize. 

Loyal fan bases – despite recent tough times, each carries tremendously loyal fan bases. Anyone who knows Raiders fans will attest that they are truly diehard (and in some cases, dangerous/crazy), and while Yahoo has endured multiple changing of the guards and re-brands, it still commands a global user base that is on par with any other digital media properties. 

Opportunities to return to greatness – each sub-par season has equated to high draft picks for the Raiders. Admittedly, most of these have turned disastrous, save for perennial pro-bowler Janikowski (the strategy of drafting a kicker in the first round is another topic for discussion).  Further, a new season holds promise each year and (in theory) it should only be a matter of time before the Silver and Black return to being a feared opponent, versus a “W” on the opposing team’s schedule. 

Similarly, Yahoo stockpiled its talent/technology roster over the years via a slew of acquisitions (many of which have not panned out).  After an early investment in Alibaba, the company now has $5B in fresh funds (after taxes) to continue pursuit as being recognized as a technology leader (the equivalent to having a handful of first round draft picks in the NFL).

Even if 2014 isn’t the year for a return to greatness for either organization, there’s always next year.

With that said, I’ll let you get back to reviewing fantasy football results for the week.

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