Negotiation Blog

What do the NFL Super Bowl, Cheerios, and Puppies Have in Common with Negotiating?

By Marianne Eby

I admit to not  knowing much about football despite my son's love of the game. To me it looks more like a bunch of athletes who get paid a lot of money to ram into each other until one team trounces the other. Let's face it -  I’m a negotiator who believes in win-win more than win-lose. So it’s no surprise that I was paying more attention to the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII advertisements on Sunday than to the game. And what did this super negotiator see? The deal of the century!

And I’m not talking about one of the many deals in the $10B enterprise that is the National Football League (NFL). I'm talking about the now famous Cheerios commercial. Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl XLVIII Cheerios commercial taught in 30 seconds (and paid $4M for the privilege of doing so) what every good negotiator knows - trades come in all breeds.

Here’s how Forbes describes that commercial, a father at the breakfast table with his little girl, Gracie, using the addition of one Cheerios at a time to demonstrate that there is going to be a new family member (and thus one more Cheerio added to the pile):

“The Epiphany:  After the baby brother announcement, the subtle pregnant pause. Gracie’s actor qualities rise to impressive levels to tug at your heart at this point.  The frown-pause moment is followed by the epiphany, “and a dog”. Translated: ‘If he’s sweet talking me like this, he must want my approval. That must mean I have some bargaining power – (and what do I have to lose, the little guy his coming anyway). I can use this event to broker and barter a deal. If I have to put up with a babbling infant that cuts into my time and resources, I can now use my unprecedented leverage get what I want in return.’ ”

Opportunities to trade come in all sizes and shapes and sometimes out of the blue, so seize them when you can and everybody wins! The little girl seizes the moment and in her own way (by adding a Cheerios to the family pile of course) makes it clear that family tranquility has a price – a puppy she can call her own. Caught off guard, the dad declares “Deal.”

And Cheerios gave a final negotiation lesson before its 30 seconds of air time was up – the camera turns to the pregnant mom, whose priceless facial expression makes it clear that dad forgot to check with his stakeholders before closing the deal.

The NFL is full of high stakes deal-making in the mega-millions, but this deal has lessons for players, owners and viewers alike. Think about what the other side will ask for before you start negotiating, seize opportunities to get what you want, and always know your stakeholders’ interests before you close the deal. 

Negotiating Tip

A deal is successful when it's implemented successfully. That happens when all options were explored so everyone feels satisfied.


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