The “Football Strategy” is my favorite campaign ground war strategy. Candidates in can develop variations of it to best suit the interests of their specific regions, but it is a time tested strategy that serves to motivate volunteers in a fun and exciting way. The strategy was developed by Bob Mills, a conservative and former Member of the Canadian Parliament. Mills used this strategy to win every polling station in his district.
The candidate divides the district by polling station. He or she then goes knocking on doors and identifies supporters. The candidate, or campaign staff, can then appoint a supporter (often the first one they find) as Campaign Captain for his or her polling station or precinct. Variations of this strategy can include “block captains” (which is actually closer to Mills’ original strategy, which divided his district by “polling booths), “building captains,” and so on.
The new captain is given ample campaign material and is asked to go door to door, introducing your campaign to his or her neighbors, making them aware that you have local grassroots support. Your captain will say something like “I’m Pete, your neighbor who lives over there (pointing). I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know why I’m support Jim Thompson for, etc.” The captain should be given two or three specific points to share with interested neighbors and then mark down their level of interest.
Here’s where the competition gets fun. Each captain enters into a competition with the two neighboring precincts. Whoever out of the three garners the greatest percentage of the vote gets his or her name on your campaign football. The others do not.
Yes, dividing the district into clusters of three virtually assures that one captain will make it onto your campaign football by getting you only 50% of the vote, while another will miss it with 60%. But this system keeps the competition local, neighborly and probably among people who know each other. It’s also true that the captain who got you 50% likely lived in a less favorable area for your campaign. These are the main reasons for the competition to be organized as suggested.
It should be noted that, ideally, your precinct captains should be enthusiastic and credible people. The campaign should also be given a copy of each captains “data” so that senior staff can identify potential donors, co-captains and the like.
Knowing which sports are most popular in your district is a must (and for candidates who don’t follow sports, all they have to do is ask somebody who does). You don’t want to have a campaign “football” when a campaign baseball is where the action is at. You can also do things like having one football for all captains and another “pro-bowl” or “championship” football for winners of the contest.
It should be noted that the last suggestion is my own variation of Mills’ strategy. I have no idea as to whether he would approve of it or not. In fact, seeing as how the competitive nature of his strategy worked out well for him, I doubt that he would approve. But each race is different and every candidate would be well advised to analyze all options before implementing one that best suits his or her race.
All in all, this strategy is highly effective, extremely motivational and fun. It also gets results. So go with it. And may the best captain, and more importantly, the best candidate, win.