Four weeks ago we saw the start of the FiFa World Cup in Russia. Today we witnessed the end of Wimbledon fortnight. What do these two sporting competitions have in common? There is always an Underdog or two – a team or individual that slips through into the qualifying rounds of a tournament when the “experts” least expect it. Yet for those who are not experts, the sub-fans who get caught up in the sporting spectacle because it dominates every aspect of life for whole month, the Underdog becomes the participant of choice.
Schadenfreude is the pleasure we experience due to the misfortune of others. We resent powerhouse teams that win every year and so we root for them to lose.
From politics to sports to business, people are quick to categorise those at who have a competitive disadvantage as ‘Underdogs’. For centuries there have been tales of the Underdog winning against titans – the biblical story of David and Goliath. David was never meant to fell the mighty giant, but he used a stone aimed just a the right place to conquer his enemy.
In the world of sport we often see this boundary crossed. Think back to Leicester City. Who ever thought they would do well in a premiership game. The odds for them to win were 5000 – 1. Icelenad once again were the favourite Underdog of the orld Cup, many supporters seduced by their passion, their patriotism and the fact that the team was made up of part-time players; the team’s coach is actually a dentist and he actually needs to fly or take a boat to get to Reykjavík! It doesn’t get more “Underdog” style than that.
In business “Underdog Brands” trade on their humble origins, lack of resources, and a determined struggle against the odds. Consumers identify two essential dimensions of an underdog biography: external disadvantage, and passion and determination; consumers react positively when they see the underdog aspects of their own lives being reflected in branded products. This is stronger in cultures in which the “Underdog” story is part of the national identity – Gareth Southgate and his young England squad are yet another example of how the Underdog translates into positivity within society. Whilst the “experts” said it was the luck of the draw, the manager and the team allowed English fans to experience a sense of belongoning that had not been experienced within the sport for a very long time.
Watching the titans fall always gives the spectator a sense of achievement. Note to self “Never underestimate the Underdog, you never know what they’re capable of.
Susie Crolla