Challenger Brands Have To Finish

April 6, 2011 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Quick – name the only NCAA Men’s basketball team from Indiana to ever make it to back to back Final Fours.

Larry Bird’s Indiana State team? No.

How about Isaiah Thomas’s National Championship Indiana team under Bobby Knight? Nope.

The only team from Indiana to ever go to consecutive Final Fours is the Butler Bulldogs team from last year and this. And for now, that’s all there is.

Butler falls short in NCAA final.

To be considered as anything more than a contender, challenger brands have to finish and last night, Butler didn’t. Had they beaten a very beatable UConn team – a team that finished 9th in their own conference – Butler would have vaulted past Jimmy V’s North Carolina State team and Rollie Massamino’s Villanova team that shocked Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas to sit atop the all-time list of Cinderellas. But they didn’t. And for now, they’ll be remembered for the worst shooting percentage of any team ever in an NCAA final.

We love the upset. We love the prayers that fly in at the buzzer as teams of unscholarshipped kids you never heard of swarm the floor and dive into a pile at center court. We love it when David kicks the stuffing out of Goliath. But when you’re the underdog, that can’t be all it is. You have to finish. And finish again. And again. And again. And again.

Apple was a vision born in a garage when IBM ruled the planet. Starbucks was once a single coffee shop. Volkswagen was a World World II German car that nobody in the States wanted to buy. And if that’s all they had ever become, there would be no love affair. They’d be a footnote. But they’re not. Because they were relentless. They were innovative. And they never stopped. Ever. The great challenger brands find a way when there is no way. They find a way to endure. That is, after all, the goal.

I’m sure there was major disappointment in the Butler locker room last night, and probably some long faces today. But I’m equally sure that the second those players can start working toward next year they will. No team from Indiana has ever made it to three consecutive Final Fours.

At least, not yet.

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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