Our Love Affair With The Underdog

May 13, 2019 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

We love the underdog.

It’s not a fleeting love. It’s not a flirtatious love we can take or leave. It’s not a love we ever really grow out of. As human beings, our love for the underdog and our want to cheer for the challenger against overwhelming odds isn’t simply a learned social convention, or a want to join the crowd. It’s a primal evolutionary trigger. A mix of sympathy, empathy, competition, a sense of fairness and, in some cases, a healthy dash of schadenfreude thrown in for good measure.

Why do we care so much about underdogs and challengers?

On the surface, it could stem from our cultural intolerance of bullies, the notion that it’s unfair to pick on someone or something smaller than yourself, and our competitive nature.

But if you dig a little deeper, there are four other integral reasons we love to cheer for the underdog.

One: we love a great story.

From early cave dwellers to the Greeks, and from Shakespeare to the present, every civilization the world has ever known has had and revered people who could tell a great story — and we are no different. Stories help us see our place in the world. They frame light and dark, right and wrong, life and death. Underdog stories give us something to cheer for and often, something to aspire to. There are no stories more heartwarming, or more inspirational than those of challengers overcoming unbeatable odds.

Two: underdogs are universal.

Every culture has haves and have nots. Those who are blessed and those who are less than. And whether an underdog is defined by their physical size, race, gender, nationality, orientation, political views, or religious affiliation, we can all recognize them. And there’s a very good reason why.

Three: when we look at challengers, we see ourselves.

No matter how our personal stories have unfolded, at one time or another we’ve all found ourselves in the role of the underdog. On a given day, any one of us could be the underdog. Fighting against the odds. Battling injustice. Because of that, it’s easier for us to empathize with those fighting uphill battles.

Four: underdogs prove anything is possible.

Just as the night is always darkest before the dawn, the moments when the odds seem the most impossible are often when those with bigger hearts remind us that miracles can happen.

On an ice rink in Lake Placid. In a boxing ring in Tokyo. On a basketball court in March. Underdogs give us hope. Not just for their futures, but for our own.

Underdogs are everywhere.

Our love of the challenger extends across every facet of our lives, from sports and entertainment to business and philanthropy, religion, and politics. Take a good look around you, and you’ll find underdogs are just about everywhere. This month, we’ll be celebrating the triumph of the underdog with the LOOMIS list of top 10 favorite upset victory stories from the wide world of sports. Forget the agony of defeat and get ready to focus on the thrill of victory.

MIKE SULLIVAN is president at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Mike Sullivan

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


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