Everyone loves the underdog. The story. The players. The battle. We love it all! And nowhere is the underdog narrative more pronounced, more spectacular, or more present than in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament going on right now. You want to see the power of the underdog narrative? Talk to 14 Seed Ohio University who took out No. 3 powerhouse Georgetown. 13 Seed Murray State who beat 4th Seeded Vanderbilt. Or 12 Seed Cornell from the Ivy League who took down 5 Seed Temple. Talk to overall number one seed Kansas who looked past the University of North Iowa and got a one-way ticket home with the earliest exit of an overall number one seed in a decade. How many of us had a clue who Ali Farokhmanesh was a week ago? But still, this is nothing new. Season after season, people have asked why March Madness is such an unbelievable breeding ground for upsets. To understand that, you only have to look to the three states of the challenger brand ethos. The first, is state of market where the underdog is never number one and existing in a culture of ambition. Where there is always an upside and an innovative way to get there. The second, is state of mind where the underdog is striving to be the best and living in a culture of commitment. The underdog, by definition, lacks the advantages of larger competitors. But what they lack in assets, they make up in determination and hard work. The third, is state of readiness where the challenger must embrace new modes of thinking in a culture of willingness. In this case, a willingness to play as a team and for each other, rather than playing as a bunch of individuals. For the past 10 days, old-school traditional has repeatedly come head to head with innovative commitment and confidence and the latter has won again and again. In Men’s basketball, few programs are more steeped in tradition than Georgetown, Temple, Kansas and Syracuse, who tonight came up short to Liberal Arts private Butler University of the Horizon League. Once again, this tournament has shown that tradition echoes old thinking and that just showing up isn’t nearly enough. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we use sports as metaphor for business. Just as Northern Iowa came into this year’s tournament with the mantra “Why not us?”, every challenger brand lives, thrives and ultimately succeeds by believing they belong. That they can compete. And that they can win. How wonderful then to foster the insights and creativity that fuel that confidence. When that happens, when underdogs truly find ways to change the game, there is nothing better – with the possible exception of winning the National Championship on a game winner at the buzzer.
The Voice of the Underdog®