Brands don't need to be underdogs to learn from Leicester City's fairytale win
Leicester City’s Premier League victory is the biggest sports story of the year. The only aim the football team had at the start of the season was to avoid relegation. Bookmakers scoffed at their chances, putting them at 5,000:1 to win the title, while giving just 1,000:1 for U2 singer Bono to become the next Pope.
The media calls it a fairytale but it’s not mere magic. There are lessons that marketers can learn, and it’s not simply about making the brand seem small because everyone loves an underdog.
The fairytale is best understood in comparison to Leicester City’s second-placed rival, Tottenham Hotspur. Like Leicester City, few saw the Spurs as title contenders. Their team of talented but largely unknown players also beat flashier, star-spangled clubs. And yet, it is Leicester City that thrilled fans and drew supporters from all around the world.
Here are three elements of the story that brands can pick up.
- “The beauty of a team isn’t just how united they are, but how united they are in their diversity”
1. Promote the (brand) ethos
It’s easy to portray Leicester City as a poor team, on their way from rags to riches, but like most Premier League clubs, it has the backing of very rich owners. They’ve distinguished themselves by cultivating a culture – and more importantly, the appearance of the culture – of humility and hard work, far more so than Tottenham Hotspur.
Their squad is assembled from players who come from humble origins, or recently played in lower leagues. They’re not flashy, but they’re hard runners. Similarly, a brand needs to promote its culture, its ethos, more than its newest product or feature.
2. Show the (brand) character
The beauty of a team isn’t just how united they are, but how united they are in their diversity. Think of Blyton’s Famous Five, Hitchcock’s Three Investigators, the Dirty Dozen, Ocean’s Eleven and The Avengers. Teams are made up of individuals with unique skills, each of whom has a chance to shine.
- “The Skinny Magician, Lungs, and the Tinkerman – already, they sound like X-Men.”
Leicester City has skinny magician Mahrez, who dances around opponents. There is Kante, known to have more lungs than any living man – his aerobic fitness is so legendary they say, ‘if water covers 70 percent of the earth, Kante covers the rest. And there is Vardy, who flashes past defenders. The team is led by an eccentric old Italian dubbed by many as The Tinkerman.
Already, they sound like X-Men.
Tottenham Hotspur didn't clearly differentiate their various team members. They appeared uniformed and ‘clean’. The implication here is that audiences love to know the character of a brand. It’s not about being ‘lively’, ‘fun’ and ‘energetic’ – these are empty adjectives. It’s about the qualities that make the brand unique.
3. Make the (brand) mission bigger than petty rivalries
From the outset, Leicester City had only one ambition in mind – to avoid relegation. Meanwhile, Spurs always had an eye on what their London rivals were doing. Derbies may be interesting, but over-indulging in them alienates other audiences and makes the brand appear small-minded. Remember that some of the fiercest battles fought go beyond local derbies.
Stay ahead by looking ahead, and having a goal in mind. Let competitors worry about you, not the other way around.
- Article by Jackson Lo