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The Philadelphia Eagles and Underdog Marketing
For the Philadelphia Eagles, the playoffs look a lot different this year than they did five years ago.
The Eagles entered the 2017 postseason with an injured star quarterback and an uncertain playoff outlook. We all know what happened next. Nick Foles’ string of impeccable performances propelled the Birds to a historic Super Bowl upset over Tom Brady’s New England Patriots.
It was a true underdog triumph, which the team (and the entire city) leaned into.
Philly’s never happier than when it’s proving people wrong.
This year’s playoffs are a different story. This time, quarterback Jalen Hurts returned from his injury, and the Eagles came off a bye week with a decisive win over the Giants Saturday night.
The Inquirer has a great piece detailing all the ways Philadelphia is grappling with its newfound position as playoff favorites.
The Eagles, for their part, have embraced the role without shedding Philly’s grit. Their latest “It’s a Philly Thing” promo says Philadelphia sports have “a dog mentality” – just not an underdog this time.
The Underdog Effect
Plenty of companies have leaned into that underdog narrative in their branding, which Harvard Business Review has dubbed the “Underdog Effect.” According to HBR, every underdog brand shares two common traits:
“a disadvantaged position (they highlight a company’s humble beginnings and portray it as being “outgunned” by bigger, better-resourced competitors) and a passion and determination to triumph against the odds.”
Google started in a garage. Ben & Jerry’s first sold ice cream in a gas station. Apple’s “Think Different” proclaimed it was only for creatives and innovators. Claiming underdog status is a powerful way to endear yourself to an audience and get them to identify with you.
Harvard research bears this out. When given a choice between a chocolate from an established brand like Godiva and a fictional small, new brand competing against established companies, 71% of subjects opted for the underdog chocolate.