What The Greatest can teach brands about standing out.

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

The Muhammad Ali bandwagon is pretty crowded this week.  But we can’t help but squeeze ourselves on because yeah, he was The Greatest.  And everyone’s got an opinion on why:  his ability in the ring, his charisma, his insightful and inspiring quotes that cemented him in pop culture, his determination to stand up for what’s right (he got you American Government).

We think a good chunk of his greatness is attributed to doing the opposite of what’s expected.  Like George Costanza…every day for Ali was Opposite Day.  Boxers are told to keep their feet on the ground, swing cautiously, protect yourself, keep your mouth shut and just fight. 

Not Ali.

It’s because he did the opposite of what was expected that he stood apart from everyone. Today’s athletes have handlers, social media personas, contracts with behaviour clauses (who can forget Marshawn Lynch  “I’m here so I won’t get fined”).  Ali was the last great, unspoiled sports hero.

As he famously said “I don’t have to be what you want me to be”

So marketers, take a page from Ali’s book and do the opposite of what’s expected.  And remember:

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Rest in peace.