Lessons from Toronto sports teams on how to win with your target.

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

 “Unbelievable respect and much respect to these fans, to this country – this is unbelievable. I’ve never been a part of something like this in my 13-year career. This is special and I really appreciate what this team did.”  

— LeBron James to an ESPN reporter after the Cleveland Cavaliers knocked the Toronto Raptors out of the NBA playoffs.  

We do love our underdogs in Toronto, don’t we?  Raptors fans’ incredible support held true despite the stark realization we’d never beat King James.  Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs:  next year it’ll be half a century since they won The Stanley Cup.  The Blue Jays, Raptors, Toronto FC, Toronto Rock…all underdogs.  In fact, we’d like to make the case that it’s despondent Leafs fans that are leaping onto these band wagons.  Or maybe it’s just the free t-shirts you get at the Raps games.  At Leafs games you get bupkis. 

But why do we cheer for the underdog?  I mean, underdogs are underdogs because they usually lose. 

A study by the Sociology of Sports Journal showed 80% of participants would rather root for an underdog than a team that was heavily favored to win.  They think while the underdog has less ability than the top dog, the underdog puts in more effort.  And we all share in the occasional joy—and more frequent misery—of rooting for the improbable. 

So marketers, do you know where your customers come from?  Are there other forces at play that will cause them to jump on your band wagon?  Like Leafs fans who lose their minds after a couple winning streaks, be sure to tap into your underdog status to generate that same fire and passion in your fans.