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Leicester City FC and the benefits of an underdog brand

Angell, Robert, Bottomley, Paul Andrew and Doyle, John R. 2016. Leicester City FC and the benefits of an underdog brand. Harvard Business Review 2016 (12 Aug)

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Everyone loves it when a small competitor takes on a Goliath and wins. To understand how brands can accomplish that (and do so profitably), we’ve examined various streams of research and identified a few moves that are nicely illustrated by Leicester City FC’s rise to the top of the English Premier League (EPL) last season. This remarkable underdog story from the world of soccer provides a useful case study of sorts for businesses as well as sports organizations. At the beginning of the season everything about Leicester suggested it would not survive in the EPL: a dramatic escape from relegation to a lower league the previous season; a negligible fan base; no glory days or trophies to speak of; and a new manager, Claudio Ranieri, who seemed a poor fit for the humble team, given his past appointments with high-profile, well-resourced clubs such as Chelsea, Juventus, and Inter Milan. At 5,000:1 Leicester had the longest odds to win the EPL of all 20 teams; according to various bookmakers it was more likely that Elvis would be found alive (those odds were estimated at a mere 2,000:1). So when the team actually won the league for the first time in its 132-year history, it defied all expectations. Impressive as Leicester was on the pitch, its performance off the pitch underpinned its commercial success. Three moves served the club particularly well:

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Publisher: Harvard Business Publishing
ISSN: 0017-8012
Date of Acceptance: 12 August 2016
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2020 03:24

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