Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Eyes Are Branding

It is 6:06 a.m.

Waking up on St. Patrick's Day with thoughts of the Irish.

The Fighting Irish.

Of Notre Dame.

There are few universities that have been immortalized in print, in song and on the silver screen the way Notre Dame has. The legends, and there are many, date back to the earliest days of the last century. You don't even have to be much of a football fan, but chances are you've heard of "Rudy" and some coach who wanted you to "win one for the gipper".

Much of the branding success Notre Dame enjoys to this day, was captured in the 1940 film, "Knute Rockne - All American", profiling the football famous coach and the story of one of his terminally ill players. It was on his hospital death bed that halfback George Gipp is purported to have delivered this message to Rockne:

"I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."

Legend has it, Rockne used the story of Gipp to rally his team to an underdog victory over the undefeated Army team of 1928 at Yankee Stadium.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Rockne sounds like a guy who knew a thing or two about branding strategies even before he went Hollywood.

And what's a good story without a soundtrack?

And a real-life hero who still shares the story to this day.

Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger spent two years in the Navy and another two years working at a power plant before pursuing his dream to enroll at Notre Dame University. After another two years at Holy Cross College and three rejections to transfer to Notre Dame as he battled with dyslexia, 5-foot 5, "Rudy" joins the Fighting Irish as a walk-on scout teamer.

Thousands of hours of sacrifice.

Exchanged for a never-guaranteed, once-in-a-lifetime moment.

You can see the actual play Rudy Ruettiger made on the Georgia Tech quarterback, starting at about the 1:30 mark of this clip.

Following the final gun, "Rudy" becomes the first player in Notre Dame football history to be carried off the field by his teammates.

And into the hearts of millions.

Harvard Professor Stephen Greyser has observed that, like other large corporations, sports teams employ a lot of people, generate profits and and losses, while seeking success against certain financial and performance metrics. However, unlike most corporations, sports teams inspire large segments of the population for purely emotional, irrational reasons. People who have no measurable stake in the wins and losses, yet possessing a loyalty so strong, it is often passed between generations as a birthright.

The same kind of irrational loyalty that inspires someone to wear Nike sneakers, sip on a Starbucks latte, brush with Colgate and bathe with Dove soap.

Or think of the Fighting Irish.

On St. Patrick's Day.

“What we’re really talking about here is commitment. Until you make a commitment to your Dream, it’s not really a Dream … it’s just another fantasy full of excuses. Fantasies don’t come true because they’re not real, we’re not committed to them. When we make commitments, we eliminate excuses and they become Dreams … and Dreams are definitely real"<

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1 comment:

Steve said...

So true Gair. We are human beings, and we don't bond with sales, prices, free parking, and limited-time-only.
We bond with stories that tap into our own hopes and dreams and aspirations. "Rudy" is a great example!