I was listening to 'Games' recently, which included a very interesting discussion about sport, but also about a great deal more. So if you're not that interested in sport, bear with me a moment or two.
It's the fifth round of the FA cup and a third division team is drawn against a premiership giant – who do you support?
Unless you're a fan of that particular premiership club, there's only one choice. The neutral gets an enormous kick out of an upset, like when Shrewsbury Town knocked Everton out of the Cup in 2003 – a fairy tale win.
On Radiolab, the discussion moved away from sport, to what sport represents – stories that offer us an emotional journey. And funnily enough, most of us choose the same journey.
We support the underdog.
A group of psychologists has been investigating. In tests, 80%-90% choose to support the underdog and the results remain broadly the same whether you are talking about competing sports teams, politicians, businesses or even landscape painters.
Yes. The same applies.
Groups were given a painting and asked whether they liked it. It was presented as either the work of a successful, established landscape artist or a starving artist striving to make their way in the world – guess which they favoured?
So the vast majority of us root for the underdog, the struggler, the striver - the next question is why?
That's when it gets really interesting.
As I suggested above, one theory is based around emotional journeys. Consider what's on offer if you back the favourite. If they win, it's nothing more than what you expect. But if they lose, you'll feel horribly disappointed.
The emotional journey that goes with supporting the underdog is different. They're expected to lose, so no worries if that happens. But if they win? Wow! You get an incredible high.
The relevance to fundraising is fairly apparent. If people naturally crave an emotional high, that's certainly what we can deliver. Tom Ahern made a great comment on Mark's last blog post making just that point last week.
But the second theory of why people support the underdog is even more pertinent.
It's based around the idea that we all have a natural sense of justice. We want people to have an even playing field and, if they don't, we want to correct that by supporting the underdog and redressing the balance.
Finally, there's the thought that we connect with the underdog because if they can make it, so can we.
When it comes to fundraising, it's exciting to think we can offer the donors the chance to:
- Connect with the underdog/a need
- Take an emotionally rich journey
- Root for someone or something
- Be on the side of justice and fairness
To illustrate this, I've chosen my favourite (under)dog advert for Dog's Trust. No wonder it's been the banker for years.