Every NCAA Tournament kick starts spring and there is truly nothing like the opening days of tournament basketball. People have put all their time and effort into studying brackets for their office or friendly pool. As the tournament starts we all question whether a 16 seed will finally upset a number 1 seed. Yet again, this year it did not happen. No matter what happens there are always upsets, and this tournament was no different. After the upsets occur the “Cinderella Story” comparisons start to fly around. Marketers and advertisers beg to ask who will wear the glass slipper this year.
For some reason our country loves the underdog story. We love to see Rocky make a courageous comeback and win the fight in the last round after getting beat the entire time. The NCAA Tournament has its fair share of underdog stories this year with Virginia Commonwealth, Richmond, and Butler. Butler is the most ironic of the “Cinderella Stories” because they reached the NCAA Final last year and came narrowly close to beating National Champion Duke. So why do we love to see Butler as the underdog? Reporters continue to ask Butler Head Basketball Coach Brad Stevens about the Cinderella story and he simply responds with “the Cinderella story worked well for us last year so I love to hear it.” The problem is that we are much too quick to forget about Cinderella teams. Marketers and advertisers use these schools and teams to market their underdog story and then after the tournament we quickly forget about them. We don’t hear a word about the universities or their basketball teams until they become the underdog story then marketers pump money to inflate their story. The Butler Bulldogs were not talked about much this regular season yet they find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen again. No matter how successful they were last season Butler will continue to be branded as a Cinderella team because they are a small school that lacks a deep, rich basketball tradition. Teams like Kansas and North Carolina will never be mentioned as an underdog or a Cinderella no matter how much better the opposing team is. These branding techniques seem to always be used during March Madness.
There is a special story for two of the three Cinderella teams previously named. If Richmond and VCU both win it will be the first time in NCAA Tournament history that two teams from the same city or town will have played each other. Let’s hope that both win so we can celebrate two great teams from Richmond making it to the Elite Eight. More importantly, we can cheer for our fellow Colonial Athletic Association partners the VCU Rams. I’m sure CBS and advertisers will hype up the battle of the underdogs and ask whether the glass slipper fits Richmond or VCU. At this point we might be getting ahead of ourselves, but we can all dream. Hey, it worked for Cinderella.