Talent and skill, yes, but it was ethos that propelled the Cavs to victory. In the final seconds, it was a belief, a way of acting, a way of playing and a way of interacting with each other that created champions. That’s an ethos, that’s a brand.
The NBA Finals matched two cities, two teams, two superstars and two taglines: All In and Strength in Numbers. Was it possible to predict who would prevail in Game 7 based on the brand message? I say definitely. Let’s begin by unpacking the Warriors’ slogan.
At first blush, “Strength in Numbers” sounds good. The team slogan first coined by Coach Kerr for the ’15 season and then beautifully enhanced into a moving campaign by the Warriors’ agency, the venerable and brilliant Goodby Silverstein Partners, is a great statement of confidence about the team’s history of performance, its stars’ amazing stats, the team’s legion of loyal fans. It is a great example of a common phrase redefined with new meaning and purpose.
Here is where it breaks down – its not an ethos. It’s not an ethos because it can’t be a rallying cry for everything you do or every adversity you face. It is not easy to personalize, it is hard to connect with emotionally. In fact, for a sports franchise, it’s precarious.
Here’s where the Warriors went wrong: Anyone who has read a prospectus knows that past performance is not an indicator of future results and anyone who follows sports or who has ever themselves competed on any level for anything knows in the heat of battle there is not only no tomorrow, there is no yesterday. There is only now.
“The Warriors’ historic season has been defined by numbers: a 24 – 0 start, a 54 game home winning streak and a chance at 73 victories. So, it’s no surprise that the franchise’s mantra remains “Strength in Numbers.” SanFrancisco Chronicle
The ability to say I’m “All In,” we’re “All In”- it creates a bond, it is a collective pledge and a promise. The Cavs’ slogan created an energy that in the last seconds of Game 7 could not be defined by a number, because the human spirit defies numbers and logic.
“All In” is an ethos because now, we Clevelanders, will take the strength of this victory and together we will stay “All In.” We are “All In” not only for the next championship but we are “All In” ready to propel our city forward in new and amazing ways. We can and we will because as a community we have demonstrated that we believe in ourselves and that’s what has made us all champions.
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