How Digital Media Is Replicating the “Underdog Effect” Found in Football

Let’s face it, supporting a team that expects to lose before every match isn’t exactly a popular thing to do. There has to be a whole background and context that explains this unusual behavior, and even more so if the team competes against the favorites, the usual suspects, the real deal.


There’s a kind of competitive (dis)advantage for those underdogs before they have even started the match. That element of disparity has been displayed in sports media over history. 


How can a football fan, a supporter of any club, have all the information and support for those squads that nobody believes in? More importantly, which media outlets are giving them the same coverage that sides like Barcelona, Chelsea or Bayern enjoy? Which platform will offer their modest club the same attention and appreciation?

The “Underdog Effect” in Football


This “underdog effect” isn’t something new in the sport, but thanks to technology, more people globally might see how a certain team that isn’t as popular as the considered favorites could beat their rivals against all odds, generating a positive reaction from the squad to the institution, tapping into their fanbase, and stimulating major engagement between peers and better understanding among rivals.


Over the first 22 years of the new millennium, we have seen multiple episodes of greatness from unexpected winners, perhaps none more memorable than in 2016, when Leicester City became the first team outside of the ‘big six’ to win the Premier League since Blackburn Rovers 21 years prior.



Competing face to face with a considerably minor budget compared to its title rivals, the seasoned experience of Claudio Ranieri plus the empathy from the club’s owners, a motivated squad, and LCFC’s passionate fanbase brought to the city of Leicester the feeling of believing that they could achieve the impossible.


They climbed the summit, sharing a privileged place with those winners who once were just unexpected competitors, such as Greece in 2004. They kicked off their European Championship with a shock 2-1 win against hosts Portugal, before drawing 1-1 against their Iberian rivals and losing 2-1 to Spain.


Whilst Portugal topped their group with 6 points, Greece finished level with Spain on 4 but qualified after scoring more overall goals. The Ethniki progressed past France and Czech Republic, before taking on the hosts in the final, where they would face off against a Portugal side featuring Luís Figo, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto, Nuno Gomes, Deco, and Cristiano Ronaldo and win 1-0 via a second-half goal from Angelos Charisteas to secure their first and only major triumph on the international stage.


Traditional media has always overlooked the underdog and its fans. When manager Osvaldo Bagnoli led Hellas Verona to its first and only Scudetto, there was far less media coverage than other sides like Juventus and Milan and just a few methods to follow them matchday after matchday with full details for their results.


Only fans or journalists that were from the region, who were living there, or that were abroad and who could be connected with their club’s latest news through the now ’archaic’ methods: international/local post mail, faxes, phone calls, or who simply had to wait until the media realized it was important enough they could turn it into revenue.


Tension at the Tail-end – The Crazy Conclusion to the 2001/02 European Football Season


Kaiserslauten ended a four-year spell in Germany’s third division — their first ever spell in the 3. Liga — last season and kicked off the new season with a 2-1 win against Hannover that saw Kevin Kraus net a winner in the 92nd minute for the Red Devils. Die roten Teufel tasted success in two league titles in the ’90s and will be looking to complete another major triumph by challenging for promotion to the Bundesliga this season.


Thanks to digital media, a Kaiserslautern-supporting father can show his son a video of how their team led by a young Andreas Brehme pipped Bayern Munich to the title, and fans can connect with more and more members of the community as they follow the team on their path in the second tier thanks to technology and digital media. 



The Underdog Effect in Society Through Digital Media


Football is a sport that closes the gap between societies, speaks a universal language, and creates a strong sense of community and empathy. That’s a phrase I’ve been reading and repeating as a mantra over the past four years, and I’ve now added technology to the equation, a spicy ingredient for the complex recipe in spread inclusion, positivity, and better understanding amongst fans. 


You might understand that phrase if you recently logged in to Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, where you will find a significant growth in different overlooked football spaces. There’s a lot to learn and improve, but there are more top-quality women’s football content creators, LGQBT coverage, and projects like CommonGoal with footballers & community donating part of their income to support other less privileged footballers, or influencers documenting the impact of football in indigenous communities.


At Breaking The Lines, we believe that sports journalism has evolved around these core values and we’re working to give creators the freedom to distribute their content to a global audience and provide football fans access to curated deep analysis and data-driven insights.

Our mission is to create a reliable sports media platform that empowers those who are creating value for it and reward content creators for not going for the mainstream topics, but instead, the ones that aren’t being covered enough. Our goal is to enable them to destroy barriers, spread their wings and analyze a wide variety of topics in football, and give them the creative freedom to challenge themselves as creators.


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By: Juan Castro / @Juanffrann

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto