Sports talk radio, while not always an accurate depiction of a fanbase, often helps illustrate some of the division within a sports town. Debate is encouraged and sometimes created by radio personalities to ignite a more stimulating conversation.
In sports-crazed markets like Philadelphia, where only callers with polarizing opinions are seemingly permitted on-air, these healthy debates can turn palpable:
Were you anti-Eric Lindros and his parents, or anti-Bobby Clarke and Ed Snider?
Were you supportive of Allen Iverson and his antics, or were you tired of his perceived distractions?
Were you convinced Donovan McNabb was a franchise quarterback, or were you skeptical of his abilities to lead the franchise?
Were you willing to give Chip Kelly the time and resources necessary to run the franchise in his vision, or were you convinced he was a phony and wanted him fired?
These are just a handful of the many examples of division that sports talk radio personalities and their callers can create.
Another example of this division has been raging since one team’s hiring of a quirky, polarizing and analytical leader.
When the Philadelphia 76ers were sold by Comcast Spectacor in 2011, new ownership quickly transitioned from strategies that could be considered “old-school,” to strategies and leadership that could undoubtedly be labeled as “new-school.”
In the 2012 offseason, the Sixers hired Sam Hinkie to rebuild the proud organization.
In what would eventually be titled “The Process,” Sam Hinkie dismantled a mediocre team with a young All-Star point guard in Jrue Holiday and systematically built rosters with no chance of competing year-after-year. This “tanking” enabled the Sixers to increase their chances of acquiring more valuable draft picks.
Once again, debate created disunion amongst the Philly faithful. This time the question was: Do you trust the process?
While most debates in Philadelphia seemingly have a life-cycle – serious and intellectual conversation, pick sides and stubbornly defend, make signs, t-shirts, chants to support your stance, let the results speak for themselves, move on to the next topic – this particular debate echoed for what felt like an eternity. Each side isolated any current event and viewed it as indisputable proof their side was correct… disturbingly similar to politics.
What made this disharmony more fascinating was that these two sides began to conform to social characteristics.
The individuals who “Trusted the Process” were young (college students, recent college graduates and young adults), generally liberal individuals who were unapologetically supportive of their fearless leader Sam Hinkie.
The individuals who thought the Process was some kind of Ponzi-Scheme were older (middle-aged), generally conservative individuals who were equally stubborn.
Fast-forward to today, and the debate is finally beginning to fizzle-out. While some doubters still have their complaints, most can come to the conclusion that The Process was a success. The 76ers are set to play in their first playoff game since 2012, and most Philadelphians are simply relieved to have an NBA team to be proud of once again.
For most teams, postseason action means the creation of a new rallying cry. Conrad Burry labels it as “Mantra” in his tweet below, where you can see several slogans and logos that will be printed on t-shirts, rally towels, and more throughout the upcoming NBA Playoffs.
What makes the Sixers’ postseason rallying cry so special?
Historical context and present-day application.
The segmented snake wrapped around the Liberty Bell pays homage to Ben Franklin’s political cartoon from 1754. The caption of this cartoon was simply “Join, or Die.” This was a plea for the colonies to unite in support of a revolution.
The thirteen colonies had differing opinions about the decision to fight for their independence, as they all came from very different backgrounds. But the colony’s representatives eventually united to fight for their unalienable rights.
Throughout the season, the Sixers’ marketing and social media strategies attempted to unify the entire market after years of polarizing and embarrassing basketball. This strategy was extremely evident when the organization went above-and-beyond to support the Philadelphia Eagles during their playoff run.
According to Joel “The Process” Embiid, the process won’t actually end anytime soon. Yet this is an attempt to move forward as a fanbase.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if you identified ex-General Manager Sam Hinkie as the 76ers’ savior or Philadelphia’s snake in the garden. The rallying cry – #PhilaUnite – encompasses an entire market. It’s not inclusive to those on one side of a sports radio and social media debate.
Perhaps I’m overthinking a special event logo as a history and marketing enthusiast.
But I don’t think that I am. I believe this postseason campaign was articulated brilliantly by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Marketing Department and it perfectly fits their season-long objectives of garnering Brotherly Love to unify the entire Delaware Valley.
Featured Photo: Glossback LLC. Check out more of their great work on their Instagram Page.