The Colts' embracing and encouragement of the #Chuckstrong movement in 2012 was borderline brilliant.
The movement, and the subsequent fight from Pagano in his battle with acute promyelocytic leukemia, ignited a fire under the collective bellies of the citizens of Indianapolis and the rest of the state.
After losing Tony Dungy to retirement in January 2009, the Colts have struggled to promote a strong, off-the-field leader. Peyton Manning stayed around through 2011, and was incredibly influential, but didn't have the same off-field character that Hoosiers admired so much.
As a leader, Manning excels, but as a leader by example. Manning's work ethic and drive to succeed infected his teammates, sometimes too a fault. Nobody would mistake Manning for a selfless leader, not that it was a criticism of Manning. It simply wasn't his role to play.
Jim Caldwell tried to take that role, and rumor is that he was loved within the locker room and in the Colts organization. But after a Super Bowl run in 2009, Caldwell's success on the field dwindled, and fans' support quickly receded. Dungy, though soft spoken, was an outspoken community leader and actively embraced that role. Caldwell remained in the background, a kind soul, and possibly a remarkable leader, but one whose style would not be embraced by the masses.
Chuck Pagano, however, has taken that role and filled better than imagined in just one year's time.
Obviously, the community's embracing of Pagano was influenced by the inspiring story of Pagano's bought with cancer, but to completely lie his meteoric rise with the near-tragedy would do Pagano a disservice.
Pagano began his campaign in the summer, before the season, pushing the "Build the Monster" mantra. As the summer continued, it was clear that the team bought in. As the veterans voiced their support and admiration for Pagano, fans began to buy in as well. Pagano's confident words drew them in, and the team's perseverance and success in the wake of #Chuckstrong hooked them.
But now, the Colts will move on. 2012 was about a rag-tag team's resiliency and the emergence of Andrew Luck as a franchise quarterback, tied together and delivered to the community by Chuck Pagano and #Chuckstrong.
2013, however, is about the Colts: a single, unified group of men gathered in Indianapolis through a variety of means, whether it be free agency, the draft, or loyal Colts' from a past regime. And so, the Colts, while not burying the #Chuckstrong movement, are moving forward -- to #Coltstrong.
"Nobody had to come in here and say, 'OK look, take the wristbands off, take all the signs down,' " Pagano said, referring to the incredibly popular #Chuckstrong apparel.
"Every now and then, Andrew still wears a T-shirt. Yeah, it's going to be there. But is that going to be our motivation? Is it going to be our rallying cry? Not necessarily."
The Colts will continue to use #Chuckstrong as a way to raise funds for leukemia research and reach out in community service, but the focus has changed for 2013 and beyond.
The phrase itself, and the difference between it and the all-too similar catchphrase of 2012, is telling. No longer is the focus on the individual, but the whole.
As appropriate as it was to promote Pagano during his struggle last year, to stick with the individually-focused campaign after Pagano's recovery would not only undermine the team, but the unified philosophy that Pagano himself preaches. As the Colts move forward, the organization strives to promote the Colts as a unit, not letting the individual, even one as great and influential as Pagano, dominate the team's image.
You can see it even in the team's promotion of it's young players. Andrew Luck is the future of the franchise, but you would not know it based on the coverage on the Colts' website.
Interviews with Luck are mixed in with videos of veterans such as Cory Redding, Antoine Bethea, and Pat McAfee. Young players are given their chance in the spotlight as well, with rookies Bjoern Werner, John Boyett, and Hugh Thornton all getting equal video time as Luck. Stories by writers such as Craig Kelley focus on others, such as Griff Whalen and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The national media may be focusing on Luck and his development, and rightly so, but the Colts are making a concentrated effort to portray a unified team image.
And it all starts with the team's slogan transition.
#Chuckstrong served its purpose, and will continue to exist. But the Colts are moving on as one.
As Tony Dungy (and likely Chuck Pagano) recited often: "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Eccl. 4:12)
A collective group of individuals have become, and will continue to be, one unit.
One team, one franchise, one community.
Bound. Hungry. Strong.
I did like this piece, but the structure and sound of those terms resonate negatively for me. Not to sound like a tool, but doesn't "AnythingStrong" have the taint of Lance Armstrong's multi-year, systematic, lie-to-everyone blood doping scandal clinging to it? I saw someone selling CheatStrong wrist bands (the onion.com?) and thought it was just brilliant. Much like leaving AnythingGate in the dustbin of history for scandals (it's been 40 years, folks, Monkeygate and Taxgate and Spygate are meaningless non-word fabrications), I'd be happy to see the BlankStrong movement move on to leave Lance Armstrong where he belongs. If Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Hulk Hogan all promoted cancer research with their BeefPower campaign, would everyone adopt something similar to that the next time they needed a rallying cry? Ick. Personally, I think "The Fivehead and the Neckbeard" has a certain hipster cache to it, but it's a bit long.
I, too, thought it was a good idea, but hadn't really thought about why I felt that way. Your article perfectly summarizes it. #nicejob.
I have often wondered, especially with Pro Football teams, how much catchy slogans and mantras matter. Still football teams are unique groups, so whatever works I'm all for.
(And I'd be happy to lend DougStrong, not that it has anything to do with the Colts, I just think it has a nice ring to it.)
@DougEngland More just for the perception and marketing than the team itself.