There’s no doubt that March Madness showcases a passion for basketball like no other. Because fans help fuel the NCAA tournament, Dove Men+Care teamed up with basketball legends, like David “The Admiral” Robinson and Shane Battier, to recreate the “Real Strength Manifesto” – a unifying message for fans that recognizes the impact of their care on the game.
“As an athlete, I have always been impressed by the intimate relationship between the fans and their teams,” Robinson said. “When I was playing during college and as a professional, the fans gave me the energy I needed to support my team and be the best player possible.”
Knowing how much fans can impact the game, CBS college basketball analyst and sports writer Seth Davis interviewed current and former players to better understand the positive ripple effect that can come from the stands. These stories helped inspire the new Real Strength Manifesto.
“What resulted was a Manifesto that celebrates the positive impact fan culture can have on men today during the tournament and beyond,” Davis said.
That’s why the campaign will be highlighted during select tournament games in Nashville, Detroit, Dallas and Los Angeles. The Manifesto will also be displayed in-stadium while a group of local youth basketball players welcome the participating student-athletes onto the court.
To gain a better understanding of why this campaign is needed and what Davis discovered in his time interviewing the athletes, I asked him a few questions about his findings.
KC: We often see so many examples of ugly fan behavior directed at athletes and coaches (hand gestures, vulgar language, throwing objects, etc.). From your perspective, why is a campaign like this needed in basketball to bring awareness to fans, so they know how big of an impact their presence can make?
SD: Fans need to know that their actions and attitudes not only have a ripple effect on other fans, but those playing and coaching on the court. I was excited to work with Dove Men+Care to interview athletes and create the Real Strength Manifesto because it expresses the importance of positivity and care in the stands as it can impact everyone’s game experience. We do not want to diminish the passion – in fact, Dove Men+Care ran a research study that shows that 97% of men believe that men can show good sportsmanship during sporting events without sacrificing their passion for their team. Athletes feed off of the fans energy, and the Manifesto allows us to unite the fans this March Madness by pointing that out to them.
KC: What surprised you most as you were interviewing current and former players about their experiences with fans?
SD: I was so moved to learn about the intimate relationships these athletes have developed with individual fans. Certain fans have impacted these players, like David Robinson, Shane Battier, Trey Burke and more, on and off the court and the lessons they have taught them have stayed with them their entire lives. Doug McDermott even said there was a group of fans that were like assistant coaches to him. The details the athletes remembered about these experiences were crystal clear, which shows the impact the caring fans had.
KC: Did any of the guys you spoke with offer suggestions or advice to fans pertaining to how to help strengthen the bond between an athlete and a fan base?
SD: The athletes I spoke with all encourage everyone around them to embrace the fan energy. When the fans show up and are bringing it to every game, it inspires the athletes to do the same, even when they are down.
KC: When I first read about the Dove Men + Care, one of my first thoughts was that basketball, because fans are in closer proximity to players (as opposed to football and baseball), is a great testing ground for a campaign like this? Do you agree? Why or why not?
SD: Yes, I do agree. Because of the close proximity from fans to players on the court, players can almost feel as if they are part of the crowd. This is especially significant in college basketball, and the athletes I interviewed for the Real Strength Manifesto all attested to that. They think that is why college basketball is the way that it is. It really brings the athletes and fans together.
KC: Do you think if the media were to highlight those positive moments in fandom more often, it would help combat unsportsmanlike behavior as well?
SD: Even at the most competitive of moments, it’s important to remember that sports bring us together unlike anything else. Cheering for your team and getting excited about the wins is great, but as fans, we still support them when they’re down. Showcasing that care will serve as a constant reminder of what matters most in the game.
KC: Finally, in your time covering college hoops, specifically March Madness, do you have a favorite tug-at-your-heartstrings moment that you’ve witnessed between a fan and a player or coach?
SD: When I interviewed Marques Johnson, he told me about his 18th birthday during his freshman year at UCLA. The entire student section sang happy birthday to him and gave him an incredible feeling he’d never forget. He said that because of that gesture from the crowd, he went on to play an amazing game. I loved hearing that story.
Visit Dovemencare.com/NCAA to read, share and embrace the Real Strength Manifesto. For more #RealStrength, visit @DoveMenCare on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.