I was having a conversation today with a colleague about branding when it comes to athletes, and it dawned on me just how misconstrued most of us are when we think of the word brand.
You don’t have to be a celebrity or pro athlete to purposefully build a brand.
In fact, your brand is important whether you become a celebrity or not.
The word “brand” in this context can be explained with yet another single word, “reputation.”
Your brand is nothing more than what people think about you the moment they think about you.
Think about the people you know, and think about what comes to mind when you think about them.
For example, think about your coach… what comes to mind? (Wait, don’t say it aloud, I’m not trying to get you in trouble, ha!)
Think about your mom.
Now think about yourself. What do you think people really think about the split second they think about you?
Truth is, you never know what people really think about you, and it’s impossible to control what every other human thinks of you.
But you can control your actions.
To understand this is crucial, because people’s perception of you stems from what they hear or see about you. And your actions dictate what people hear or see about you.
Need an example? Look no further than Snoop Dogg.
Yep, that’s right, Snoop-D-O-Double-Gizzle himself.
I know he’s not the most “positively”-branded person in the world, but he’s a successful brand nonetheless.
Snoop Dogg may smoke a lot of marijuana and whatever else, but Snoop’s brand has helped him rake in millions.
When I personally think of Snoop Dogg, I think about marijuana, drinking, partying, and being a “hood dude” that has a ton of personality and charisma.
What’s his secret, you ask? I think all he did was stay true to who he really is, and deliberately continued to take actions that enforced that persona.
The end result? Flavored malt liquor deals, marijuana rolling paper deals, Pepsi, and the list goes on.
Watch What You Say and Do
Now back to you. Whether you make it pro or not, your brand is your reputation, and it follows you everywhere you go.
Once you hang up the cleats, you have to do something with the rest of your life.
And if you want to be successful, you’re not going to get far if you try to build your brand off of Snoop’s persona. Celebrities and entertainers get away with stuff “the average Joe” simply can’t.
I know it sucks, but it’s the way it is.
If you have to get a “regular” job when you graduate or finish up as a pro athlete, what kind of brand are you taking with you as you transition into the real world?
Think about some of the guys in the NFL in recent years that have gotten into a lot of trouble with the law; how many of them do you think have attractive “brands” in the eyes of potential employers?
Probably not many.
Yes, Twitter, Instagram, and all the others can help you build your brand, but they can destroy your brand just as easily as they can build it.
I’d advise for you to keep this in mind before you hit submit on every Tweet, status update, or picture you send out to the world.
Before you shoot it out, ask yourself, “what am I influencing people to think about me when they see or read this?”
“How can what I’m putting out into the world benefit me from a personal and financial standpoint?”
If you determine that it’s going to hurt you, why even post it?
I’m not going to turn this into a lecture, but you get my point.
You’d better believe that scouts (both college and pro) look at prospect’s social media behaviors, and they don’t take it lightly.
Note: It’s important to keep in mind that unless you play the “prime time” positions (eg quarterback, running back, wide receiver), it’s going to be tougher to get endorsements regardless. Also keep in mind that building your brand is only part of the equation. You still have to stand out on the field to be an attractive option for a company from an endorsement standpoint.
If you don’t take anything else from this post, remember this:
People’s perception of you is determined by what they see and hear about you.
Do you really want to put out stuff yourself that’s going to hurt your brand?
Remember, someone is always watching.
What other tips would you give someone who wants to build a positive brand for themselves? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Follow me on Twitter! @alvingrier