The Importance of Building and Leveraging Your Personal Brand

When thinking of a brand, there are many likely connections that come to mind. In the sports world, these connections may include the likes of companies such as Nike and Adidas, or even teams such as the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers. However, as more and more athletes have started diversifying their endorsement portfolios off the field of play, they too are considered brands.

Not only are top professional athletes now considered brands, but even non-athletes and job seekers have their own personal brands. In this day and age where we are constantly connected due to technology and social media, it is of the utmost importance to remain on top of your personal brand development, both on and offline.

When athletes are in the midst of their playing careers, they are constantly in the spotlight, and thanks to social media, are also in the public eye 24/7/365. With all this exposure, their personal brand always has eyes on it from fans, team management, potential endorsers and even potential future employers. This visibility can lead to future endorsements, partnerships and even post-playing career opportunities. However, without working on your personal brand it becomes increasingly difficult to align yourself with future opportunities.

Setting out to create (if you haven’t already) a personal brand can be pretty daunting. There has been an increased emphasis on the importance of personal brands, but this is something that has been developing for nearly your whole life. While this is a relatively new phrase, a good way to think about this concept is that it is what people think about you, or your reputation. For athletes, their reputation could be based solely on their on-field/court/ice performance.

Former wide receiver Andre Johnson showing his receipts for over $19,000. Photo via Instagram.

However, their lives away from the game also have a strong influence on their personal brand. With social media, fans have more access into the lives of these athletes away from the game. Due to this, social media plays a huge role in creating and maintaining one’s personal brand. By showing followers (and fans) a glimpse into their daily lives, they can see what is important to athletes beyond the game.

For example, sharing pictures of volunteering or charity events can align their brand with philanthropy.

Former NFL wide receiver Andre Johnson has held an annual visit to Houston-area Toys “R” Us stores in which he has bought toys for underprivileged children around the holidays since 2008. He gives them 80 seconds (his jersey number) to grab whatever they want and he buys it all. In 2016, this event totaled $19,144.58 and Johnson shared a photo of the receipt with his followers.

Prior to his increased use of social media promotion, this event flew under the radar, but after regularly sharing updates on his community outreach, his personal brand is now aligned with philanthropic efforts.

Given the stage that athletes play on regularly, sometimes the fact that they are regular people can get lost in the shuffle. With the use of social media, these larger-than-life athletes become more relatable to their fans. When athletes show a glimpse into their personal lives by sharing pictures with their family (like they can over on, it shows the importance of a life off the field and the value of family – further developing their personal brand.

One of the most unique aspects of social media is the opportunity for fans and athletes to interact in real time. While there are many trolls and there can be slip-ups in their interactions, for the most part when athletes interact with their fans and followers it further shows their relatability as a person. When athletes show their appreciation for fans and engage them in conversations, it essentially builds brand loyalty between fans and athletes that will follow the athlete throughout their playing career and even post-playing career.

Building a strong social presence can be done by athletes at any level with relative ease. While the number of followers can be viewed as a bragging point among friends or teammates, a large following is also a business opportunity. More visibility means more opportunities to partner with companies or other brands – further developing one’s personal brand.

While building a personal brand is becoming more and more important, developing it through social media is only one of a multitude of ways to do so. During an athlete’s playing career, building a strong personal brand can set them up for success upon retirement. By establishing and aligning oneself with a set of core values during your playing days, finding companies with similar values for your next step may be an easier process.

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