THE IMPORTANCE OF ATHLETE BRAND BUILDING
For many sports teams, the concept of building a brand is something that has been implemented for many years.
Teams such as the Boston Celtics, Dallas Cowboys & New York Yankees are worldwide names not only known for their ability to historically perform at a high-level (this is also very key) but also because they have consciously focused on building reputable brands in their respective sport.
I’ve watched these teams since I was young and have always wondered why does their name hold so much more weight than other teams?
Why do they have so many die-hard fans and life-long followers nationwide and even worldwide, not just in their cities?
What makes their team brand great and memorable?
But it all goes back to why any brand is considered great.
The greatest brands are often polarizing, and captivating.
They are revolutionary and innovative.
They are different and evoke emotion in people.
Most of all, they win the long-term game.
If you think about it, it’s not really because of the coaches or the executives in the organization.
It’s all about the teams as a whole, but more specifically the individual players that play for these teams that matter the most.
Think about it.
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, etc… Although this was before my time, even I know about their on-the-court brawls and the super competitive games between them and the Lakers. They are arguably the greatest basketball franchise of all-time due to their 17 NBA championships.
Troy Aikman, Deion Sanders, Terrel Owens, and Michael Irwin. The Cowboys have long been known to have some of the most compelling and controversial players on their team. Known as “America’s team,” the Cowboys are definitely one of the most talked-about NFL teams year after year.
New York Yankees
From Babe Ruth to Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees are easily the greatest baseball organization of all time. Starting with Murderer’s Row until now, they’ve always had incredible players who placed winning the World Series above all else.
All of these players built individual brands whose perception extended to their teams, but what they all became known for was having a winning tradition.
An athlete’s brand can be enthralling and exciting, but it will never work if you don’t win which is why I said this is key.
These teams will forever be etched in fans minds because of their ability to consistently win and because of the players that played for them in past years who were often unpredictable yet enthralling for fans to see.
Brings Exposure Back To Team- Everything an athlete does on or off the playing field is a reflection of the organization that they play for. If an athlete is active in the community or has a foundation, all of that adds positive value back to the team. The more that teams encourage their athletes to get involved and build their brands in their respective communities, this will translate into brand loyalty and ticket sales for the long term.
Players Are More Relevant To The Fans- Athletes have become more popular than the teams that they play for. Plain and simple. Social media has revolutionized the way we look at our favorite athletes partly because we have exclusive access to their lives and to who they are beyond the jersey. With players having very large fan bases, team executives and representatives leverages can leverage the player’s relevance to elevate the team’s brand and promote team events/activities.
Teaches Players About Career Longevity- Once a player retires, they obviously have to start another career doing something else. If they start building their brand during their career it will help them figure this out. Building a personal brand can help players start to think about who they are outside of being an athlete and if teams inspire athletes to do this, we’ll see more players have effective transitions into life after sports.
Teaches Players About Public Image- The way people view an athlete in public is a major part of their brand. The more that teams talk about how players should conduct themselves in public and in front of the media, the more players will conduct themselves appropriately while out in public. As I said before, everything that a player does is a reflection of the team that they play for, from what they say to how they dress. Teams should stress the importance of having a good public perception and players will have a better understanding that everything they do is being scrutinized and critiqued.
Branding Not Logos
I have to reiterate that everything that an athlete does leads back to the organization that they are employed by.
They are a representation of the organization on and off the court.
I understand that this can be a positive and negative thing at times, which is why organizations have to first invest in athletes who have a high character before a high level of talent.
When a player makes a positive impact, it looks good for the organization, and I mean really good.
When they do something bad, it looks bad, really bad.
In recent years, we have seen employers get fired for remarks made on social media. It’s no different for athletes.
Your personal life as an employee aka the brand that you have outside of your day job is still a representation of the company you work for.
Athletes and individuals alike have to take this into consideration because this is the world that we live in today.
At the end of the day, branding is all about storytelling and connecting with other people.
It is the faces in our feeds that slow our scroll on social media. Logos don’t sign autographs or win games. Athletes do.
The more that teams organizations realize that this is the key, the better off they’ll be further down the line.