For most people in South Africa, and specifically athletes, the understanding that you are your own personal brand has been a foreign concept. The truth is, we have all been building our personal brands since the beginning of time. It is just how we build our personal brand that has changed in recent times.
Look at the big sporting names, such as David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer and the most recent in the news, Maria Sharapova; all of whom have built their own personal brands over time. They have capitalised on their professional sporting stature, to create a brand that attracts prestigious sponsors and will live post the retirement of their athletic careers.
In South Africa, we have incredible athletes. The South African Women’s Football Team, Banyana Banyana, are off to Rio in a few months’ time for the Olympic Games. A team of South African Powerlifters went to Canada last year to compete in the Commonwealth Games. Tri-athletes represented our country in the very recent ITU World Duathlon Championship held in Aviles, Spain – not to mention, winning it!!
We, as a nation, have great athletes with great stories to tell. Some athletes are doing a good job of marketing themselves, but not an exceptional job. And why should they be marketed? Why should they build their personal brands? There are many answers to this question, such as one mentioned earlier – to capitalise on their professional sporting stature so that they have a prosperous future post the retirement of their athletic career. Another answer, and more importantly, is to build a legacy and contribute to the empowerment of the nation.
“Sport has the power to change the world” said by our Father, Nelson Mandela. We all know that sport unites a nation, so let us use this spirit to empower our nation. When an athlete understands that they are a brand, they will begin to understand the true value and potential that they can share with the world.
Why is the country not talking about the rising stars in the Banyana Banyana team, and the track + field athletes that will be competing at the Rio Olympic Games? Because no one knows. Because no one is marketing them; no one is building a campaign around them to increase their exposure. Regardless of whether you play for the South African National Rugby, Soccer or Cricket Team, or any other sport, you have the power to build to your own brand.
If we look at the Wikipedia Definition of “personal branding”, we are told it is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. If athletes applied this practice, their potential would be limitless. Imagine that an athlete that markets themselves so well, that other brands (companies) want to be associated with that athlete. We all know that the general public are seeking a connection, something they can relate to, and what better way for a company to provide that human connection to their customers, than through an athlete that matches their core brand attributes?
According to the www.dummies.com website, the Ten Key Benefits of Personal Branding are:
- Permission to be yourself
- Gains in confidence
- Building credibility
- Showcasing your specialty
- Leaving your mark
- Connection to your target audience
- Distinguishing yourself from the competition
- The support you need
- Focusing your energy
- Letting yourself be lazy
I could write a separate blog on on each point listed above, so please go and have a look, it is worth a read.
A few more key considerations to take note of when athletes build their personal brand:
- What are your values + needs as an athlete?
- What are your interests + passions, besides your athletic profession?
- Who are you, what do you stand for?
- What do you want to achieve, what have you already achieved?
- What are your core strengths, what makes you unique?
- Who is your target market, who do you want to tell your story to?
Once you have the answers to the above (and the many other considerations that you can discuss with a consultant like myself) you have to figure out what you are going to do with that information. How you are going to build your Athlete Personal Brand?
The point to be made, is that it is essential for athletes to build their personal brand if they want to elevate their career to the next level. If a potential sponsor is debating which athlete they want to use to represent their brand, and the options are: a) an athlete that is achieving great results but has no personal brand presence; or b) an athlete that is achieving great results and has an excellent, marketable personal brand presence. The answer is simple.
Finally Athletes, when building your personal brand, remember these words by Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”