Student Athlete Branding Best Practices

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Student Athlete Branding Best Practices

Jun 23, 2021

Our fourteenth minisode of the fourth season of “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere. In this minisode, Jon outlines best practices for a student athlete to develop their brand and build a following, with practical tips and suggestions.


A transcript of the episode follows:

This is the fourteenth minisode of Season Four of the Creative Influencer Podcast. Today we talk about best practices for a student athlete to develop their brand and build a following.

Student athletes have a built-in advantage over traditional influencers. They have an existing following because of their team’s fan base, their school’s fans and alumni, and, in some instances, the fan base of their conference or league.

How do you take advantage of this built-in fan base to build a following and how do you build a personal brand to reach a wider audience?

Develop your Brand

The first step is to determine and cultivate your personal brand.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is quoted as saying, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” What do you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room? What do you want to be known for? What do you want your reputation to be?

This is important because your reputation is the basis for your brand. Are you a good person? A team player? Or are you a jerk on the field? Of course, when you are building your personal brand with an eye to potential future sponsorships or the future monetization of the use of your name, image and likeness, you want to be careful about how you manage your reputation on and off the field first and foremost.

But this is also where you can have some control. Decide what you want to be known for. On the surface level, this is your position, your stats, your ranking. But those are all components of the bigger picture.

Think of your brand as your game plan. Your coach devises a game plan for every team you play. You need a brand that fits you and speaks to and resonates with your audience.

Who is your audience? Your audience includes people who root for you, are graduates of your school or fans of your team. They can also be other students at your school, high school players that want to be where you are, or former college athletes from your school or sport.

You should also think about your values. These should be embodied in your personal brand. It may be your faith, your major, your family, a hobby. Or it may simply be the fact that you are focused solely on being the best at your sport. Whatever your values are, be intentional about them and make sure that your brand reflects them.

Claim your brand

Now, to some of the nuts and bolts. Once you’ve given thought to what you want your personal brand to embody and convey, it’s time to start claiming your stake.

If you are already on social media, perform an audit of your accounts (see minisode thirteen and our download for how to do this). Keep your posts and messaging on-brand, and change your “about me” and “profile” pictures and other information to be consistent across all platforms.

If you are not on social media, get ready to claim your YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook accounts. Start with Instagram, since your profile name may determine what you use for your other accounts. And in all cases, keep it classy and professional. Don’t be cute, and especially, don’t use an existing company’s or brand’s name.

Regardless of whether or not you are on social media, get a website URL for your name or your “brand” name. Even if you do nothing other than own the domain name and make it redirect to your social media, it is important to claim this to protect your brand and to control your image. Think of it this way -- you don’t want to wake up the morning of the draft to find out that someone owns your name as a URL and has it show a blooper reel of all of your worst fails over your sports career.

How to build your brand

The most important advice that we can give is this: be authentic.

Think like Gronk. For non-football fans I’m talking about Rob Gronkowski. He is a tight end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and before that, the New England Patriots. He has won four Super Bowls all with Tom Brady. Even non-football fans know who Tom Brady is. Do a YouTube search on Gronk and you’ll see what I mean by “think like Gronk.”

What is the real you? What do you like to do when you have free time? What are your hobbies? Interests? Passions?

J.J. Watt, formally with the Houston Texans, points out that being an athlete today means you have to give more access to fans and share more about your day-to-day life.

Look to professional athletes for inspiration on what they post—and how to build an audience. For example, the following athletes are consistently listed as the best managed online brands, and who are good role models for student athletes for what they should emulate in their own personal brands:

           Lebron James
           Serena Williams
           Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
           Stephen Curry
           Tom Brady
           Kevin Durant
           Derek Jeter
           And, of course, Michael Jordan

Just as team players on the field are appreciated, it pays to be a team player off the field as well. Ask for help. Partner with other players and post complimentary posts or updates, or tag team members in your posts and have them do the same.

Content Ideas and Suggestions

The best way to get closer to your fans would be to engage with them during your game or match. But you can’t do that.

The next best thing is to give your fans – your followers - a peak behind the curtain. That you can do.

           What are your rituals?
           How do you train?
           What is your work out routine?
           What do you eat? What is your nutrition plan?
           What happens when you are on the road?
           How do you prepare for a game or a match?
           What do you do immediately after a game or a match?
           What is in your locker?
           What does the weight room look like?

Having said all this, be realistic. According to information posted on the NCAA’s web site, there are 7,400,000 high school student athletes in all sports. Of that number, six percent move from high school to the NCAA. Again, according to information posted on the NCAA’s web site, there are 460,000 NCAA student athletes. Of that number, two percent move from NCAA to the professional level.

So, you may not become a professional athlete, but you can enjoy the process and still enjoy the benefits of building your brand for whatever your future may bring. Your future self will thank you.

Have fun.

The Creative Influencer is a weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California. Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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