A Lesson in Personal Branding, Athlete Style

Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman, courtesy of nbaloud.com

In honor of this month’s crazy celebrity, Charlie Sheen, I thought it would be appropriate to write about personal branding. While some public relations dislike the term “brand”, I find it quite appropriate here. Since athletes are brands in every aspect of the term—they endorse brands, their faces sell brands, their teams are brands—using the phrase “personal branding” when discussing an athlete’s public identity seems fitting. I would like to take a look at some of the most successful personal brand campaigns of professional athletes, so let’s dive into it! (In no particular order):

1. Dennis Rodman: I said successful, not positive. Rodman is a complete master at creating the crazy persona that he carried out while playing for the Chicago Bulls. He became known for his consistently wacky hairstyles and red carpet antics, but managed to perform on the court. This made him a guilty pleasure for many basketball fans.

2. LeBron James: Yes, he has become known as a bit of a jerk, but a consistent jerk. James is a down-to-business type of player, and treats the game as just that—business. Viewers know that when they watch him they are not going to get a smiley, goofy happy-go-lucky highlight from James. Instead they are going to see a lot of deadpan expressions and strong moves to the basket. Off of the court, his ego has grown so big that nothing—even the announcement of his multi-personality web series—can shock you.

3. Alex Rodriguez: The New York Yankees’ third baseman has it all, and he is not afraid to let you know. A-Rod is notorious for dating celebrities such as Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz. He has created a playboy persona but still manages to carry his team to the World Series on a relatively regular basis. Not a bad life.

4. Tiger Woods, pre scandal: Before his cheating scandal was blasted across the media, his humble winning methods and clean slate made him a public role model. He had endorsements from Nike to Gatorade, and was the idol of children across the nation. He created a squeaky clean brand from himself…which he also single-handedly ruined in the matter of a 24-hour turnaround.

5. Kobe Bryant: This one is pretty impressive. After suffering the backlash of an adultery scandal-turned questionable rape claim, the basketball star has re-emerged as a family man with two things in mind: basketball and his wife and children. Due to his branding efforts to be viewed as a standup athlete, Bryant is now one of Nike’s headlining endorsements. He is also the beloved face of the Los Angeles Lakers, and is gunning for his sixth NBA title.


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