I started building my brand, as we say, around 2009. Though I’d had the domain name DreAllDay.com since 2007, it wasn’t until this 09-10 period that “personal branding” became a thing (and a thing to do). That’s when I started writing more about myself and my experiences and leveraging myself as the product over any specific goods or services.
Around this same time, many athletes picked up on the same idea.
Players were jumping into this new social media thing. Personal websites were popping up. Showing off your “lifestyle” online became a marketing strategy. Players were opening brick-and-mortar businesses, starting clothing lines, and doing lots of stuff outside of their sports. Asked about his long term goals in an ESPN The Magazine article, LeBron James replied, “Global Icon.” The article offered info that supported Bron’s aims, sharing some of the new off-the-court ventures LBJ was involved in.
At the same time in basketball, NBA fans were pining to see one key matchup in the Finals: Kobe vs. LeBron.
Kobe was the guy in the Western Conference. LeBron was King in the East. Nike started an entire campaign around the marquee matchup, humanizing Kobe and LeBron puppets to build on the hype. Kobe held up his end of the bargain, leading the Lakers to the Finals three years straight from 2008-10, winning each of the last two trips.
LeBron kept coming up short though, culminating in “The Decision,” to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.
During this career-extension period of social media and non-basketball ventures, media members brought questions to Kobe on the subject.
“Athletes these days are expanding outside of merely playing their sports, Kobe. What are you gonna do outside of your day job?”
Kobe: “Guys are building brands… I am just trying to win as many championships as possible.”
Tim Duncan (brand-building ventures: 0): 5
Dwyane Wade: 3
Anyone else from that era: 2, 1 or Zero
For Your Game
- Nothing wrong with taking advantage of opportunities to expand and do more and have your hands in more stuff… as long as you remember what allowed you to even do that in the first place. Keep the main thing, the main thing. Focus about discipline — The Mirror Of Motivation is your self-guide.
- In 2009-10, everyone was talking about building a brand and making themselves a star, particularly via the internet and these new apps and sites — Twitter, Instagram, YouTube — that allowed anyone to make a spectacle of themselves. When everyone is going to the right, opportunity awaits the person who goes left. Build your confidence to do so by activating The Super You.
- Your work is your brand. Do good work and the brand builds on itself. If you focus on the Main Thing and do it well enough, all the accolades and opportunity that others are chasing while moonlighting from the day job will come and chase you instead. Since retiring, Kobe has started a company, made an Oscar-winning short film and has a TV show on the way. I think Kobe’s brand is pretty secure.
When have you found yourself deviating from your Main Thing? What caused it, and what did you do about it? Reply and let me know.