What are your favorite brands?
Nike? Apple? Facebook? Beats By Dre?
What traits come to mind when you think about your favorite brands?
Elite? Durable? Stylish? Performance? Quality?
Do you consider people to be brands? Well they are! The most obvious is Michael Jordan (heck, his company is called the Jordan Brand). What about Donald Trump, Jay-Z, and LeBron James? Do you consider them brands? I certainly do. Why? Because the characteristics that come to mind when you think of them as individuals are automatically associated with the product they endorse. Make sense? You won’t see Donald Trump endorsing Wrangler Jeans.
If you want to be successful, both on and off the court, you need to start viewing yourself as a brand as well. Think of it as “brand you.” Everything you do affects your brand in some way (either positively or negatively). The way you dress, the way you act, and even the way you play. You need to take your brand very seriously if you want to make it to the top. And just to clarify, I believe in being authentic. I am not telling you to act like someone else or to try to please others just for the sake of it. You need to be real. You need to be genuine. You need to believe in your own brand, and equally important, set the standards of your brand. You need to decide what characteristics you find most important and then live up to them every day of your life.
Is your goal to play college basketball? Then carry yourself as if you already do! Hold yourself to the same standard of excellence as an elite college basketball player would… now… don’t wait. Carry yourself with the same honor, character, humbleness and work ethic as if you were a college superstar.
Are you in college trying to make it to the NBA? Do the same thing. It is going to take much more than a killer crossover and a money jump shot to make it in the league. Thousands and thousands of guys have that. You need to separate yourself from the pack. You need to make your brand stand out. While the LeBron’s, Kobe’s, and CP3’s most certainly have extraordinary talent, they also have charisma, professionalism, the ability to be coached, and an unmatched passion for the game. Their brand is bigger than just their skills.
I highly recommend two outstanding books to any player or coach. One is Money Players by Marc Isenberg and the other is Me 2.0 by Dan Schawbel. Both are invaluable resources and were the inspiration for this blog. Both books can be purchased at Amazon.com.
What do you want people to think about your brand? What would you want them to say when describing your brand? Hard working or lazy? Coachable or a hard-headed? Energy giver or energy taker?
What makes your brand unique on the court? Are you a great passer? Or are you a ball hog? Are you a lock-up defender? Or do you only play one end of the floor? Are you a good teammate? Or are you only focused on getting yours?
What makes your brand special off the court? Are you a good student? Or are you a class clown and a jackass? Do you do what is right when no one is watching? Or are you always looking for a short-cut or an easy way out? Nike cares about what people think of their brand. So does Apple. So does Vitamin Water. So does every other big time brand. So should you.
If you don’t think these things matter, then honestly, you don’t have a clue. They matter more than you know. What people (coaches, teachers, scouts, parents, friends, etc.) think about your brand has a direct impact on the opportunities you will have in life. You only buy brands you like and trust, right? Why would people be any different? Would you buy an iPod if there was a good chance it would break? Would you drink Gatorade if it tasted like vinegar? Absolutely not! So why would a college coach want to give you a scholarship or an NBA general manager give you a contract if they didn’t have full confidence in your brand (both on and off the court)? The answer is… they wouldn’t.
Still don’t think your actions affect your brand’s reputation? Ask Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods appeared to be one of the classiest, most respected, and most honorable professional athletes in the history of sports. But through his own selfish actions, he has disgraced his brand, suffered irreversible damage to his image, and permanently tarnished his legacy. Not to mention lost millions of dollars and the respect of millions of fans. His brand (obviously) isn’t what it used to be.
On the flip side, your actions can drastically improve your brand’s reputation. As most of you know, I had the pleasure of working the Kevin Durant when he was in high school. KD went from being a high school All-American to the College Player of the Year to the NBA Rookie of the Year to an NBA All-Star and NBA scoring leader in only 5 years. The kid can flat out play. But do you think Nike signed him to a $70 million contract, fresh out of college, just because of his basketball talent? Absolutely not. They signed KD because they knew his brand would be an asset to the Nike brand. KD’s brand, above and beyond his unbelievable basketball ability, is about passion, work ethic, respect, humbleness and professionalism. And I can say, without hesitation, KD has exemplified those characteristics since the day I met him. KD has always known the importance of his brand.
Everything you do reflects your brand – everything! The way you dress, your email etiquette, your Tweets, your table manners, your voicemail message, your eye contact… the list goes on and on.
I roll my eyes when a player sends me an incoherent email full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes asking me what they need to do to be successful on the court. Especially when it is sent from ‘ChocolateAdonis@aol.com’ (which actually happened!). How am I supposed to take them seriously? If you don’t have the personal pride to use spell check or punctuation, why would I think you have the discipline to follow my recommendations? Please don’t waste my time. Same goes for someone who has a 5 minute rap song full of foul language on their outgoing voice message or a Facebook profile full of inappropriate pictures. These folks just don’t get it.
Research has shown it takes less than 30 seconds for someone to form a lasting impression of you. If you make a poor first impression, it can take up to 21 follow up impressions to change that person’s opinion. First impressions are a big deal. Remember, whether it is right or wrong, people will always judge you and judge your brand. What do you want them to think?
One of my favorite stories of first impressions and building a strong brand is when Michael Redd met Jerry Colangelo. Back in 2006, USA Basketball was in the initial stages of putting together the “Redeem Team” to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Jerry Colangelo (managing director of USA Basketball) arranged individual interviews with every potential player. He wanted to meet with them prior to deciding who to put on the team. He wanted to look them in the eye to get a sense of their character and commitment. Michael Redd drove straight from his practice with the Milwaukee Bucks to a hotel in Chicago for the interview. When Mr. Colangelo answered the door, Michael was standing there in his team warm-ups with a garment bag on his shoulder. After shaking hands, Michael asked if he could be excused to use the rest room. When he emerged a few minutes later he was dressed in a full suit and tie. Now he was ready for the interview. Now he was ready to show Mr. Colangelo what his brand was about.
Michael Redd’s actions landed him on the team that eventually won the gold medal. Putting on his suit and tie for the interview showed respect and professionalism. You see, Michael Redd gets it. He understands the importance of his brand. It is not an accident he plays in the NBA and has an Olympic gold medal.
Feel free to email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com if I can ever be of service.
Train hard, train smart.
Basketball Strength & Conditioning Coach
Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the nationally renowned, Nike Elite DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program. Alan is a performance consultant for Nike Basketball as well as the head conditioning coach for the annual Jordan Brand All American Classic and the Nike Summer Skills Academies. Alan is a Camp Coach at the prestigious NBA Players Association’s Top 100 Camp as well as the Chris Paul CP3 Elite Backcourt Camp. He is the former strength & conditioning coach for the McDonald’s All American game. His passion, enthusiasm, and innovative training techniques make him a world renowned expert on productive training for basketball players.