Not Famous? No Problem: Why Personal Branding Still Matters Even If Your Name Isn’t LeBron

Who cares that no one refers to you with the word ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ (tea with your niece or flag football teammates don’t count)? So what if you’re not making $30 million in endorsements every year. You do not reserve the right to completely blow off all the talk about personal branding and managing your reputation.

As we get ready for tonight’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals, it’s interesting to note that the league is reporting that the 2011 playoffs have had some of the highest ratings in recent history. Up 30% over last year, nearly 4.15 million viewers tuned in for the exciting first round. When asked about the spike in interest, Commissioner David Stern said, “I know it isn’t league management that’s responsible. I’m pretty sure it’s the compelling stories the players have been delivering on the court.”

With LeBron James and the Miami Heat matching up well against the Dallas Mavericks, I can only imagine that this year’s championship will also see major gains in viewership. My guess is that this spike will be due, in part, to LeBron’s compelling story off the court. According to Sports Illustrated, in 2010 James raked in $15 million in salary and a whopping $30 million in endorsements. His ability to solidify his ‘Super Athlete’ brand – from Nike to State Farm Insurance to his cartoon “The LeBrons” demonstrates that James is keenly aware of the power of a powerful personal brand.

What does this have to do with your own personal brand?  Well, you and LeBron may have more in common than you think:

1. Fans vs. Employers/Customers: They both pay to see you work

Your employer’s (or customers’) ability to cheer you on, develop you professionally and ultimately promote you is directly related to how much they know about you and the value you add to the organization. Fans pack arenas to marvel at LeBron’s athletic prowess – but they also love the fanfare: the boyish smile or the pre-game chalk routine which have both been made more famous through Nike’s portrayal of him. We all know that when given the opportunity to do something that we enjoy and that comes naturally to us; we can experience unrivaled success.

You must identify the core elements of your brand and seek out ways to put your brand to work for you (and for your employer). If, for example, you are someone who enjoys consensus building and leading a team but are too junior for a management role – join one of the company’s affinity groups and take a leadership role. It’s much better to show them you’re capable than to tell them you are.

Like LeBron, you’ve got to give your “fans” something to cheer about. Give them a show and remind them you’re worth every dollar they are paying you. Ultimately, you have to know your brand so well that you take on roles and responsibilities which will allow your brand to shine in the arena…oops I mean the workplace.

2. PR firm vs. Your Personal Network: They Both Tell the World Why You’re Great

Reportedly, once a year LeBron brings together key decision makers from all of the companies he endorses for a marketing summit to discuss their marketing strategies for him in the upcoming year. I am sure James takes an active role in telling those execs exactly how he wants to be portrayed and what he wants to be known for.

Enter: your personal network. How many times have you asked your friends or contacts how they describe you and your business or what you do? You may be surprised to learn that often people whom you talk to on a regular basis have no clue what it is your good at and how to explain it clearly and succinctly.

Not only do you have to create and manage your brand, you must be able to articulate it to other people (complete strangers or close friends). How? Help them help you. In a previous post about how Twitter helps you away from the computer (Twitter Help) I talked about the importance of having your own Twitter headline to describe what it is you do – 140 characters or less that describe the problem you solve in a way that makes it worth listening to. It is up to you to repeat and re-use this headline with those in your network. The result: they end up describing you to others using the exact same words you use to describe yourself. Marketing genius!

Like the marketing executives meeting with LeBron, you are your own Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and you must put in the time – monthly, quarterly or annually – to define or refine your marketing strategies. Coming up with successful methods for letting people know why they should hire, promote, refer or simply befriend you is tough work and you can’t do it alone. Just because you don’t have a team of people working under you; doesn’t mean you can’t have a team of people working for you.

On a side note, don’t forge that all flash and no substance would have made LeBron a bust. You have to perform at a high level consistently and actually live up to the hype you’re creating. But assuming that’s not an issue for you – the next step is all about managing your brand.

I’ll definitely be glued to the tv tonight for what should be an exciting Game 2. Even if the Heat fall to the Mavericks and lose the series, I’m sure there will be plenty of LeBron fans yelling “Long live the King

For more information have a look at an article written a few months ago on how to go about branding yourself both on and offline (How To Brand Yourself).

Jasmin French


Jasmin French, Attorney, Personal Branding Consultant and Keynote Speaker offers a fresh perspective when it comes to self-marketing.  As President of J FRENCH,  Jasmin equips employees, entrepreneurs, students and professional athletes with the tools to package and present their previous accomplishments to get noticed, promoted, hired and be remembered.  Jasmin can be found on Twitter (@JFRENCHbranding) and on Facebook as well.


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  1. 1
    Tommy Maverick

    Hey, thank you for writing this… I’m finding it kind of late, but it totally helped me out. haha I’m working on figuring just how to represent myself (my brand) in the best possible way. I’m a writer/producer/youtuber/musician, so I’m trying to find the best way to really represent all of these things as best as possible. I’m know that I don’t want to brand each of these things differently… I want to be seen as all these things, but known most for my music and writing. It’s been very interesting juggling all this and figuring out how to introduce myself to the people I’ve recently been meeting as well as utilizing the contacts I have in the best possible way.

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