Updated: Nov 12, 2018
All great brands have a simple message that their followers can buy into. Whether it’s Nike’s “Just Do It” or Google’s the only search engine to use, there’s usually one core thing that makes them special.
Sport stars are brands too. And the best have a simple USP that sets them apart. I’ve picked 5 of the best and given you one lesson to take away from each. Take these lessons and use them to develop your own brand.
Recommended reading: Personal Branding Action Plan for NFL Prospects & Rookies
1. J.J. Watt: Engage your target audience on social media
Record breaking defensive end, J.J. Watt has over 10 million followers on social media. Watt’s socials have made his brand big enough to get him on the TIME 100 List. He’s done so by engaging with his followers.
Watt says so himself: "Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram, they know they're not going to see tons of ads and not a whole lot of product placement. I don't operate like that. I'm not going to have some paid ad. It's all going to be organic."
The lesson your brand must take from Watt is to show your audience you’re really there. Netflix is one of the brands which really excels at this. Its posts are funny, human, and show that the brand gets its audience:
2. Ronda Rousey: Be an authentic representative
UFC legend, Ronda Rousey is known across the globe. She’s powerful, multi-talented, and speaks well. She’s also a sports star who’s an authentic representative for people with eating disorders.
Rousey isn’t the stereotype for an anorexia sufferer. But she spoke to her Reddit fans about her fight to overcome the disease:
The lesson to take is that your brand can make a real connection by supporting causes you care about. It’s an approach used successfully by Dove.
Dove is a brand which has spoken out for women. It positioned itself as an honest representative of female solidarity through its Campaign for Real Beauty and Dove Self-Esteem Project.
3. LeBron James: Branch out (make your brand a team)
Is LeBron James the finest basketball player in the world or the best ever? Whatever your answer there’s no question about his gift for branding. He’s the best since Michael Jordan.
James’ list of endorsements include: Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonald's, Beats by Dre, Dunkin' Brands, Audemars Piguet, and State Farm. But his branding doesn’t stop at endorsements. James owns a media company, a marketing agency, and stakes in Liverpool (UK) soccer club.
What your business should learn from James is to spread your name far, wide, and deep. It’s a lesson Samsung has really put into practice. While it’s known mostly for electronics, Samsung is involved in insurance, theme parks, engineering, construction, and more.
4. Kevin Durant: Love your community
Kevin Durant is one of sports good guys. Bleacher Report say it, NY Post write it, and I’m telling you. But Durant doesn’t just say nice things he does nice things.
In February 2018, The Kevin Durant Charity Foundation announced a 10 year commitment to Durant’s home community, Prince George, Maryland. Durant’s foundation is giving $10million to help students from his hometown earn a college degree.
It’s a wonderful gesture. It’s also one that does wonders for Durant’s brand. Your business can learn from this. How? Make giving back to your local and global communities part of your business model. It’s something that even smaller brands like Impact Bracelet preach.
This brand’s slogan is meaningful bracelets and it really means what it says. As written on it’s profile on the Exchange listing, it donates a portion to charity for every item that is sold. Do the same and people may start to really care about your brand.
5. Michael Jordan: Be the USP that’s about identity
No list of sports brand icons would be complete without Michael Jordan. Today Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest sports brand on the planet. Who was his model? "Air Jordan." Why? Because Michael Jordan was the original greatest brand in sports.
Nike’s Jordan signature shoes, Air Jordans, were sold across the globe. People bought Nike trainers but they wore the Michael Jordan brand. He transferred his greatness on the court into a synonym for excellence. He was the USP.
This is the most difficult trick for brands to pull off (whatever their industry). You need to become known as the best for something, the reference point. Sellotape has done this. Heinz has done this. But the best current example is Apple. Apple is such a measure of brand strength that people buy its technology just for the name.
Apple’s USP is that it’s cool. People don’t buy it just because they think it’s the best brand. People buy it because they’re buying an identity – just as they did with Air Jordans. Creating an identity and selling it as your USP must be the ultimate goal for your brand. Do it and you’ll be more successful than you could imagine.
Great branding is about creating an identity that people buy into. The very best brands constantly evolve and expand how they engage with their customers. But at their heart, their USP remains the same.
Absorb the lessons from these 5 US sports greats. Then put them into practice and you’ll have an identity people adore and a brand that soars.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips — an industry-leading ecommerce blog that offers practical marketing advice so your online store receives the exposure it deserves. Check out the latest posts on Twitter @myecommercetips