I’m typically known for discussing topics relevant to personal finance and asset markets, however, for the next few posts I thought that I’d step off the “beaten path”.  Why?  In the process of launching a new business, I have naturally had to expand my network which, consequently, has allowed me to have some very interesting conversations.  Being who I am, it didn’t feel right keeping what I’ve learned from those conversations along with my own thoughts a secret.  My big dream is that someday current and former professional athletes will use their life lessons –including successes and failures–to help a younger generation not only avoid those mistakes, but meaningfully impact “off the field” what their fame, wealth and influence has gained them “on the field”.  But before that can be done, you have to understand that you are a BRAND.  From a former Olympian, to a goliath of the gridiron, to legal representation for famous athletes, I hope you enjoy these seven lessons I’ve prepared from their and my own observations.

How it all started….

Recently, it hit the news that two of the biggest names in global sports continue to diversify their investment portfolios with different ventures.  Kobe Bryant, a recent retiree from the NBA, has launched a venture capital firm to exploit opportunities in the information technology world (see YouTube video here).  LeBron James, still an active NBA player, is executive producing a reality TV series designed to highlight the entrepreneurial ventures of local Cleveland-ites.  I’m sure there are others.  However, what struck me about these two, besides their notoriety, is that they seem to represent what all current and former athletes would like:

  • a smooth transition from the game they once loved to play, and
  • a source of residual income, other than their sports paycheck.

So how does this happen for someone–especially the “new money millionaire” as Phillip Buchanon refers to them in his book New Money:  Staying Rich.  Over the next few entries, I will highlight some of the takeaways from “brand-building” that I’ve observed in my two decades as a financial services professional working with successful individuals from all walks of life.  If successful, I will:

  • convey some key lessons learned from former athletes and industry experts, in order to
  • provide a “blue-print” of brand management to the many thousands of current and future participants that plan to make a living in professional sports.

Here we go…

Lesson #1 – First you must recognize that you are a brand.

This is probably the most crucial and important of lessons.  Not only athletes, but often most individuals retain an “employee” mentality in whatever earns them income.  Most entrepreneurs adopt the owner mentality as they quickly realize like the lion, you only eat what you kill.  No matter your vocation, anyone and everyone who works for compensation can be considered to be in business and building a brand.  What you do is a reflection of you.  If you believe this principle, it gives you a brand to recognize (and protect).  How you interact with people will be a reflection of your brand. One common adaptation of this for famous individuals is product endorsements.   When asked to endorse the brand of a major corporation by marketing a specific product or service, you attach yourself to their reputation–good or bad.  Therefore the real takeaway becomes…what’s in it for you?