In the past the only brands that sports fans would recognize on site were team logos and the major shoe companies . However, since Michael Jordan retired and went from this to THIS athletes have become more cognizant that they have an opportunity to branch out into the market of personal branding.
What is personal branding? To me it’s the ability for an athlete to branch off into the sports world and be recognized as an individual athlete in a team game. This opens up opportunities for additional revenue through merchandise and other outlets. In this era of fantasy sports success where many fans care just as much about the stats of individual players as they do about the result of the game I think personal branding of athletes has a chance to really take off with major athletes.
Now personal branding won’t work with every athlete on a team (This guy wouldn’t work but THIS guy would) but for the stars of each team and of the professional leagues I think it is the future of individual athlete representation.
The thing that got me really thinking about this was this past weeks episode of Entourage which had a cameo from the “God who walks among us” aka Tom Brady. In this episode Mark Walhberg is seen wearing a blue TB12 hat on the golf course while playing a round with Tom and Vinny Chase. This wasn’t the first sighting of this hat however. Brady wore it to training camp this year and has been seen in it while out with Giselle and with his son Jack in the park . The hat is to promote his website TomBrady.com which has already become a daily site I visit. The hat however cannot be found anywhere other than the heads of Brady, Bundchen, and Walhberg. Now hopefully the site opens up a store that has the hat or shirts with the logo because as a die hard pats fan and hat aficionado that TB12 would be on my head as quick as it could. The TB12 logo has the chance to become as popular as the flying elvis Pats logo itself if it is ever released.
Other top athletes have branched out into their own personal logos with many of the logos have been produced by the shoe company the athlete is signed with. David Beckham has begun his own athletic line through Adidas which features THIS Logo
All of these personal player brands pale in comparrison to Nike’s new golden boy Lebron James whose LB23 Crown logo has some similarities to the TB12 logo. So far James is the only Nike basketball player to have a significant launch of clothing along with his shoes. Part of this is because of the enormous contract LBJ signed with Nike, but it is seems to be becoming the norm as Kevin Durant has his own larger line of shoes and athletic wear beginning to hit the market. We will see how Nike and the other shoe companies develop the brands of their top players over the next few seasons. To me its a simple choice. Fans will pay a bit extra if it has the logo of one of their favorite players on the item. I think the only item that fans would revolt against is if an athlete is a big enough douche bag to promote his own accolades via t-shirt.
The other area where personal branding is taking off is individual sports. Of course every sports fan can recognize this golfers symbol (Tiger Woods if you don’t recognize it) This has become Nikes main golf brand and setting Tiger up for a post golf career of endorsements that rival golf marketings big 3 (Palmer, Nicklaus, and Norman) Long after tiger wins his last major the TW logo, like those other 3 men, will continue to be all around the game of golf from fashion to course design and other outlets. Palmer’s brand is still one of the most recognizable in sports and helped him stay in Forbes’ Power 100 even at the age of 79.
Now that Nike has firmly established their athletes brand in basketball, and golf, they are now looking towards their other money maker, tennis. As tennis is seeing a rebirth in popularity recently primarily on the backs of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal’s (both Nike players) the swoosh is starting to use their on court rivals to boost sales. A few years ago Nike designed a logo and clothing for Federer at Wimbledon. Since that first year of the sweater vest warm up the Federer Wimbledon line (not available to purchase unfortunately) has gone from GREAT to GREATER (The guy is so great he can even make his tennis bag into a man purse and pull it off) popularity of the Wimbledon warmups helped Federer’s RF logo gain a foothold in the tennis apparel world.
Now the Federer line has grown so much it dominates Nike’s fall line up. However, like Tom Brady, Federer always keeps his fans wanting more as he steps on to the court wearing RF monogramed jackets and shirts that aren’t sold to the public. With Nike’s usual promotion around big events, Federer’s love of New York City and the US Open tennis fans are sure to see brand new RF logo apparel at the upcoming fortnight at Flushing Meadows. I for one hope he reinvents his ‘Darth Federer’ tuxedo look.
Nike has yet to create a personal logo for Nadal, (They have experimented with THIS, but I think that they need something new and more classic) but as he matures and they begin to harness his wild style I think the next step will be to give him his own logo and then the battle between these two will grow from on the court to at the register.
Now that I have gone over some of the current athletes who have established themselves as a brand that can be sold here is my list of other athletes that could work with their own brand logo:
Chad Ochocinco- (Child Please doesn’t count) He’s trying to develop one now Check his store.
Terrell Owens- He also is trying and has his own store with his new logo
Usain Bolt- The only positive thing in track and field (besides all those PED tests) has the fame, sponsor (puma) and name to create a killer logo
Dwight Howard- Adidas will probably build a Superman campaign about him soon
Alexander Ovechkin/Sydney Crosby- That would add another dynamic to hockey’s biggest rivalry
Fernando Torres- One of soccer’s rising stars on the best international team (Spain) and one of the most famous club teams (Liverpool)
Adrian Peterson- For everyone in the #1 spot in fantasy drafts who don’t want to spend $70 on a purple jersey
Brett Farve- It’d look like this