The specialist in sport branding, Edgar Merino, reveals what personal branding is, how it works for athletes, and its importance in making you stand out professionally in your career
If you asked the American entrepreneur and founder of Amazon, Jeffrey Preston Bezos, how he defines personal branding, he would say “it’s what they say about you when you aren’t there”. His compatriot Catherine Kaputa, an American branding and brand strategy guru, would add that “it’s about finding what is different, what is relevant and special in you in order to share it with others”. Brenda Bence, an American writer and expert in personal and corporate marketing, would define it as “one of the best investments you can make for your future and your career”. And the writer Oscar Wilde would give you the bluntest advice: “Be yourself, the other roles are already taken”.
We all have a personal brand, values, skills and attitudes that distinguish us from the rest. It is up to us that others perceive that brand in the appropriate manner. Either you sell yourself or others will do it for you. And today, sales channels are unlimited thanks to the internet and social networks. We recognize ourselves as consumers and it’s time we also see ourselves as products in the eyes of others. It’s just a question of knowing how to do it.
If we take into account a study by Fayerwayer, a reference among tech blogs on the internet, we should worry about building our personal brand. According to this website, 89% of companies look for candidates in social networks, 14.4 million people find work using social networks and 1 in 3 employers fires workers for what they have seen in their social networks.
Edgar Merino is a journalist, sports manager and marketer who has specialized in working on the image of athletes of international renown, mainly of Chilean origin, at his company ‘Solo Cracks‘. He founded the company in 2011 and devotes all his time to it since he finished the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute in 2013. Without going any further, the FC Barcelona goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, is one of those who have put all their communication issues in his hands.
Merino explains what personal branding is, why it is necessary to stand out and avoid clichés, what his experience has been in working with elite athletes, what they need to position themselves and what they have in common with any professional who wants to stand out in his career. As brand development specialist Andres Perez Ortega says, you must start from the basis that “if you’re one more, you’ll be one less”.
What is a personal brand?
It’s what they say about you when you are not there. I think that is a very good definition of personal brand. A personal brand has to be something that identifies you. It is created from a very important personal knowledge and must represent you for it to be sustainable over time.
Why do you recommend having a personal brand, whether or not you are an athlete?
It is very important because with your personal brand you can exert some control over the image you want to show and how you want to position yourself. That is very important when it comes to finding a new job, having better clients, and for having more opportunities to grow both personally and professionally.
How is the personal brand of athletes defined beyond the values that they share?
It is not easy to do because, as you say, there are intrinsic values within sport that are obvious for any athlete. But what I do is, to begin with, talk to them and see which of all those values they reflect best and, from there, we see how we can communicate them. A lot depends on their personality, the values and the way to communicate them must fit with their personality, so they aren’t seen differently by the fact of communicating something.
You cannot lie with a brand.
No, no, lying would be a big mistake because sooner or later you will get caught out or people will realize it’s not you who is there working the personal image. With some athletes it is too noticeable that there is a community manager or someone behind them; and that’s what shouldn’t happen. The idea is that it is you who conveys the things.
What is needed to develop a personal brand?
The first thing is a process of self-knowledge, of knowing who I am, what I want, what my objectives are and, from there, choosing three values. I always recommend choosing a maximum of between three and five values because beyond that, people get a vague message and the idea is you have a certain position. The first thing therefore is to define those values. Then what comes is, how am I going to communicate, what will my message be, my personal motto, which I will try to convey in interviews, in my social networks, etc. And finally, to define the channels through which I want to transmit the information.
How should this message be conveyed in the various social networks? Good and bad practices.
What happens a lot is that there are companies who, obviously without knowing it, link a message so that the same message appears in three social networks immediately and automatically. That is not correct because each network has a different nature: Twitter is more informative, Instagram is more for images, and Facebook is a little more mixed, it’s informative but people also want to see. In social networks in general, people are very visual. When, as a company, you get it wrong and put a message of 200 characters or more on Facebook, and it is replicated in Instagram and Twitter, you’re making a big mistake; you have to adapt the message for each network, even if it’s the same message.
How did you do the communication campaign for El Uno Campus, Claudio Bravo’s sport campus?
Claudio wanted to do something in his local community, in Buin, on the outskirts of Santiago de Chile. At the time, we had doubts about what to call ‘El Uno Campus’. We wanted a brand that would represent him without having to use his name. We decided on ‘El Uno’ because it represents Claudio as a goalkeeper, he was the first Chilean to reach 100 games with the national team, the first Chilean goalkeeper to win the Zamora Trophy in Spain, who has played more games abroad – he has many features that positioned him as the ‘1’. And with ‘El Uno Campus’ we were looking to transmit the values that Claudio has to the community through various activities, clinics, campuses, talks with parents…We are very concerned that children get comprehensive training; more than producing good players, we want to produce good people who can apply what we teach them in ‘El Uno Campus’ to life.
Can you explain what identifies the personal Brand of Andrés Iniesta?
What stands out most in his brand is humility. All of us who know Andrés Iniesta, either on television or in person, know that he is like that, what he transmits in his social networks. He’s a very approachable person and he transmits that very well. He has done a very good job on his personal brand.
Rafa is a star. For me, he is a reference in personal branding. A person who has become an ambassador of very important brands and it is primarily because he’s a winner and he manages to convey that very well in his social networks. He is a winner who also has an important foundation of humility.
He is very different from the two previous ones. That irreverence that he has in the way he communicates also positions him in a different way, even though he’s a tremendous athlete in his discipline, the best in the world. That irreverence is what makes him a very attractive figure for certain brands with different profiles.
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