Congratulations to the dozens of young football players who will be drafted by one of 32 National Football League teams during the next four days. This is likely to be one of those days you will remember the rest of your life.
The excitement of a new time in your life may seem to consume you, but you have to get working! If you and your agent haven’t already, it’s time to lay claim to your personal brand on and offline. Chances are that you won’t play for the same team for the duration of your professional football career, so it’s important, especially if you aren’t a household name right out of college, to let fans know who you are.
But, you argue, you’re a bit (but valuable) player and no one cares who you are as long as you block or tackle…you’re not a quarterback with huge “face of the franchise” expectations and an anticipated Q score that will lure endorsement deals.
Well, you’d be surprised.
We live in a different media climate than we did even just 10 years ago. You have the ability to create and establish your brand and control it for as long you thrive on and off the field. We’re talking about using the power of media and publicity to establish your image now and lay the groundwork for what may come years down the line.
Your agent should introduce you to a variety of publicity opportunities whether you’re projected as a first or seventh round pick in the NFL Draft. Among activities you and your educated leadership (player agent, marketing representative and others) team can do in the next few weeks are simple, but could pay huge dividends as your career progresses and changes.
Build and maintain a website
A personal website is your storefront. You are Joe Safety and you are selected late in the 7th round of the NFL Draft. Chances are that the only people who know who you are on draft day are NFL position coaches, your previous coaches and media analysts who have spent hours in film rooms watching every player they may have to discuss on their platforms.
The day you launch your professionally created website, thousands more will learn about you on your own terms. On this site, put your best and real face forward in images, stats and stories. Follow the who-what-when-where-why and how rule of who you are. What makes you special and how did you achieve all you have to date? What are your goals? What are stories that you can share about your life that shaped you? The professional football-loving public wants to know what makes you tick. Your team’s media guide will do this in a paragraph or two, but a website is your forever home to elaborate on what your team’s information sources provide.
We know that you’re busy perfecting your craft on the field, so communicate with your support team about how you envision updates and ways your content will be communicated. Look to those professionals for advice about how to begin and move forward. Sometimes they see things that make you special that you cannot, and those elements could be endorsement worthy and fan friendly. It’s all worth the world as far as your career.
Be kind to people
Your value increases exponentially when you’re well spoken and personable in off-the-field settings. Even if you don’t like crowds, simply saying “hello,” “please” and “thank you” each day when you enter the team’s facility or walk into a local grocery store goes a long way toward earning respect in a crowded field of professional athletes. Treat others, from fans to waterboys, as you’d like to be treated.
Read, listen, learn
There are some professional athletes that are known for their educational prowess and curiosity, but here I’m not talking about burying your head in the English Classics during your downtime if that’s not your thing. Do listen to people in authoritative positions and ask them questions about business, their interests and experiences. Get to know people and read tidbits about the community in which you’re drafted. Home team fans and business people appreciate when athletes get to know the personality of their community. Do the same if you’re traded. A great example of the latter is Peyton Manning, who spent 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts, but moved to and immersed himself in Denver after he was traded.
Of course not every player is Manning, but his willingness to embrace his community of the day should be admired and emulated.
You may be tempted to entrust your friends and family when it comes to representation and if Uncle Sal is a lawyer and player agent, great. Otherwise, look beyond this circle. This is a new, exciting and transitive time in your life, and unfortunately, there will be people that try to take advantage of your newly-realized social and financial status. Your lifestyle, regardless of how you choose to spend your salary, still costs money. Add new responsibilities and expenses such as new homes and professional compensation percentages, and it costs more money. We know you want to share it with your loved ones, so continue to love and respect people who have been in your life for years — while you entrust credible professionals that truly know their crafts. Hire professional marketers (and publicists, ahem…) to work with you. Enlist the help of a certified public accountant or estate attorney. Listen to and follow the advice of certified personal trainers. The list goes on.
Your present and future brand, as well as livelihood, depends on them.
(Copyright, Gail Sideman, PUBLISIDE)