Personal Branding for Student athletes: Lessons from Companies Looking to Hire

Author: BC Johnson

BCJ Group has extensive experience working in both corporate branding and with professional sports and athletics organizations, which made us realize we were uniquely positioned to give an often overlooked group in the world of corporate hiring (Athletic Directors) a set of tools that put that expertise to use. The first in the series is following: a look at how the lessons from organizational branding intersects with personal branding for student athletes. This can be shared as a resource for student athletes under your watch that are joining the working world.
Hopefully you are coming into this already understanding the importance of your personal brand. If you are still unsure, or if branding seems like something that only matters to people who live on Instagram, then think about Nike and New Balance.
Both of those companies ostensibly create the same thing and work within the same market, yet most people have completely different images of what those companies stand for. Neither one is objectively “good” or “bad” but they convey different images to different people, and neither one is in any danger of filing for bankruptcy anytime soon. Both of those companies know how they are perceived in the market because they spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars creating that image. BCJ Group believes all student athletes should do the same, minus the hours and dollars – it simply takes an understanding of three core principles: Matchup, Meeting Points, and Moving Forward.

Think of about how you come across to others both in-person and your online presence – does this match with who you feel you are?
Well, this is the wrong question to ask yourself. There’s often a misconception that by having a personal brand you are somehow being “fake” or in some way manipulating perceptions – but this is not the case. Who you are – your beliefs, values, personality, all of it, changes over time. And hopefully this doesn’t come as a shock either – but you might be the worst judge of those things anyway. The best way to find out how you present to the outside world is through an honest assessment, usually a trusted friend or family member.
The next step is to borrow a play from companies like the ones above: build a Brand Plan. Just like any other plan you start by looking at your resources (in this case time, network, and knowledge) and plan out avenues of communication (social media, search results, online posting, resumes, all of it. There are multiple resources online for doing this from a corporate perspective, there’s no shame in learning from others who have gone through this same process.
The big first question though is to be honest by asking yourself, “What is my commitment?” There is no reason to not at least attempt to control your message, but it’s OK if you don’t have the time or inclination to commit too deeply to this project – just be honest with yourself upfront.
Meeting Points

In business speak these are called touchpoints – the times where a company comes into contact with a potential customer. For you, this means carefully considering where potential employers will have contact with you (e.g. open social media pages, campus recruiting events, online posts) and what they will see when they do – now is a good a time as any to Google yourself and find out what they will find out.
The second step is to think about how your brand meets the potential hiring company’s brand. If they make a special point about having global reach, think about how your brand might be complimenting their brand (this is annoyingly called synergy, but that’s the price you pay for joining the working world…) If your dream job involves lots of travel, is that reflected in your brand? Knowing now what you do about how companies are being deliberate about how others see them, think now about where your brands intersect: what are the meeting points where you will interact with these organizations and will you fit into what they are clearly trying to create?
Moving Forward

A lot of these efforts may seem disingenuous or cynical but really it is just like sports where everything is about past, present, and future. How have you prepared and what are you hoping to accomplish (the Brand Plan), where do your goals intersect with potential employer’s goals (Matchup), and what are you doing currently to make that dream a reality (Meeting Points)?
Keep in mind that these steps are the same for organizations inside or outside sports world. Our organization works with some of the largest sports organizations in the world, and at that level they are run no different than any other global business, so the lessons learned here carry over to any path you decide to take.
The most important takeaway though is that it requires a plan, preparation, and then flawless execution. For any athlete at any level, those steps should sound very familiar indeed.

Bill Carl "BC" Johnson founded The BCJ Group after working in the hospitality and tourism industry for 20 years at The Walt Disney World Resort.

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