By Alexandros Chronides, APC Sports Consulting, Nicosia, Cyprus
I must, admit from the start, that the title of this article is misleading. Most personal branding advice for both athletes and non-athletes revolves around the title of this article. Athletes are called upon to shape their future around their brands, which raises two problems for them who decide to follow this advice.
The first one is finding out what, currently, are their brands. Apart from being very difficult, this is already problematic enough as it is based on current conceptions of the athlete, which means that it is based on events that happened before athletes began planning for their personal brands and making branding decisions.
The second one, which is even more problematic and a highly related issue, is that, at least, the athlete’s current brand image, is based and formed solely on people’s and the media’s conception of him or her. In other words, this is out of the athlete’s current control, by definition.
These two issues then beg the question, why on earth would athletes choose to build their futures ‘around’ something which lies so much outside their personal conscious control?
Sure, athletes’ past actions must have contributed to their current brand images, but these actions, at the very least, occurred before the athletes ever decided to consider planning ahead, and building/expanding their brands. Therefore, why would any athletes build their future around something which they have had no conscious control over and others have had so much power in shaping and forming? Why would they hand over such power, not only of their present, but also of their future life choices, to other people, including their non-planning, possibly less-wise former selves?
The answer is that athletes should not do that. They should not build their future around their current personal brands. In fact, they should do the exact opposite.
Empowerment is a much-used word in today’s world, and very often we hear about athlete empowerment as a top priority of any stakeholder in the global sports industry. Well, empowerment is not an easy concept, and certainly not as easily achieved as said / mentioned.
That is what the complete reversal of the title of this article, as planning advice entails. Athlete empowerment. Athletes should not build their futures around the current perceptions of any one around them. The same goes for any human being, but we will keep it focused on the sports industry. Athletes, because human, have a great capacity to change. Change can occur due to personal experiences, active personal effort and large, even meteoric or traumatic events out of our control. Change can also be good or bad, depending on the nature of the above-mentioned causes of change. Therefore, if athletes build their futures around their current personal brands, they not only limit their personal capacities for change, to their present images, but also they limit their whole future paths to a ridiculously rigid extent!
Rigidity is the natural enemy of adaptation, because it is the opposite of flexibility. Readers have surely heard of the famous saying: Adapt or Die. Both evolutionary biology and psychology teach us that this saying is almost a natural law, kind of like gravity, but, for animal nature, of which humans are a sub-category. The ability of humans to adapt their behaviour, in order to fit their life circumstances, is precisely why humans have survived for such a long time on this planet, and precisely the reason that we have thrived as a species!
Therefore, if you decide to follow advice and build your future around your current brand, you not only limit and disempower yourself to make choices as you see fit, but you also limit yourself and your brand into a rigid framework, where the capacity for change and adaptation is very very limited, and could eventually lead to you, or your brand image, ‘not surviving’ after an outside event, or personal mistake /choice, that requires a departure from the brand you currently have.
Your future, therefore, should not be built around your personal brand. Your personal brand should be built around your future.
But how do you ‘build around your future’? The future does not yet exist! How can you build around something that does not exist? Any building, surely, requires a strong foundation, or at least an existing one.
This is where empowerment comes in. You get to decide what future you want to have. What do you want your future self to be? How do you want it to act? What do you want it to be able to wear? Eat? Promote? Express? The choice is yours. Once you have a rough idea about the above, then you can start building your brand around these future choices.
For example, if you want your future self to be able to eat whatever you want at the age of 60, then you probably should not build your brand around the “very model of physical fitness” image that a lot of athletes have chosen, because you would have to maintain a strict diet and exercise routine well into ‘retirement’, like Arnold Schwarzenegger does.
Much more can be said, and many more examples can be given, but the main lesson to be learned from this Post has been delivered, namely:
Do not build your future around your brand! Build your brand around your future!
For more information, log onto: ‘www.apc-sport.com’