Sports celebrities and influencers are shifting from licensing brands to building their own brands. Players wanting to own their brand, as they struggle to breakout from the conglomerates that own them, but it isn't always easy sailing on the other side. That escape into individualism creates an entirely new set of opportunities or problems and this is something I wanted to discuss because we are seeing this shift more and more.
It was fascinating and fun to talk with sports marketing legend, Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports. Our conversation led us into the rules of the high-influence branding game; where we discussed customer service, brand authority, and even Brandon's mother.
Tomorrow Is Ours to Win
For Brandon, teaching winning strategies is how he best serves his clients. His focus on the rules of winning is less about competitiveness and more about being true to yourself and your customers. The thing we often forget about winning is that, the more we can tap into our "zone" and stand in our own authentic power, the more we win.
The Responsibility In "The Zone"
The responsibility that goes along with celebrities and players owning their own influence, is huge. They have to still add consistent and unique value. It isn't enough to just say "I'm so and so, and you should buy this, do this workout, eat this food." High-level influencers have to show up. There is no entitlement when you go it alone. It's a thrive or die market and it happens fast. So with that, let's talk the real rules of the game and winning strategies, when it comes to high-influence branding.
Rule #1: Know Your Customer.
Part One: Not only is this rule #1 when it comes to high-influence branding, this is rule #1 in business.
Part Two: Don't forget. You can't just show up and expect people to do as you say based on your name. This fleeting approach lends to the downfall of sports and celebrity personalities consistently. It's your job to know your fans more than it is their job to know you. They already know you, so your work is necessary. And followers aren't permanent. If you forget who they are, they will forget who you are.
Part Three: Money isn't everything. If you are going to put your name behind something, you better make sure it is 1) right for your audience and 2) a quality product.
Rule #2: Just Because You Can, Doesn't Always Mean You Should
Part One: I could tell each of you to kick dirt at the end of every article but I don't because it doesn't serve either of our growth. There's a high level of responsibility that goes along with influence and all of the direct contact we now have with our consumers. There might be things you want to say or do all the time that don't necessarily align with who you are/your brand so it's important to be both thoughtful and wise. Align first, share second.
Part Two: Marketing tactics and failed advertising efforts will kill any brand, especially yours. When you have hundreds of thousands of followers, one failed marketing ploy goes a long way, for a long time. When you are adding unique value, you don't have to spend a ton on advertising. As Brandon puts it, "you just go out there and state the obvious."
Rule #3: The Pulse Flatlines if There's No Heart(beat)
Part One: Nobody wants to talk about love in business, but if your heart isn't in it, your brand will die. Your passion, and ability to genuinely care for/about the consumers allowing you in their lives is part of the game now. We have to stop and remind ourselves, from time to time, that serving is a blessing, and in business, it's the foundation.
Part Two: Influencers who think their beliefs outweigh those of their consumer, become entitled, or constantly push their own narrative won't last. The market is no longer ripe for this kind of behavior. Disruption is great, but it should leave things better than when you found them, and if that's not your truth, save your time and effort.
Part Three: Customers deserve customer service that leaves them starry eyed and ready to climb mountains to yell about your brand. Brandon likened this approach to how he treats his own mother. "Whatever mom wants, she gets because if mom isn't happy, nobody's happy. And so I look at my customers just like I look at my mother." Your business, no matter what category you're in, is a customer service business first. If it isn't, it should be.
It's Time to Stand Up and Meet Consumers Where They Are
Sports, and especially sports networks (we see you NFL) need to show more heart and responsibility to their customers. Their brand influence is lost out there somewhere right now, and they need to reconnect. As a business, being customer-centric IS the foundation for success (see Rule #1) and being responsible role models, in business and in life, is a winning strategy.
This article originally appeared on Inc.com.