Your brand doesn’t begin at the same time as your professional career. It starts much earlier, but solidifying your personal brand in college helps differentiate you from other athletes. It’s important to know how to show your personal brand as a college athlete without breaking any NCAA rules.
Recently, Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye lost his NCAA eligibility due to profiting off his YouTube channel. As a college athlete, you cannot profit from social media, but you should still use it and use it often. Social media is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to talk about your brand. Be careful what you post, though. It seems that there is at least one pro athlete haunted each year by a tweet sent out when they were in high school or college, so make sure your posts are tailored around your brand and think before you post.
You have to walk before you can run. To get your personal brand recognized at a national level, start generating buzz around your campus through interacting with students and doing local media interviews. Take Indiana Pacers Guard Victor Oladipo for example. While he was at Indiana University, he would frequently sing. He sang during one of the team’s first public basketball practices, then sang during the NBA Slam Dunk challenge, and just recently came out with a song available for purchase on iTunes. He started small on campus to solidify his brand and grew it from there. Word of mouth helps validate your personal brand and will help spread your brand in an authentic way.
There are stories of how athletes change once they turn pro and get big paychecks. Stay true to who you are, and if your brand is a genuine representation of you, it will help you have a loyal fan base. Whether you win or lose a game, having a consistent brand will cut through the clutter. Games come and go, but a brand is forever.
While building your personal brand in college is important, it is even more important to stay within the NCAA guidelines. Consult a campus compliance officer, make sure no money is being promised or exchanged, and if there is any gray area for an interview or media piece, talk with an advisor before-hand. Taking these steps can help not only your college career, but your professional career as well, even if it’s not in sports.
For more on how to share your personal brand with the world, download our eBook.