Personal branding: examples

Personal Branding - Michael JordanLast time I wrote an article about personal branding. Earlier I wrote an article on personal inspirators. Combining them both, let’s have a look at people who understood the value of personal branding.

Ask a crowd of people who they think of as people who are a brand in itself, and surely they will mention the late Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson & Barack Obama. These extraordinary people certainly have added value to their names with their accomplishments and personality. Great examples of personal brands.

In sports especially you see that athletes become brands. People like to associate themselves with winners, and who are more winners than professional athletes?

One of the first examples must be Chuck Taylor. Yes, from the All Stars. Did you know

Personal branding - Chuck Taylor

that Converse sold All Star shoes before Chuck Taylor’s name was added? Besides being a basketball player, Chuck Taylor was also one of the sales people of Converse and because of improvements he made to the shoe his name got connected with the product. The rest is history.

But also nowadays there’s a lot of people where the brand has become bigger than the person himself. A great example is Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is the best basketball player ever, and one of the best athletes in the world. Also he has been one of the most effectively marketed athletes.


In his high school years, Michael Jordan wasn’t on the team, until over the summer he grew not only in length but also in build. With relentless efforts, discipline and an extreme competitive drive, Jordan’s star kept rising. After college he was drafted as the third overall pick. The Houston Rockets had a good choice with Hakeem Olajuwon as first pick, but the Portland Trailblazers will forever regret choosing Sam Bowie as second.

Michael Jordan started out at the Chicago Bulls, and during his career he won almost every prize, from Rookie of the Year to Most Valuable Player & from 3 championships in a row (twice!) to Olympic Gold. He was names the top-scorer as well as the best-defensive player several times.

I’m back

His career also contains a few of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history: after the death of his father he retired, returning in 1995 to win 3 more championships. Another come-back was in his injury-laden second year, where Michael missed almost all games, but the Bulls got in to the play-offs. In the first round Michael scored 63 points (a play-off record)! Larry Bird outed: “I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan”.

The multi-athlete

Because of his determination Michael was more than good in other sports too: he excelled on a high level in both baseball and golf. After his active sports career he went in to the management of NBA teams, currently owning the Charlotte Bobcats.

The brand

Michael Jordan was one of the first athletes to endorse other brands. Already in 1985 Nike introduced the Nike Air Jordan sneakers. The model became so popular that Nike decided to make it a brand on it’s own, which is popular up to today.

Michael Jordan endorsed lots of other brands during his career, appeared in Michael Jackson’s video clip of Jam, and was the lead actor in the motion picture Space Jam. The total number of endorsements is over 20

Stay aligned with the brand

With the growth of a brand, it becomes increasingly important to apply the core values consequently. As a brand Jordan has been able to uphold his characteristics: a winner, competitive, charismatic, charming, authentic, always on top of the game, a drive to improve, well-spoken and a role model during his whole career.

After his career, though, to the public eye, Jordan moved more to the background, whereas the Jordan brand has grown further and further. Or was it more so that Michael could move on because the brand wás actually able to expand apart from the person who initially breathed life into it?

If you dig a bit deeper you would see that Michael Jordan actually moved on, enabling his brand to live on by itself, and personally extending his career to owning a professional motor racing team and ownership of a NBA basketball team.

Keeping the personality clean

For someone whose name is connected to the brand, keeping your personality clean is crucial. Every misstep you make, how small it may be, is magnified and widely discussed. Recently, this has been the case with another athlete, and fellow Nike endorser Lance Armstrong (of the Livestrong brand). When word came out that Armstrong might have used doping to increase his performance, his 7 Tour de France victories, his comeback from conquering cancer and all the good he has done with the Livestrong foundation was devalued to zero.

As with company brands, personal brands can go bankrupt too. Look after your personal brand with the determination of an entrepreneur, not that of an undertaker.

About the author

Over the past few years Walter van der Scheer has been evangelizing marketing automation to advertising agencies, e-commerce companies and co-workers alike and has been building a team of determined sales professionals. He has made progress, but the road ahead is still very long. Walter shares his personal experiences and challenges along the road of changing the way that marketing is done, while trying to stick to the strategically chosen path. +

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