A few weeks back, right after the MLB All-Star Game, I read how the commissioner of baseball mentioned he wants stars, specifically Mike Trout, to promote themselves more because it’s good for the game when they do.
That got me thinking. Our personal brand is akin to that of a media brand when it’s as easy for an individual to post interesting content and reach a large audience.
We are a celebrity-obsessed culture, but every generation has a different definition of “celebrity.” For people my age it’s actors, rock stars and athletes. For a demographic slightly younger, it’s the Kardashian clan (whom I consider none of the above). For those a little younger, YouTube stars are far more interesting.
What these people say carries weight in the eyes and minds of their audience. In a far more polarizing case, we have the current President of the United States who can create a media firestorm with every single tweet he writes. For better or worse, these are the people who influence the world around us — one person, or one small group, at a time.
Is it acceptable that these personal brands can supersede the teams or entities they represent? Is it good that Lebron James is more well-known than the Lakers or Cavaliers by themselves? You can argue the Lakers might be more well-known but not on a global level when it comes to Lebron. What about Ronaldo or Messi? Each of these are athletes are bigger than the teams they represent. Does that help or hurt their individual sport?
In the case of the United States, the President is a bigger media draw than anything else the country is dealing with. More media is dedicated to him than the economy or the culture of the country at any given moment, and what he says has immediate influence on the performance and perception of both. Is that safe?
We live in a world where the individual is actually more influential than the team, company or country they represent, which is polarizing and divisive. The media should represent the views of the people more than simply report and highlight the extremes to create pageviews.
Celebrity and stardom should never be confused with representation. No celebrity should be allowed to represent what I think to the rest of the world, and I don’t think any single person should be allowed to represent the views and feelings of an entire country, no matter who that person is.
Major League Baseball would certainly get more attention if its players promoted themselves, but it’s a lazy marketing case to focus on that as the means of growth. Baseball should focus on its role and what it represents to the majority of Americans who still love it.
Don’t put your brand on the shoulders of individuals. Find out what the group thinks and use that. The NBA may do well because of its stars, but its stars fade and get replaced. One ankle sprain or broken shoulder, and your meal ticket is expired. Look at the NBA after Michael Jordan retired. They were picking up the pieces for years, always looking to anoint someone “the next Jordan.” That strategy didn’t work.
The vocal minority are never the right representation, especially if you want to grow your brand to be larger and more entrenched in its foundation.