Through your sweat and your toils, struggle and sacrifice you may not have realized you did it, but you were building a brand. You established a name and a reputation for yourself based on not only how you carried yourself on the field but how you carried yourself off the field. Any athlete who played at the collegiate level and beyond got the same speeches from the compliances and PR offices about protecting the school’s brand. Protecting your family’s brand but now you are done what good is it for? The short answer…quite a lot. That brand you created, that identity you formed while being an athlete is huge not only to business’ and corporations but to supporting yourself and your family. You have the work ethic and the drive to succeed which is why you got as far as you did, now it is time to put that to work.
Alumni programs are huge, reach out to your school to see what options there are for former student athletes. That is a network of those that have gone before you and forged a path in the world when their time was done. That is a huge network of people who you share many experiences and similarities with that can connect you and guide you beyond this point. Reach out to the teammates that graduated before you and use those connections to continue to learn and to grow. Companies like to hire athletes because of the intangible qualities it took to get to the level you did. There are multiple articles (like ex. A and ex. B) dedicated solely to convincing companies to hire former athletes after graduation. That brand you built works for you overtime, don’t hide that part away. Leverage it to get your foot in the door to grow beyond being an athlete!
Few people I know have done this better than Chris Draft. After graduating from Stanford he was drafted in the 6th round, excelling in a 12 year NFL career. More impressive than his stat line was the work he was able to do when his time was over. The director of community relations Riley Fields said of Draft,
“Chris Draft is a rare individual whose passion and compassion leads him to serve others in profound ways. His vision is impactful on a national scale, while his direct personal involvement reaches individuals on a meaningful, personal level. His unique ability to engage both children and adults inspires both in becoming better or to overcome their own personal challenges.”
He was able to leverage the brand and identity he had built as an athlete to reach more people off the field than he had ever been able to reach on the field. His website and foundation help to connect people with resources and ways to get involved in both his fight to raise awareness for lung cancer, and promote healthy lifestyles within families. He is active on social media and uses those platforms to further amplify his voice. As a friend and a mentor he helped to guide me through what came next when my time was over. He inspired me to grow and develop my own brand through a commitment to serving others.
The beauty of a brand is that it can transcend the individual. When you think of Jordan’s you obviously connect them to the great Michael Jordan but that brand has been built beyond the individual. That brand is a legacy that has carried on long after his playing career was over. You don’t need 6 finals rings to market yourself and the brand you have built. Make a connection today, take the time to find someone that is either an alumni of your program or a teammate that graduated before you and reach out to them. Begin to build your network and leverage your brand for what comes next.