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Five best ways to brand yourself as a football player in the NCAA or NFL

How athletes can brand themselves
How do you brand yourself as an athlete? Five ways you can make yourself more marketable.

I have worked with tons of football players over the years and I thought today I would put together a nice list on how to brand yourself as a football player. Many players do not know this but branding yourself is the best way to land marketing deals, the best way to get into the spotlight and the easiest way to be noticed by the community for doing good. Many players get caught up in the limelight and they forget about the little people. There are ways to brand yourself that can help you grow your fanbase, as well as your supporting cast. Let’s talk about five ways you can brand yourself to help grow your image, your brand, and your character.

Do things out of the kindness of your heart!

NFL teams love players with great character. They love players who are willing to do things out of the kindness of their hearts. Many players are greedy in sports. I will say that because I have watched many players become “me” players over the years. Giving back is something that can really open the door for you as a player. When it comes to branding the best way to get endorsements and to get more marketing money is to have a fan base. You have to have people that like you or else you are not going to be very marketable.

You have to remember this, EVERY NFL PLAYER IS MARKETABLE, even a practice squad kid. When I was growing up my favorite players were Dan O’Leary, Raion Hill and Peerless Price. Do you know why?

When I was a little kid, I would go to the Buffalo Bills stadium and sit on the guardrail outside the stadium. I would wait until the practice was over and get the players to sign football cards. Do you know what player always signed my cards? Every Week too? Those three players. Raion Hill actually gave me a pair of gloves one time in exchange for his rookie card so he could give it to his Mom. He didn’t even know he had a card. It is the little things that can make someone love you as a player.

When you walk by someone and you do not sign something because you do not feel like it, chalk it up as a fan lost. Chalk it up as a thumbs down if it were a social media app. You just pissed off one kid and maybe his family. So if there were five people there, you just pissed off five people. So five thumbs down. By you stopping and taking a photo with a little kid, or signing and autograph you are helping your brand.

Even if you stop for three little kids and sign their things, then tell the parents I am sorry I have to leave, you still gained more followers than you know. People will be pumped and will say good things about a player that at least took a second to sign something, even if they did not get the signature. So the first thing is build a fanbase. This is for college players too, you have nothing but time to sign signatures for little kids. Do it, this creates a fanbase where you play college football, which can lead to marketing deals in your college city when your NFL career takes off!

Charity Work and branding
Cleveland Browns defensive end Jabaal Sheard packs food boxes at the Cleveland Food Bank Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, in Cleveland. Browns front office employees and players volunteered at the food bank to help the charity with their Thanksgiving food distribution. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Charity Work!

If you think it is a hassle to do Charity Work, go ahead and give yourself a thumbs down. The players who do charity work are often rewarded with marketing opportunities because you are easily accessible. Every company in the United States would love to have a spokesperson from an NFL team. Every company would love to have someone stop by their company and sign autographs or speak to their employees about moral/teamwork/leadership. There are opportunities you do not know even exist, because you are not doing Charity work. The NFL will help you find different charity events that you can participate in, but it is the events you do on your own that help you brand out even more.

Recently, I have had three players in the NFL contact families who had a young child end up in the hospital and that were suffering from major injuries. The players called the kids, or sent them messages and it changed everything. This small gesture that takes a couple minutes can help you gain followers. Thumbs UPS in this article. The more thumbs up you have the better. Read to kids at the public library, Donate to local high schools that are in need of equipment (It is a tax write off too), Talk to kids about bullying.

You can make a difference, but you cannot do it sitting at home playing video games all day. Recently JuJu Smith-Schuster was in the park giving out free food to homeless. Someone recorded it and posted it to social media, people took notice and that was a lot of thumbs up? Why, because he did it out of his heart and not looking for any kick backs.

Many players will open a non-profit organization. This is another great way to give back. Another cool thing is put on a free clinic for kids in your hometown or college town or city you play. Do these free clinics and offer the kids an opportunity to run around. This is a huge way to get more LIKES!

Branding for NFL players
Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (22) plays with children following practice.

Do as many interviews as possible

You are sitting around doing nothing on your days off. Schedule four or five interviews and talk about what you have going on. Remember you want to be a social butterfly. Every company would love to have a player speak at their school, at their company, or even on their podcast. You can talk about what projects you have lined up, you can talk about helping out at the local food back, or Salvation Army. Feeding the Homeless, I mean pick something that moves you and embark on that journey. You will find a lot more gratitude helping others than you will playing football.

When you make yourself accessible, people will not be afraid to reach out to you. If you have never completed an interview on a podcast, people are going to think you are too good for their podcast. After you do a few, and even let people know on your social media, hey I am available for interviews on __________ day (Your Day Off), people will contact you. This is how you gain more LIKES. You want to grow your fanbase. This will help you grow your brand.

Play Well and Show Sportsmanship

You make your brand! If you want to be marketable, you cannot be a bone head. If you are on the field cursing, calling people names, saying things on Twitter that make you and your team look bad you will lose LIKES. You want to gain likes, remember everything you say or do reflects you. You are trying to build a brand not ruin it. The better you play on the field, the better your brand will grow. Doing things off the field is key. IF you see a car accident, get out and try to help. Direct traffic, do something to help the situation. Ask if they need assistance. Remember every kind thing you do out of your heart will be rewarded when it comes to your brand.

When a player is on the ground and you pick him up, instead of stepping over him, you gain his respect. You gain his families respect, and you gain coaches respect. That is sportsmanship. Many players have long careers because they have great sportsmanship. Their character is high class, and coaches love players who have big hearts.

Remember you are not bigger than the game

Many players will not do anything on their days off. Some do not even want to work out. Some just want to chill that is cool, but remember this someone is out there while you chill ready for an opportunity. They are not waiting for anything. They have never had what you have. They want it, they can taste it. They may not have the brand YET, but they are coming for it.

When it comes to branding, you have always be thinking ahead.

Your brand is what will get you opportunities down the road. After football it maybe a kids Dad that was at the football field when you signed an autograph who offers you a job. When life is not going well maybe a fan sends you a message saying they would have committed suicide if it was not for you giving them hope. There is nothing better in the world than seeing you made a difference. It is easier to sleep at night, and the impact you have on someones life that can help separate your brand. Remember your Brand is YOU. You have to want it, building a brand is not easy. But it is not hard either. When you begin doing things out of your heart, doors will open like never before. Before you know it, you will be the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Winner and a captain of your football team. Know YOUR WORTH, and remember it is all about Thumbs UPs! What are you doing to help your brand?

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at [email protected]

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