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How NFL Draft Prospects Build Their Personal Brands
By Darren Heitner
How NFL Draft Prospects Build Their Personal Brands - Forbes
Right now, hundreds of former college football players are spending almost all day, every day training across the country, fine-tuning their bodies for their respective university’s Pro Day and the NFL Scouting Combine (if they were fortunate enough to receive an invitation). The professional football training facilities industry has become big business, with individual outlets charging anywhere between $5,000 to $30,000 per athlete trained. Included in the price is typically food, housing, transportation to-and-from the facility and massages. Another component, offered by some, is the all important media training, which prepares athletes with the proper tools to professionally manage their personal brand, speaking opportunities and social media.
Not every individual stationed at a training facility will hear his name called on draft day. In fact, due to a record number of underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft (73 players) and leaving their NCAA student-athlete eligibility behind, there will also likely be a record number of underclassmen who go undrafted. For the hundreds of college athletes who will be drafted in April and move from the “bubble” of college life to the business of the NFL, proper media training is key. Unfortunately, not many athletes understand the value of building a personal brand and how it can set them up for success or failure in the future.
One training facility that makes media training a focus of its program is Athletes’ Performance. With locations in Florida, Arizona, California, Texas and Massachusetts, Athletes’ Performance trains as many as 75 of the top athletes each year and brings in media trainers so the athletes can learn how to become the CEO of their own personal brands.
“These guys are getting the very best training in the world at Athletes’ Performance,” said Lee Gordon, 180 Communications V.P. of Corporate Communications, to Forbes.com. “But a lot of times, athletes forget that dealing with the media and creating a positive personal brand is equally important. AP brings us in to work with the athletes to make them understand what it means to be the CEO of your own brand. If they do it correctly, the financial benefits during and after their careers are endless.”
Gordon, who is contracted by Athletes’ Performance to provide media training to players who are getting ready for the next level of play, regularly uses Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III and Tom Brady as examples of athletes who take their personal brands seriously. He shows athletes preparing for the NFL how a strong personal brand can lead to big off-field endorsements. Gordon also likes to talk about his time with Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
“A few years ago we worked with Matt Ryan; he is the epitome of a guy that worked hard to build a positive personal brand,” said Gordon. ”He went to his combine interviews in a suit and tie—you can only imagine what the scouts and coaches thought when this college kid showed up to a combine interview looking like the CEO of a company.”
Some athletes quickly understand that they have the power to influence. One of the future NFL draftees current preparing at Athletes’ Performance is former LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo. Many project Mingo to be a top 10 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Mingo understands the importance of training for power and speed, but also recognizes the seriousness of solidifying his personal brand.
“Building my brand is equally as important as getting prepared for the NFL Draft,” said Mingo in an interview with Forbes.com. ”When you think of a CEO you think of Bill Gates. Now I’m realizing that I’m the head of this brand and want to keep it as clean and big as possible.”
Mingo is currently in Mobile, Alabama, where he is proving his value outside of the gridiron. He said there are a lot of journalists in Mobile looking to interview him and others as they prepare for the Senior Bowl and that he enjoys speaking to as many people as possible.
As Jason Witten said, it takes a lifetime to build your reputation and one tweet to destroy it. Mingo and Athletes’ Performance appear to understand the value of keeping a solid reputation. Although, as Mingo said in his interview with Forbes.com, he has an advantage because he was acclimated to the scrutiny of the media based on being in the Southeastern Conference.
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