Personal Branding - Ridiculous or Sublime?

Almost every designer I’ve met, has at some stage in their life, designed a logo for themselves. Sometimes it gets used on the cover of a portfolio, on their business card or on personal websites and social media icons. However, it rarely becomes anything more than a bit of fun, and I’ve not known any designers whose personal brand has ever become something larger or commercially valuable.

However, for some people, it does make sense. There is a growing trend for sports stars to brand themselves. It can be used to officiate an endorsement to merchandise items like clothing or equipment, or for the more successfully affluent, to set up a foundation, such as the Novak Djokovic Foundation.

Britain’s tennis star Andy Murray is the latest to follow the trend. His new logo will help lift and maintain his profile, keeping it in the public eye. In essence, it’s a business move for Andy - a business move with a personal touch. And we must remember, professional sportspeople are in the business of making money – and who can blame them?

In the good old days, the only way for sportspeople to provide for their family after their careers were over was to sell their medals and trophies. Most of the winning 1966 England World Cup team sold their medals from that glory game (but that was back in the day when footballers were paid a lot less than they are now!) Creating a brand and using a logo can provide an additional revenue stream so that sports stars can keep their medals where they belong, at home. A brand can be created at the height of their career that continues to grow and become bigger than the person themselves. It is an attractive avenue for marketing things like t-shirts, trainers and other sports gear. Some sport stars have extended this even further. George Foreman for example, sold the naming rights to ‘his’ grill for $138 million in 1999.

Personal branding of this kind inevitably has an effect on the creative industry. It highlights the importance and power of design. It shows that branding can help people present themselves and leverage their celebrity status. What this is actually doing is proving that our industry adds real value and makes a difference.

I once worked on a branding project for a property developer. It became clear his business success came from his personality and individual approach. So rather than a logo and company name reflecting a house or building, we suggested using his name and initials. It was something he had never considered, but the rationale made perfect sense. He still uses that logo today.

One stark warning for sportspeople though is to avoid getting ahead of yourself. While you perceive winning one major championship as a launch pad for a personal brand and the sale of merchandise, there is a proviso. You have to keep winning if you want to keep selling.

Andy Scarth
Andy Scarth

Group Creative Director at MBC.