'An Epic Athlete Brand Is One That Doesn't Revolve Around Sports'

  Photo Courtesy:   Danielle Berman

Photo Courtesy: Danielle Berman

Danielle Berman is the founder of DB Consulting, a sports philanthropy consulting firm that works with athletes to use their brands to create sustainable social impact in communities around the world.

Danielle, what are you most excited about today?

I started a sports philanthropy blog that analyzes philanthropic impact of various aspects of the sports world and highlights big news in the sports philanthropy industry. It's been really insightful researching and putting together pieces about the social impact of NCAA March Madness, the United Nations' International Day of Sport for Development & Peace, MLB and more. I am always learning and educating myself about the world of sports philanthropy, and am excited to share that knowledge with the world!

How does Danielle define an epic athlete brand?

An epic athlete brand is one that doesn't revolve around sports. Sports may be an athlete's job, but an athlete brand that stands out among the rest involves more of their passions, interests and life outside of sports.

Epic athlete brands are also able to influence social impact in and around their communities.

What's your favorite athlete brand at the moment, and why?

JJ Watt — his Houston fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey was a great example of an athlete using his brand to make an impact. Because he had built up such a rapport with his following by sharing his off-the-field life with them, they showed their support where it counted. 

Malcolm Jenkins is my favorite example right now of an athlete using his brand to make a difference. He has made a real impact in the state of Pennsylvania on criminal justice reform. Jenkins co-founded the Players Coalition to fight for criminal justice reform.

His passion for social justice and his focus on working with the legislators in power to make an impact is inspiring for everyone to see, and will hopefully make waves around the country with both his fellow NFL athletes and various community members. He has become more influential in the business and political spheres because of his dedication and hard work in the social justice space.

I also love Dwayne Johnson. People forget he made his name first as a college football star at the U — because he built his brand and his career around his passion for workouts, movies and entertainment.

He is known today as an action movie hero, workout warrior and entertainment mogul. He regularly shares and supports organizations that work with kids. People go to his page for motivation, and he and his team understand that.

When you look across the athlete brand landscape, what's the one thing you think more athletes should be doing?

Athletes should focus on being more proactive versus reactive with their brands. It's important to always be actively building your brand, not just when you need it.

What’s your best advice for athletes who want to kickstart their personal brands?

I mentioned Dwayne Johnson's team — that is the key to a successful brand. Athletes need people around them that understand how to turn their passions and interests into a successful brand.

The athletes themselves have to be motivated to make the shift, but they can't make real impact alone. The epic athlete brands we talk about all have a team of people who support them every step of the way. The saying, "If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room" applies here.

What’s the number-one tool you’re using right now?

I subscribe to a number of sports and non-sports email newsletters to stay on top of what is going on in the world, including The Skimm, The WaterCoolest, Front Office Sports, JohnWallStreet, Hashtag Sports and Sports Marketing Pros.

I also subscribe to several podcasts, including Suiting Up with Paul Rabil, How I Built This from NPR, and Sports Business Daily. I am also on Twitter all the time.

Based on your knowledge and expertise, what's the future of athlete branding and marketing?

The amount of athletes speaking out on social causes and taking a stand on important issues is just the tip of the iceberg. We've seen many corporate brands making their own decisions and taking sides, as the general public has demanded them to be more socially responsible.

I suspect we will start to see more athletes speaking out on what matters to them, regardless of the implications from other brands.