'Creating Dialogue and Engagement' Gives Athletes More Leverage
Malcolm Lemmons is a former professional athlete turned author and entrepreneur.
Malcolm, what are you most excited about today?
Right now I am really excited about growing and expanding the Players Point brand. Between the agency and podcast, I want athletes to deeply understand the importance of branding themselves and maximizing the opportunities that they have as an athlete.
I know that, by providing valuable content and educating athletes, more of of them will start to realize how crucial this is and why they have to start now.
How does Malcolm define an epic athlete brand?
An epic athlete brand is one that really engages fans and brings them into the conversation and lives of an athlete. It is a brand that evokes emotion, whether that is empathy, humor or excitement, and creates a deep connection between the athlete and the fan.
A brand to me is all about telling a story, and creating awareness and attention, so an epic athlete brand to me would also be a brand that is consistently developing innovative content, which fans can relate to on a deep level.
What's your favorite athlete brand at the moment, and why?
I would say that it is a toss up between Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James. I love how they both stand for something greater than themselves at the risk of their athletic careers or public perception.
Colin is a guy who hasn’t been able to get a job based off of his beliefs, but on the contrary, he has helped communities nationwide and raised money for many non-profit organizations. LeBron has been deeply involved in social justice as well, but he has also been involved in several business ventures and shown people that athletes are more than just athletes.
I think they both have made major impacts in our country in their own way and shown other athletes that they need to use their voices and take a stance if they truly believe in something. We hold athletes to a very high standard in our country, and I believe that these two guys have been incredible role models and have consistently done things the right way on and off the playing field.
When you look across the athlete brand landscape, what's the one thing you think more athletes should be doing?
Without a doubt, more athletes should be connecting and engaging with their fanbase. Building that relationship and allowing your following to get to know you is the absolute key to building a quality brand.
Athletes really have a lot of leverage if they understand the power of creating dialogue and engagement. Also, they should be very transparent and authentic at all times because those things are the building blocks for any sustainable brand.
In the world that we live in today, people know when you’re not being true to yourself, and though it might work for a short time period, over time you will without a doubt lose that trust from your fans if you aren’t being genuine.
What’s your best advice for athletes who want to kickstart their personal brands?
First, to understand who you are as a person, what your story is, and what makes you different.
When I was transitioning out of sports, I had to think about why someone would pay attention to me now that I wasn’t an athlete. What made me unique? What experiences or obstacles have I been through that others might be able to relate to? From there everything else started to fall into place, but there are thousands of athletes out there, so athletes have to first think, “Why should people want to pay attention to or interact with me?”
Every athlete who wants to build a brand should also start by surrounding themselves with a team who is willing to help them push that story and help create that engagement with their followers online. With the amount of platforms that we have today, it is too time-consuming for athletes to do everything on their own.
What’s the number-one tool you’re using right now?
If I had to chose one, it would probably be Audacity for editing podcasts. It is a really good software to use for the fact that it is free and very user-friendly.
Based on your knowledge and expertise, what's the future of athlete branding and marketing?
I think that more and more athletes are starting to realize the importance of building their personal brands. In the near future, we'll start to see that obtaining sponsorships, endorsements and other revenue opportunities are not as much about being the best athlete, as they are about acquiring the most attention and awareness from the end consumer.
I think athletes are really starting to get smarter and we'll see more athletes go direct-to-consumer, especially with the emergence of Big Baller Brand and what Lavar Ball has done with his family.
There are a lot of different opportunities out here for athletes and, as I mentioned before, they really have the leverage, not the teams or the brands. How they use that leverage is 100-percent up to the athlete though.