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Society & Success

Power of personal branding in sport

World top golfer Rory McIlroy recently signed a deal with Nike rumoured to be Sh21.25 billion. He is cashing in on his many years of hard work on the golf course with his brand, exemplified in his persona, love life, eloquence and youthful swag. Photo/File
World top golfer Rory McIlroy recently signed a deal with Nike rumoured to be Sh21.25 billion. He is cashing in on his many years of hard work on the golf course with his brand, exemplified in his persona, love life, eloquence and youthful swag. Photo/File 

Whilst Kenya has continued to produce some exceptional sporting personalities especially in athletics, we have failed to “build brands”.

Let me explain. Whilst Usain Bolt is the fastest man on earth — at least over 100m — this great achievement only sets the scene for brand-Bolt.

His off-track antics, his persona, his public appearances, his showmanship, all go towards giving him this “larger-than-life” personality or brand if you like, and with it comes multi-million contracts.

Perhaps David Rudisha’s performance at the London 2012 games was the highlight of the games; the legendary Sebastian Coe definitely thought so, remarking that it was “the most extraordinary piece of running I have probably ever seen”.

The London 2012 chairman and double Olympic gold medalist said that, if Usain Bolt retaining his 200m title was “good”, then Rudisha’s charge around two laps of the Olympic Stadium track was “magnificent”.

“It was the performance of the Games, not just of track and field but of the Games,” The Guardian quotes Coe as saying.

But whilst Bolt has taken his brand to the bank, Rudisha has not.

The Forbes list of the top 100 paid athletes lists Bolt at number 63 with earnings of $20.3 million (Sh1.7 billion) for 2012. No other track athlete is listed in the top 100.

Scenes of the triumphant return of Gor Mahia’s coach Zdravko Logarusic last week emphasised the power of a brand, and make no mistake, Logarusic is a brand.

Adored by the fans, respected by the players and admired by his peers, this man whose qualifications are, well, modest, is adept at brand-building and he has taken his brand to bank at Gor.

His energy, charisma, the fact that he wears his emotions on his sleeve, his no-holds-barred style almost Jose Mourinho like no-nonsense approach to matters, all are all part of brand Logarusic.

Is he the best coach in the Tusker Premier League? Probably not, but he is the by far the best brand.

The world’s top golfer Rory McIlroy recently signed a deal with Nike that is rumoured to be in the region of $250 million (Sh21.25 billion) for 10 years.

While exact details of the deal are not readily available, one thing is clear — brand McIlroy has come of age and he is cashing in on many years of hard work.

McIlroy and his handlers are clear on one thing — while performance on the golf course is the very basis of this brand, his persona is just as important.

His love life with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, his eloquence in front of TV cameras and his youthful “swag” all contribute to the brand.

Tiger Woods perfected the art of brand building, creating a sports money-minting machine that has churned out more than $1 billion (Sh85 billion). Now that is the power of a brand.

From February 14 to 17, our Kenyan golf professionals will be playing at the Kenya Open and one thing that will be highlighted is the lack of sponsorship. But where are the brands? Who among our professionals has taken time to build their brand?

A quick search on Twitter revealed only one Kenyan pro-golfer with zero-tweets and nine followers!

How about a blog, or a newspaper column giving details of how preparations for the Kenya Open are going. How about Facebook updates? A website perhaps?

I was particularly disappointed not to find Greg Snow and Stefan Andersen on Twitter — it is a strong platform for brand-building and if you don’t believe me, look at Tiger Woods — 2.8 million followers, McIlroy 1.4 million followers, Ian Poulter 1.4 million followers and Branden Grace 6,717 followers.

Incidentally Usain Bolt has 2.5 million followers on Twitter, Mo Farah has 739,000 and Rudisha has 30,000. Bolt’s and Farah’s accounts are verified, Rudisha’s is not. I rest my case.

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