know when to turn the camera off

If we’re honest with ourselves, much of the criticism athletes receive from media and fans around leaked photos or videos that surface after a night of partying is hypocritical. I’ve never been much of a partier myself (I’m admittedly a square), but I know if I had a camera on me at all times, as these athletes often do, even I would have some pretty embarrassing college moments caught on film. The thing is, when I was going to school, I was basically invisible and Twitter didn’t exist, so I was free to be young and many times stupid. But athletes live in a different world than I did when I was a teenager, and fair or not, that has to be taken into account by anyone who plans on making a career of professional athletics.

It’s up to you, as the athlete and the brand. What’s more important, the night out or the contract? The party or the career? The experience or the brand? I realize that decision, especially in the moment, isn’t always an easy one to make. But one has to live with the consequences that come with those choices. It’s the life you’ve selected and the responsibility you bear. I’m not here to lecture you; I’m here to help you build a brand. In many cases, being caught on camera in compromising situations can severely damage that brand.

In 2016, Laremy Tunsil came into the NFL Draft touted by most prognosticators as a top-three pick. However, just minutes before the draft started, a video of what appeared to be Tunsil smoking from a bong was posted to his Twitter account. As a result, the young offensive lineman out of the University of Mississippi slid to the Miami Dolphins at the thirteenth pick. According to Market Watch, that video may have cost Tunsil over $10 million. Ten. Million. Dollars. The fiscal ramifications alone are enough to scare anyone straight, but it’s the brand I would be most concerned about. If Tunsil lives up to his billing, he will likely make up for the money he lost down the road—amazing as that sounds. However, he will never be able to rid himself of that video. The internet does not forget, nor does our society. His brand will always carry with it the labels, true or not, born from those images. That could make it extremely difficult for Tunsil to find willing endorsers during his career, and more costly after his time in the NFL ends.

 

The internet does not forget.

 

It’s not about sacrificing experiences. No one is asking you to lock yourself in your room. But there needs to be awareness and balance. It’s about being smart and knowing that everything you do contributes to your brand. Your brand is like a spider web—anything that comes into contact with it sticks.

media training tip: take a breath

Like iconic in-game performances, memorable postgame tantrums or press conference rants can stay with a brand forever. How many times has someone in your life uttered the word “practice,” only to spark another poor impersonation of Allen Iverson at the podium saying, “Talking about practice”? Or how about the word “playoffs”—made infamous by former NFL head coach Jim Mora. Chances are one of those words has instantly transported you and your friends back in time to relive the now notorious outbursts.

The sad part is that those moments go beyond the words each spoke in the moment. Not only are we transported to those respective interviews when we hear those two words, but unfortunately for each highly acclaimed sports figure, we subconsciously go to each of those events when we hear their names. It’s not just us; it’s the internet as well. At the time of this writing, there is a website dedicated entirely to Mora’s rant about playoffs (www.jimmoraplayoffs.com). That’s when you know your tirade made it.

Incredibly, each of these instances occurred before YouTube, before Twitter, before Facebook. Imagine if they happened today. If a picture of a crying Michael Jordan can become one of the most popular social media memes of all time, what would happen to Iverson and Mora today?

The difference is that Jordan could not have predicted that his shedding of tears would ignite a social media feeding frenzy, but both Iverson and Mora were in control of their own behavior and their own words. Their brands were affected by their own decisions. You need to understand the impact your actions and words can have on your brand for the rest of your life, and in the heat of the moment…just take a breath.