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Mastering LinkedIn: Personal Branding Tips for Sports Business Professionals

Are you using LinkedIn properly? If not, it could be the difference in landing your next dream job or being left on the sidelines. 

Jarrod Barnes

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LinkedIn

Our world is constantly evolving, and so is the way careers are being built.

With over 500-plus million users, LinkedIn is the largest and fastest-growing social network for professionals. According to LinkedIn Research, social professional networks are the No. 1 source of quality hires. Connections can lead to job offers and other great professional opportunities, if you know how to leverage the platform properly.

When it comes to branding yourself in the sports business industry on LinkedIn, heed the advice of social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia and Co-founder of VaynerSports, before you share your next article, post, or update: “Respect the psychology of what people are doing when they’re on the platform.”  

SEE MORE: How Social Media is the Key to Your Next Opportunity 

Baron Davis, a former NBA All-Star and current entrepreneur and investor, has personally discovered the value of LinkedIn. “I started seeing all these people, and I’m like, connect, connect, connect, connect, connect, connect, connect,” he said in an interview with Bleacher Report. “There were old friends, business partners, and former teammates. I became obsessed with the app.”

With over three million jobs posted on LinkedIn in the U.S. every month and 95 percent of recruiters using the platform to find talent, the opportunity is high for you to be discovered — but so are the risks.

Here are tips to maximize your personal brand on LinkedIn as a sports business professional.

Make a Great First Impression

Ninety percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Branding on LinkedIn starts by presenting yourself in the way you want people to see you. A professional headshot and a cover photo play a significant role in your first impression. When it comes to headlines, you only have 120 characters to tell your story and articulate your brand, so use your words wisely to clearly state who you are and what you want to be found for. Industry buzzwords and “value-adds” are all great places to start.

SEE MORE: 4 Ways to Making Breaking Into the #SportsBiz Much Easier

Once your headline is completed, be sure to fill out the rest of your profile. Members with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn. List all of your relevant work experience, education, and accomplishments; downplaying yourself could lead to downplaying opportunity. Be sure to take advantage of the summary section and custom LinkedIn URL feature as well. These are simple, yet impactful ways to optimize your discoverability and allow others to find you that much faster.

Add Value Through Content

Malcolm Lemmons, founder of the Players Point Agency, a branding and marketing agency that advises professional athletes shared that “Linkedin is the perfect platform to display your other professional interests and ambitions. With the ability to write articles and curate images and videos that align with industries and business sectors that you might be interested in, you can show that you’re multi-dimensional.”

The age-old marketing phrase of “content is king” rings true on LinkedIn. People (and recruiters) want to know who you are as a person. Your profile shows your “hard skills” and experience, but adding value through content showcases how you communicate and demonstrates your “soft skills.” Eighty-nine percent of executives say that it is difficult to find people with soft skills; organizations are compensating by making training for soft skills a top priority for talent development in 2018. Think of yourself as a news channel or subject matter expert rather than a personal infomercial.

Another hidden gem of LinkedIn are the connections, conversations, and collaboration that occur in groups. Here are a few examples of sports business groups to join on LinkedIn:

Not sure where to start? Search for your school’s alumni or former colleagues. Open the door to a conversation by commenting on recent posts or providing recommendations with those in your network. A LinkedIn recommendation is a testimony to your professional value and 87 percent of recruiters say the best channel to recruit quality candidates is employee referrals. Adding value through quality content, referrals, and connections can all enhance your professional profile.

Most importantly, follow up and follow through with your network and connections. Step away from the computer and put down your phone. Support your online networking with a real human touch. Set up calls, attend live events, and send a thank-you note in the mail to people you interact with on LinkedIn.

The internet has created incredible access to upward mobility. Mastering LinkedIn and leveraging the platform can open countless doors for your sports business career, but you still need to be the one to walk through them. Don’t allow your first impression to keep you from an opportunity. Add value through content, connections, and collaboration. Follow through with a real human interaction and allow your personal brand to be seen “as advertised.”

Jarrod Barnes has served in athletics administration at Clemson University and is also a former Defensive Back's coach at Ohio State University, where he worked directly with coach Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano. Jarrod was a two-year letterman and first ever Ohio State football player to pursue a Ph.D. while on the active roster. Jarrod currently resides in Charlotte, NC and works with Rise Sports Advisors, a brand management firm for professional athletes and also runs Prime U, a talent & leadership training company for collegiate student-athletes and young professionals. Jarrod has been widely recognized by Who’s Who Magazine, ESPN, Fox Sports and The Big Ten Network as a top up-and-coming young professional. Jarrod can be reached at Jarrod@frntofficesport.com

Professional Development

Chicago Blackhawks Partner with Business Operations ‘Incubator’ to Provide Development Opportunities for Employees

The hockey MBA program focuses on professional development and seeks more NHL partnerships to help boost the economic results of professional organizations.

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The Business of Hockey Institute continues to establish itself as a premier organization for professional development in the sport.

The BHI recently announced a partnership with the Chicago Blackhawks, which includes a designated number of class registrations for Blackhawk employees within the institute’s curriculum.

Founded in 2015, the BHI partnered with Edmonton’s Athabasca University to offer the first MBA in hockey management as well as the standalone Certified Hockey Professional education program.

“The CHP is designed to be the ideal professional development program for business employees in hockey organizations,” said Brian Burke, BHI co-founder. “It would definitely benefit a lot of people working for NHL franchises. We are proud to have the Chicago Blackhawks as our first academic partner and look forward to working with their valued employees.”

SEE MORE: William Hill and Devils Bring Sports Lounge to the Prudential Center

The organization also awards honorary CHPs to established hockey executives, including the first presented to Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough.

“We approached Mr. McDonough with a proposal to provide professional development opportunities to their employees and he was on board with it,” BHI Managing Director Manav Deol said.

The Blackhawks partnership has broadened the institute’s mission to include more professional development, and BHI intends on seeking out more NHL partnerships, Deol said. There’s also hope Blackhawks employees will impart peer-to-peer real-world experience and knowledge to other BHI students, as well as networking opportunities.

“BHI continues to innovate and grow the business side of hockey by providing professional development opportunities for those that are both currently working in hockey and those who strive to join this competitive industry,” McDonough said.

Students and hockey professionals alike can enroll in the CHP (for CAD $50,000) or take part in the entire MBA in hockey management (for CAD $80,000). Terms of the Blackhawks partnership were not disclosed.

SEE MORE: How the Golden Knights Landed Their Sportsbook Partnership With William Hill

“The costs can be flexible, depending on if a team enrolls an employee or employees enrolls on their own,” Deol said.

In Canada, hockey organization employees enrolled by teams can see the costs reduced to a third, thanks to the Canada Job Grant program. The BHI also offers scholarships starting at $5,000.

Courses at the BHI include Business of Hockey, Marketing Hockey Strategically, Integrated Marketing Communications for Hockey, Game Day Management & Marketing, Managing Franchises Strategically, and Hockey Operations. The courses are taught by sports management academics from universities across North America.

While most of the courses focus on the business side of hockey, Deol said it is important for many hockey organization employees to hold a foundational understanding of what goes on in hockey operations.

SEE MORE: Executive Buy-In Helps Propel Dallas Stars’ Digital Strategy 

Burke and Ritch Winter, a player agent, started BHI when they realized few sports management programs across the continent focused exclusively on hockey.

“We want to be the organization that the best hockey teams in the world come to train their business employees,” Deol said. “We also want to be the incubator that teams look to when they are searching for qualified candidates to join their business operations.”

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Professional Development

Former NBA Training Coach Making Difference in the Business World

Alan Stein Jr. is proof that basketball and business are very similar.

Aaron Blake

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If you have ever thought about transitioning career paths, you are not the only one.

Alan Stein Jr. spent nearly 20 years as a professional basketball performance coach before deciding to enter into the corporate world. Now, instead of helping world-class athletes improve their performance, Stein helps corporate leaders and individuals improve their collective and individual performances.

In basketball, Stein worked with highly magnified NBA superstars like Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo and Markelle Fultz when they were in high school and events with Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, and LeBron James. Now he works with clients like American Express and Pepsi.

Stein believes the tenants of achieving success in sports and business are vastly similar, thus allowing him to position himself as an expert in a new industry.

As a corporate keynote speaker, Stein now dedicates his time to instilling organizational performance, cohesion, and accountability, per his dominating interests.

“I found myself studying, observing and learning everything I could on leadership, team cohesion, culture and accountability since those were the topics that consumed me,” Stein said. As he was approaching burnout in his basketball career, Stein knew if he was not 100 percent committed as a coach should be, then he needed to develop a new passion.

“Making a pivot from on-court basketball performance to corporate leadership, sales and organizational performance was a seamless transition,” said Stein.

SEE MORE: Athlete Brand Building and Its Importance 

The two careers are very similar in that Stein takes fundamentals from basketball and meshes them with the business world, leaving positivity and results in the wake.

Varsity Partners Principal Tim Rebich has worked with Stein in the past in branding. Rebich knows Stein’s passion and excitement can inspire any audience, and his success pays to it. When transitioning careers like Stein, Rebich puts it simply: “The personal brand needs to always be consistent, while the audience changes.”

As much as inspiration is important, Rebich knows perception is just as important.

“As humans, we make assumptions based on first impressions. It is important to align these assumptions with your brand vision,” said Rebich.

Leadership, according to Stein, is a choice and not a title — a choice everyone makes in an organization.

“Everyone has the choice to intentionally have a positive influence over someone else,” said Stein. “I now take the lessons I’ve learned and translate those into actionable strategies for businesses to implement.”

SEE MORE: Former NFL Star’s Players Philanthropy Fund Is Bigger Than Sports

By educating, empowering and engaging with his clients, Stein is able to facilitate a “game plan” as he calls it to lead others

“He provides a realistic look into teamwork and different mindsets that allow you to grow not only as a professional but as a person,” said Rebich.

Through his performance measuring metrics, analytics, and praise-filled testimonials, this new career gleans of immediate success, but Stein knows building brand recognition in a new industry was the biggest challenge.

“I went from a space where I was fairly well known and respected to a space where I was virtually unknown,” said Stein. “But nearly every skill set and intangible quality I learned through basketball is applicable in business.”

Coaches, CEOs and managers, players and colleagues, and teams and organizations all share the same traits and Stein treats these roles similarly.

SEE MORE: Personal Branding Tips for Sports Business Professionals 

Stein knows he has found a unique niche in the business world carrying learned skills and attributes from sports to deadlines, sales, and organizations, all while espousing wisdom.

“Companies that have authentic cohesion, vertical and horizontal accountability, and an unparalleled culture will outperform those that don’t,” said Stein. “This will not only result in higher profits, but a more fulfilling workplace, higher satisfaction, and lower attrition.”

If anything, Stein is actually still a performance coach, engaging a different audience, but still bringing out professional performance qualities in today’s business and innovation leaders.

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Professional Development

Athlete Brand Building and Its Importance

When it comes to building an athlete’s brand, the CEO of Firestarter wants athletes to know it’s about sticking to their laurels and who they are.

Blake Yagman

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Your reputation is the basis for your brand. Your brand is how your reputation is projected to the world.

With respect to athletes, how they brand themselves is imperative to the individual’s overall success; it helps them convince their current — and future — employer(s) that they are a good fit for the organization. Meanwhile, it also persuades potential endorsers that the athlete is a great spokesperson for their product, and it allows them to create enough public goodwill to start and maintain their own philanthropic organizations.

Frances Reimers, the founder and CEO of Firestarter, helps athletes, coaches, and executives develop, manage, enhance, and protect their key professional asset: their personal brands. Firestarter, which is a personal consultancy located in Alexandria, Virginia, also provides integrated marketing services, crisis communications, and public relations consulting, analysis, and strategy, in addition to day-to-day brand management for clients such as former Ravens kicker Matt Stover and his Players Philanthropy Fund.

SEE MORE: Former NFL Star’s Players Philanthropy Fund Is Bigger Than Sports

Reimers has eclectic experience, which helps her to navigate any kind of public relations or marketing challenges. Prior to launching Firestarter in 2016, Reimers spent more than 15 years leading integrated marketing and public relations campaigns around the world for many corporate, non-profit, and government clients.

So, what goes into building a brand? Some of the key questions that Reimers offers when evaluating or constructing a brand include:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they need from you?
  • Where do they need to hear from you?
  • What kind of corporate sponsors are you trying to engage?
  • What type of person are these corporations looking for?
  • What charities, companies or products do you plan to launch in the future?
  • What kind of paid, earned, owned or shared media will help support these objectives?

“Above all else, your brand narrative needs to be authentic. This term is becoming slightly cliché, but it’s importance can’t be overestimated.”

Additionally, Reimers stressed:

“Authenticity is vital for two fundamental reasons. One, athletes want to ensure that the persona that appears online, in advertising, etc. is the person they are in real life. Few things kill a brand faster than the discovery that it’s not genuine. Two, remaining authentic allows for differentiation. In the crowded sea of successful professional and amateur athletes, the development of presenting your authentic self helps an athlete find a way to stand out.”

How important is brand strategy to an athlete?

“You don’t play a game without a plan. Managing your brand is no different. Regardless of whether you’re deploying your content through individual social media platforms or using an all-inclusive platform, there has to be an objective before a single piece of content is created.”

SEE MORE: Carolina Hurricanes Put Local Emphasis on New Marketing Initiatives

When it comes to athletes who want to manage their own brand, Reimers advised sitting down with a professional or attending a training session to learn some basic tips and tricks or to get assistance on how best to draft their personal narrative and build a long-term strategy.

Just like with legal and financial matters, there are times when it’s best to leave a person’s brand creation and development in the hands of a professional.

At the end of the day, “an athlete’s brand isn’t and shouldn’t work in isolation,” Reimers said. “It should always remain top-of-mind as the athlete makes any career, legal, family, business, philanthropic, or financial decisions. Ideally, I enjoy being considered an integral part of an athlete’s entire support system, along with his or her spouse, agent, attorney, etc. When everyone is working in concert, the athlete truly derives the most benefit.”

Everyone – not just athletes – should consider the advice that Reimers gives on personal branding.

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