Attention Athletes: Take Notes from JuJu
Personal brands have evolved just as rapidly as the platforms they’re delivered. Everyone from entrepreneurs to health experts can create and grow a following on their own. And it’s nothing but advantageous to do so.
A personal brand puts an individual in the driver’s seat for how they will be perceived by their following, and those who are strategic and authentic win in a major way.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is the prime example of that. Beyond being a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver year in and year out, he’s built a following of Gen Z’ers, launched an E-Sports franchise, and created a self-branded merchandise line that, style-wise, could compete with most mainstream skate brands.
A personal brand sets athletes up for countless opportunities beyond their playing careers, and JuJu has drawn the blueprint for the modern athlete.
The Man is a Social Wizard
Since his introduction to the NFL in 2017, JuJu has dominated professional sports in personal branding efforts. With 3.3 million Instagram followers, 1.1 million Twitter followers, and 2.5 million TikTok followers.
But perhaps the most unique and lucrative social venture has been his YouTube channel. With just over 1 million YouTube subscribers, it’s reported that Smith-Schuster has earned over a quarter of a million dollars from his YouTube channel. His channel has amassed quite the following and includes various VLOG style videos like behind the scenes at training camp and a game of Madden with Snoop Dogg.
Why is content so important for athletes? JuJu has given his followers a close-up of who he is and how he lives off the gridiron. Athletes of yesteryear gained notoriety for their play on the field, and while their performance is still of the utmost importance, their actions off the field matter nearly as much. His merchandise game is untouchable Beyond his well-established social presence, JuJu leverages his following to push incredible merchandise, further engaging his fanbase. T-shirts, hoodies, masks, and even cologne are all available for purchase on his website. Merchandising is a super cost-effective way to promote a brand and a great method of free advertising. Since JuJu loyalists will walk around Pittsburgh and other cities in the highly recognizable gear, the brand recognition only grows stronger. His merchandise catalog is deep; each product is unique to his tastes, which resonates with his younger following. He invests in his passions We’ve seen athletes engage in a variety of off-field ventures to promote an area their passionate about, from health endeavors to Silicon Valley. JuJu’s passion is that of most males in their early twenties, gaming. Earlier this year, he launched Team Diverge. This gaming organization aims to become a hub for content across sports, gaming, and culture, including apparel collaborations with Adidas and MeUndies. JuJu stated, “in creating my own organization instead of joining one of the big established ones, I know I chose a different path than most in my position would do. I’m not just trying to be a popular figure in gaming for myself; I’m trying to build a special organization that is a platform for others.” By headlining athlete and celebrity involvement in the rapidly growing world of Esports, he’s taking advantage of the immense opportunity in gaming and doing it his way.
JuJu isn’t the first to push the boundaries of what athletes are capable of off the field. LeBron James, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Cristiano Ronaldo, and more have revolutionized the athletes to create opportunities around their brand.
The difference, however, between the aforementioned list of superstars and JuJu and similar athletes is this; LeBron and company achieved global stardom because of how they played in the spotlight. A globally recognized personal brand followed suit, along with massive sponsorship deals, some even worth billions of dollars.
JuJu has done differently to launch a personal brand that parallels his playing career trajectory. Leveraging the possibilities that social media presents, he’s built quite the business around who he is as an athlete and a person. JuJu will never have to worry about finding sponsorship opportunities. All of the opportunities he needs are right there in front of him, and they’re pretty lucrative in their respect. The sponsors that he does partner with will likely be carefully selected and done so without desperation, rather alignment. In that is the beauty of a strong personal brand.
So athletes, take notes from JuJu.