By Vincenza Previte
Walker School of Business
Many athletes spend years honing their talent. Along with achieving a perfect gymnastic routine in the gym, or a world record run on the track, comes the building of their personal brands and the possibility of some big endorsement money. What some athletes don’t know is that just as one wrong move can mean the difference between winning Olympic gold and leaving London empty handed; it only takes one mistake to destroy their reputation and be kicked out of the 2012 Olympics.
In the past week, the world saw two Olympians ejected from the games for using their respective 140 characters on Twitter to post racist remarks.
Both Michel Morganella and Voula Papachristou apologized, but their statements had already violated the IOC’s Olympic charter. They also violated good sense, says Dr. Eric Rhiney, professor of management at Webster’s Walker School of Business.
“In communications, when something is said, you cannot take it back,” Rhiney says. “You can apologize, but you can’t take it back.”
According to Rhiney any given individual’s personal brand consists of creating an image or perception for an audience.
“It’s all about the perception you want people to have of you; how you want to be personified,” Rhiney says.
So, how should athletes protect their personal brands?
Simple. They should start by being careful of what they post on social media sites.
For Rhiney the first step for athletes, celebrities or public figures in general is to determine how they want to be portrayed and then push that image forward. Second, athletes need to remain consistent with that image they are portraying, and always make sure that the image they chose doesn’t affect their performance.
“There are more positives than negatives coming out of social media,” Rhiney reminds us. “There’s a certain ‘closeness’ that people feel when following a celebrity or an athlete on Tweeter; the problem comes when public figures forget that millions of people are reading what they post.”