What We Can Learn About Branding from Richard Sherman

If you watched Sunday’s football game between the 49ers and Seahawks, you likely saw the game-winning play where Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman deflects a pass to the end zone to 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree.

The play thwarted the 49ers attempt to take the lead with mere seconds left in the game and now the Seahawks are now going to the Super Bowl.

And, even if you didn’t watch the game, chances are good you’ve seen Erin Andrews’ epic post-game interview with Richard Sherman.

If you’ve missed it, here it is in all its glory.

Now, at first blush, the interview is harsh, foolish and disrespectful. And, maybe that’s all it is.

But, if you dig a little deeper, there’s something more to the interview than you might think. There’s a reason why we can’t stop talking about Sherman and his interview.

And, if you think about it, there are actually some lessons here for
 businesses that want to stand out and get noticed.

Lessons in Branding

Here’s what I think we can learn from Richard Sherman:

1. Have swagger (and back it up).

It’s one thing to say you’re the best. It’s another thing to say it and be able to back it up.

Although most people wouldn’t want to brag, Sherman had no problem making a bold statement. And, perhaps he had the right to — he just made the game-winning play to take his team to the Super Bowl. Not many players can say that.

If you’re business is extraordinary, are you owning up to your greatness or are you hiding your strengths and accomplishments? If you don’t tell customers and prospects about what you bring to the table, people will pass you by and look for someone else who will.

But, just like Sherman, you need to be able to back it up.

2. Be consistent with your brand.

The way Sherman acted in that interview was consistent with his brand. He’s brash and bold and he’s not afraid to call people out.

If he changed his demeanor during that interview to play into what people expect, it would have gone against his entire brand personality. In fact, Beats by Dre launched an ad campaign Sunday
 featuring Sherman’s reputation as a trash-talker.

Sure, his behavior isn’t for everyone. But, I’m willing to bet there are people who love him for being just the way he is.

The same goes for your business. Don’t try to be something your not. Stop trying to please everyone and focus on staying true to yourself and your brand.

Embrace your weirdness. Showcase your personality and be willing to take a stand.

Sure, you will have some haters. But, those that love you will be strong, loyal fans that will stand behind you no matter what.

3. Dare to be different.

Most post-game interviews are filled with boring sports cliché’s. “It’s all about the team” or “I credit the fans for helping us get here.”

However, Sherman’s interview was bold, different and memorable. He didn’t recite the boring lines that everyone expects after the game. He dared to be different and it’s likely an interview most sports fans won’t forget.

And, it seems to be paying off as his popularity has soared overnight.

Businesses can learn a lot from this. Sadly, we have the tendency to try to copy our competitors or blend in with everyone. However, if you do that, why would anyone choose YOU?

Dare to be different. When you do, you’ll have people talking about you — and hopefully, for all the right reasons.

4. Show emotion.

If you had just made the game-winning play, wouldn’t you be pumped? I know I would be.

That interview was packed with emotion. He was excited and he showed it. He was acting how most of us would after accomplishing such a feat.

“It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am,” said Sherman in a column he penned for Sports Illustrated.

How much more interesting would business communication be if we weren’t afraid to show our feelings and emotions? It would certainly humanize your brand and your efforts more interesting, don’t you think?

What you don’t want to do

Despite the positive lessons businesses can take away from this interview, there’s one important thing Sherman demonstrated that you should never do as a business:

Talk smack about your competition.

That is not the best way to get noticed. In fact, that could have the opposite effect and completely backfire for your business.

After all, Sherman has since apologized for attacking Crabtree in the post-game interview. Just imagine how much worse it would be for a brand to be in the position of apologizing for doing something similar.

You don’t want to get in that position.

The Takeaway

I hope that you realize I’m not suggesting you go out and act just like Richard Sherman or that your brand starts yelling during media interviews.

In fact, you probably shouldn’t unless that’s your brand’s personality.

But, I am suggesting that we can all take a page out of Sherman’s book and inject some passion into our work and humanity into our communication.

Be bold. Be human. Be yourself.

Keeping it real is never a bad way to go and I think that’s one of the biggest lesson brands need to learn.

What do you think?


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Laura Click

Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

7 replies on “What We Can Learn About Branding from Richard Sherman”

Hi Laura,

Well you know where I live, so I’m a wee bit biased 😉

Hey, Sherman was one party Ricky Bobby with more than a dose of Clubber Lang in that short interview 😉 Like you, I like parts of his approach, but am not big on trash talk. With that being said, I like what I’ve seen in most of his interviews and he is quite media savvy, really. Of course most in Seattle love him for his game … he really is the best cornerback in the NFL and personality. Contrast him to our quarterback, Russell Wilson, the polar opposite.

I also think people are way to sensitive and of course the sports media has blown this completely out of proportion. Go Hawks … 😉

Thanks for giving the hometown perspective, Craig! Admittedly, I’m more of a college football fan, so I’m not up on the NFL and it’s players as much, but I’m sure Seattle folks have known about Sherman for awhile. I get the feeling that Sunday put him on the national map.

Love him or hate him, he got a reaction out of people. And, perhaps more importantly, he got noticed. It seems he’s getting paid very little compared to comparable players. I bet that changes next year. And, I would credit this interview in playing a small part in that.

Jared – Thank you so much for sharing your blog post and perspective! I love the dialogue – thank you!

I think your points are good and would be right for many things. However, if Sherman had followed the rules of marketing ettiquette and thanked his team, his fans, etc. and said all of the things that he was “supposed” to say, do you think he would get the attention he’s getting now?

Don’t get me wrong, his interview is not my style. But, I think because he was bold, brash and different, it caused people to sit up and take notice. Some people love him for it, other people hate him for it. But, it definitely put him on the national map. And, as I told @CraigMcBreen:disqus below, I think that it will pay for him in the long run.

Where we absolutely agree is on the competition part. I think calling out Crabtree was poor form. And, he admitted that later. I don’t think businesses should ever do that.

Excellent blog post and perspective, Jared! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

Disclosure: I’m a born and raised Seattle-native, and long-time Seahawks fan (ya know, didn’t just jump on the bandwagon).

I’ve been reading up on Sherman, and there’s a lot to like about this guy, on and off the field. He’s explained himself so eloquently in remarks off the field which impress upon us what a surreal context the sideline reporter’s job is to interview the adrenalized athlete mere seconds after making a game-winning play against his bete-noir.

By all accounts, Sherman is a media-savvy self-promoter (and if you’ve watched bio’s of him, he’s also a selfless and intelligent student of the game). Is it possible that someone could be so self-possessed, so self-aware, that he could “play” the media (meta-style) while appearing to be charged with the emotion of winning, going to the Superbowl, egocentric, defeating his nemesis, smack-talking, and so beset with anger towards Crabtree? Doubtful. Later, sure, but not in the moment.

And of course, we were saddened that he took the spotlight off his teammates (the politically-correct, Russell Wilsonian thing to do).

Having said that, those interviews are a dime-a-dozen, a bore. They’re predictable, which is everything his interview was not. It’s why it’s already been replayed around the world, been dissected, been the subject of a Blue Kite blog, why Richard Sherman has dominated 4 days of talk radio, and is ready-made for the sportsmedia “narrative” which they hustle to spin out of thin air each year at this time. You think they don’t love this?

In the end, I don’t mind it at all. And as a marketing concept (to return to your blog), I think it makes all the sense in the world. He wants to be Deion Sanders, he wants to call his homerun then step up to the plate and hit it. This is how you do it. It can’t take place in your own head.

Stephen D. Forman, CLTC

Thanks for the hometown perspective, Stephen. You’re right – I think it would be really hard to control your emotions in that situation. Only the most skilled, media-savvy folks would have the ability to do that.

On the other side of things, I doubt he planned it either. If he had, he’s way more brilliant than we give him credit for. Either way, it stood out and got the nation talking. And, I think he’ll end up reaping massive rewards for it.

I think we ALL win as a nation– one thing I read over the weekend was someone tweeting that Richard Sherman may have single-handedly put an end to the decades-old cliche’d, milquetoast post-game interview.

Hear, hear!

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