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4 lessons Usain Bolt can teach us about personal branding

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Have you ever seen Usain Bolt’s 200m race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics? Go see him now. It’s unbelievable – while everyone else is busy competing, Bolt is leading the way and completely dominating the competition.


Christopher Lee | Getty Images

I’ll be the first to admit it, I want that level of success for myself. And to ensure success in a crowded marketplace, you need to think beyond the competition and enter the realm of dominance. The best way to do that is to invest hardcore in yourself and your personal brand. If you don’t become the go-to person in your industry, someone else will.

Usain Bolt is a great example of someone who pushed himself to the top of his field and developed a great personal brand in the process. Here are four key personal branding lessons we can learn from the Lightning Bolt.

1. Provide a clear brand message.

Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world, and there is no doubt about it. (If you type into Google “who’s the fastest person?” Guess who’s name appears?)

Related: 3 Ways to Prevent a Setback from Turning into a Disaster

Bolt holds the world record for both the 100m and 200m, and was the first in the modern Olympic era to achieve the “double” of winning 100m and 200m titles in consecutive competitions (in 2008 and 2012). He then surpassed that by the first “double triple” (including the 4 × 100 m relay).

The records speak for themselves, but Bolt won’t allow it. His brand message as the “World’s Fastest Man” is his all over website and is his name memoirs from 2010. Bolt then uses that credibility to partner with Puma and 9 other global partners looking to capitalize on the brand recognition. The result is $30 million in approvals for Bolt and tons of help getting his brand to market.

2. Keep things consistent.

If there’s one thing you can say about Usain Bolt, it’s that he delivers amazing results every time. Aside from one false start disqualification in 2011, Bolt has racked up an unprecedented run of first-place finishes since those 2008 Beijing Olympics.

When building a personal brand, consistency is key. If it takes someone five to seven impressions to remember a brand, imagine what it takes to see someone in your space as a celebrity. One great race, article, viral video or PR stunt is not enough.

Related: The Right Way to Profile Yourself Right Out of College

Bolt makes this lesson clear in his own life. Aside from his record-breaking race times and Olympic medals, several books, some popular social media channelsa animation film and even his own emoji. And that’s just from a quick Google search. Say what you will about Bolt’s endorsement deals, he does a great job using his own channels to get his brand in front of a huge audience.

3. Invest in yourself.

You won’t reach Bolt’s level of success without a serious investment in yourself. All those speed exercises, gym sessions, stretches and sprints require dedication and big sacrifices in other areas of his life.

And despite what you hear about Bolt’s love of fast food, most of his diet is incredibly clean and rationed. Bolt has a personal chef who makes sure he eats everything he needs to eat and has his vitamins and supplements ready so he can’t forget them.

Related: It’s Not You, It’s Your Story: Why Branding Matters

Think about how many actions Bolt takes each day to make him a better sprinter.

And now think about your career goals. How many actions do you take to help you achieve those goals day in and day out?

If you want tremendous success for yourself, start thinking about how you spend your time. What written, video and audio content do you use every day? What people do you surround yourself with? Once you’ve cataloged where your time is going, you can figure out where you want to go and what you want to save.

4. Authenticity above all else.

Despite Bolt’s international fame, he still comes across as a real human being. He complains to reporters about training, admits he craves fast food and celebrates like a maniac after a huge race.

In short, Usain Bolt is authentic. Without his showmanship and dietary concessions, Bolt would still be the same decorated runner. But he wouldn’t be nearly as compelling or recognizable, two qualities that are essential for a sticky personal brand. While the rest of the runners on the track try to fit in, Bolt is just being himself and reaping the rewards.

The antidote to a boring brand is to be yourself. It’s much easier to be yourself than to be someone else. And people are attracted to authentic characters who live authentic lives. Win win.

Authenticity is all about being true to who you are at the core. So the next time you feel like you’re forcing your personal brand, remember to “extract” not “build” your brand.


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