This year, players on the Los Angeles Rams will be learning far more than just the X’s and O’s and ins and outs of the team’s playbook.
About a month away from opening the new NFL season, the Rams recently announced an exciting new partnership with best-selling author and sports marketing professional Jeremy Darlow, who is dedicated to teaching the team’s players how to effectively build their own personal brands. Having strong, compelling images have become paramount for athletes to experience success in the industry — during their playing days and especially for life long after they hang up the cleats.
An innovative partnership like this is badly needed in the game because, as Darlow said, “there is currently a void in the education system for athletes today. Young men and women are leaving high school and college without an understanding of how to build a personal brand that leverages their athletic celebrity and influence.”
He and the Rams aspire to change that.
Darlow, known for his brand marketing expertise, is also the author of “Brands Win Championships” and, more recently, “Athletes Are Brands Too.” He and his brand marketing consultancy, Darlow, LLC, specialize in sports, with many clients including athletes, celebrities, and college athletic programs.
To his credit, the driving force behind this new initiative to empower Rams players and teach them how to effectively build their brand has largely been Jacques McClendon, Los Angeles’ director of player engagement. Darlow praised McClendon for understanding how important a program like this is for athletes in professional sports leagues.
“He (McClendon) reached out to me to talk about ways to help his players develop their brand and set them up for success after football,” Darlow explained.
As a former player himself, McClendon has a firsthand perspective on how much room there is for teams to develop resources designed to help athletes succeed off the field, which has become the guiding principle behind the franchise’s approach to player support and development.
“Giving my guys the knowledge to leverage their platform for more than football is my ultimate goal,” McClendon stated. “Our partnership with Jeremy is a huge step in giving our guys that knowledge that can transcend just being an athlete and helping them find their passion and purpose off the field.”
Darlow will provide materials from his two books’ marketing programs to the Rams’ players and fly down to Los Angeles throughout the season to guide them along the way. Darlow and McClendon both emphasized that the new initiative is designed largely to teach, not do.
“For the players, they will be the ones doing all the work. In today’s era, a lot of athletes hire people to do this (brand building) for them while they have a flourishing career. The problem is when that career ends and they no longer have the funding to support that,” Darlow said.
The partnership between Darlow and the Rams is understandable because their missions are so clearly aligned. Both are devoted to the athletes themselves. As Darlow mentioned, his consultancy “looks for programs and franchises who have the long-term interest of the athlete in mind, first and foremost. It has to be about more than just sports.”
By acting as extensions of the Rams’ brand, players improving their own marketing strategies gives the franchise more salience and exposure as well.