Reviled by some yet idolized by others, controversial Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho does not leave anyone indifferent. If never a sports figure generated such media frenzy, this is undoubtedly due to the Portuguese success – despite some of his objectionable actions – in building a solid personal brand that has not only withstood the test of time but successfully adapted itself to changing conditions and surroundings.
Mourinho in fact epitomizes the growing importance of personal branding, both in the offline and online mediums. And although we would be best advised not to even try to imitate his highly idiosyncratic style, we can certainly benefit from a careful study of his transformation from mere second figure and ‘translator’ when he was FC Barcelona assistant coach to ‘The Special One,‘ as he is known today. Here are five lessons to ponder on from a coach whose brand is so successful that it even outshines that of his star players.
1. Your personal brand is based on results
A personal brand can be engineered by PR and communications experts in the short term, but it will only withstand the test of time if it generates tangible results. It is the repeated sporting achievements of Mourinho with consecutive teams what has impelled him to take the centre stage in world’s football beyond his mannerisms, on-the-pitch antics, and peculiar press conferences. There can be no doubt that the day results are no longer there, the ‘Mou’ brand will begin to flounder and need a mutation in order to survive. Relevant example from the world of football: former world champion and Argentina coach Maradona.
2. A strong personal brand means a greater margin of error
Even Mourinho’s most ardent supporters will agree that at times he has shown poor judgment both on and off the pitch. But the lesson for us is that actions and mistakes that would have seriously jeopardized the career of fellow coaches have only been mere hurdles for Mourinho: hurdles that he seems to have avoided or jumped with remarkable ease. This points to the essential concept of brand loyalty, which applies to individuals as much as it does to brands. When a brand ensures the loyalty of its followers, a psychological identification is created that makes the latter regard the former as something part of themselves. And, as we all know, we are readier to forgive our mistakes than those of others.
3. Sound personal branding multiplies your influence within your organization
If in my parents’ generation the personal identity of employees was almost entirely diluted in the organizations they worked for, the eruption of personal branding has allowed individuals such as Mourinho to attain levels of influence previously unheard of. Sport historians agree that Mou’s leverage within Real Madrid has never been equaled by a professional football coach thus far (neither by the way has that of his nemesis Josep Guardiola in FC Barcelona). As a matter of fact, Mourinho has progressively brought on a transformation of the Real Madrid brand unwelcome by old-school pundits; so much so that critics are pointing out that it is now the organization’s identity that is being diluted by the individual (with all the risks that this entails). Be that as it may, the equation ‘strong personal brand = greater influence’ applies to the company world as much as it seems to do to the online medium.
4. One day, your personal branding may require constant attention
As our personal brand becomes stronger, better known, and generates increasingly more important results for us, the echo of our opinions and actions is exponentially magnified. This happens until a vantage point is reached where our personal branding demands constant care and attention. The damage that an off-the-record comment or an unsuitable picture can inflict upon our brand cannot be underestimated once we reach positions of prominence. This is why biting our tongue and delegating elements of our personal branding management and online/offline communication to aids and experts (as Mourinho does with Eladio Paramés) is sometimes the best option. Unless of course, as it is the case with Mou, controversy works in your favor!
5. Your personal brand belongs also to your followers
One of the worst mistakes big corporations sometimes make is assuming they own their brands and can manage them without their followers’ support or input. Even multinationals such as Coca-Cola can get it badly wrong, as the New Coke episode in the late 80s proved. While it remains true that from a legal standpoint a company may ‘own’ their brand, in practice a brand is co-owned by the many enthusiasts who, with their constant support and viralization of their products and services make its success possible. Personal Branding is no different: even considering its individual and at times intimate component, you will be well advised not to forget that your personal brand is a shared project with your followers – and most especially your evangelists. It is revealing in this context that Mourinho has been ready to apologize to his supporters for some of his most blatant mistakes – such as the recent incident when he poked his finger into FC Barcelona’s assistant coach eye – and that these have been quick to forgive ‘The Special One‘ despite the media furore against him.
While Mourinho may not always be the best role model for sportsmanship, he is without doubt a living example of the new era we are living, in which the growing power of personal branding can no longer be ignored. It is up to each and every one of us to proactively build our personal brands in ways that reflect our style and values and are instrumental for the achievement of our most cherished goals. For, even if we have remained unaware of this fact until now, we all carry a ‘special one‘ within us waiting to be revealed.
Oscar Del Santo is a Search Engine Marketing authorised consultant with SEMPO and an inbound marketing certified professional with ‘Inbound Marketing University’. He has been extensively featured in the Spanish and Latin American media (‘El País’, ‘El Economista’, ’20 minutos’, ‘Diario Sur’, ‘La Prensa Gráfica’, ‘Onda Murcia’,‘RTV Castilla y León’, ‘Canal NTN24’, …) and is a regular contributor to several TV and radio programs. He was recently awarded the #TwitawardSV for his participation in El Salvador’s Social Media Day and has been included in the ‘Top 70 Spanish Tweeters’ list.