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A Super (Bowl) Lesson In Personal Branding

Back in the day – like maybe five years ago – it took a bit longer for an athlete, celebrity or CEO to wreck his or her reputation.

Heading into this year’s Super Bowl, we’re reminded again of how fast news travels in the digital age.

Much has already been written, tweeted and posted about Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman’s adrenaline-inspired rant after the Seahawks beat San Francisco. Sherman had just made a game-deciding play, ensuring his team would vie for a Super Bowl ring.

That wasn’t enough. Sherman rubbed it in by crossing his neck in the universal “choke” sign,” and then, during a TV interview moments after the game ended, trashed his opponents. Sherman’s tone and tenor were so brash and animated, the interview made national news.

In the days that followed, we learned a lot about a guy few really know besides friends, family and serious football fans. Sherman, it turns out, beat the odds as a kid growing up in a tough neighborhood. He went to Stanford. He’s thoughtful and articulate. NFL Films has done a piece about his rise from Compton, Calif. to professional football.

As well, it should be acknowledged that reporters blanket the field as games end precisely because players are still amped up and less likely to filter their comments.

Still, in a single moment, Sherman undermined his own brand, unless the brand he’s shooting for beyond football has more to do with conceit than confidence.

Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas said once, “Conceit is bragging about yourself. Confidence means you believe you can get the job done.”

Sherman, known widely for his trash talking, is, interestingly, the son of a Los Angeles sanitation worker. After some likely coaching from his PR team, he appeared more contrite a few days later. He apologized for stealing attention from his teammates after their big win. He repaired a lot of the damage.

The lesson for him and takeaway for everyone else transcends pro sports. In an age marked by 24-7 news cycles, and where anyone with a smartphone and Internet access is a “citizen journalist,” reckless remarks or behavior can have fast and long-lasting consequences. And you don’t need to be famous.

Go off at an airline counter because your flight was delayed, and the rant can end up going viral on YouTube.

Break up with your girlfriend on a Brooklyn rooftop and a comedian within earshot could end up live-tweeting the action (as happened last Thanksgiving).

Send an inappropriate email at work, or one riddled with exclamation points or poor grammar, and you could wind up having to explain it to your boss.

And then there were the New York City cops and firefighters whose insurance scam – built upon alleged 911-induced emotional stress – was uncovered in part because they’d posted Facebook photos showing they were not stressed at all.

Self-control has always been important, but today’s technology has put eyes and ears everywhere.

The social media megaphone is always nearby. Don’t become a victim. Instead, make the tools work to your advantage by being a bit more calculating and cerebral after you mess up – or score a touchdown.


Original Sherman interview:


Sherman in the aftermath:


CNN on insurance scam:


NFL Films piece on Sherman:



JenningsWire.com is created by National Publicity Firm, Annie Jennings PR that specializes in providing book marketing strategies to self-published and traditionally published authors. Annie Jennings PR books authors, speakers and experts on major top city radio talk shows that broadcast to the heart of the market, on local, regionally syndicated and national TV shows and on influential online media and in prestigious print magazines and newspapers.