Recently, during a futile channel flicking session to find some television of real quality, I came across a frighteningly inept reality show peppered with the usual mix of bodies purporting to be ‘celebrities’. Primarily non-entities famous for once being on a reality TV show, the ‘selling point’ of this comedy was its location (snowy mountainside) and its scheduling (the run up to the Winter Olympics). The Jump. Whilst I tried to take my lower jaw off my chest at the ineptitude of the entire event, I noticed something seriously out of place. A bonafide superstar. Sir Steve Redgrave.
I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. Sir Steve Redgrave. 5 times Gold medal winner at 5 consecutive Olympics from 1984 to 2000. Winner of 9 World Rowing Championship Golds. Winner of The Sports Personality of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award. MBE. CBE. Knight of the Realm. A man who has literally sweated blood for over 20 years to be the best in his field. A man who has left nothing on the rowing machine in search of success. A man to be looked up to by all for his endeavour, force of spirit and unbelievable achievements. A paragon of the human spirit as to what is possible.
Yet here he is, dressed head to toe in a lurid costume, doing the skeleton bob, against Sinitta. Now I know there’s next to no money in rowing and Sir Steve will without doubt have been very well recompensed for his participation and that is, of course, his choice. The parallel I want to draw is between his ‘personal brand’ and those of many other hard fought brand reputations in the global marketplace.
The mighty and seriously respected Sir Steve is an example of all that is Great about Britain. Proud. Hard working. Focused. Stoic. Heroic. Honest and Driven. This reputation and standing has undoubtedly come at a huge physical, financial and personal cost that we can only imagine. This level of sustained and honest endeavour to be the best in your field can also be seen in many a commercial brand. What can also be seen time and again is the naive and suicidal disregard for the values and ethos that made them great, in order to try to secure short term goals.
As brand creators and builders we encourage our clients to stick by their values and beliefs, whatever the situation or opportunity. To use these deeply entrenched guiding principles as just that, a code of conduct, to help them make the right decisions as to the behavior and actions of their most valuable asset: their brand. If it doesn’t fit, don’t do it. The cost could be too high and undoubtedly, if you’ve sweated blood becoming the best in your field, standing out for quality and integrity, there will be other opportunities.
Bar the tenuous Olympic connection I cannot see any shared values between Sir Steve and The Jump except making money - now. Is it enough? I don’t think so and I hope he understands the potential risks to his long term reputation, legacy and bankability. This can be said of all brands who have fought hard to build value from what they stand for.
That said, this may be the big play, the plan. Sir Steve may have decided to capitalise all out now on the brand he’s worked so hard to build and damned be to me and my fanciful notions. In which case, bloody good luck to him.