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What Damian Lillard Taught Me About Personal Branding Most entrepreneurs don't realize how valuable their personal brand is. Here's what you can learn from Damian Lillard.

By Nicole Bernard Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Marketing will always be based on relationships.
  • Damian crushes this.
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For Christmas, we got my son two tickets to the Portland Trailblazers vs. Milwaukie Bucks game. We live about an hour from PDX, so technically, the Blazers are our home team. And we love them — always have. I grew up watching Clyde the Glide take on Jordan, Pippen and Grant in the 1992 finals (they lost to the Bulls, by the way). I'm not sure who was more excited about the tickets — me or my 10-year-old son!

If you're unfamiliar with Damian Lillard, aka Dame Time, you should be! Drafted in the 1st round (6th overall) to the Blazers in 2012 from a small school in Utah, Damian has spent his entire career in Portland — until this season.

When the opportunity to play with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks came up, nobody could blame him for taking the opportunity for a chance to win a championship.

You would think the people of Portland, and Oregon, for that matter, would be mad.

Far from it.

When my son and I went to the game, you could feel the love and appreciation for Damian. The organization even put half of its iconic Rip City structure in green in front of the Moda Center! It is typically red and black only.

When they announced his name, there was a two-minute standing ovation. I have the video of it; I can prove it. Some signs read, "Win Your Ring and Come Home," and many read, "We Miss You." Adidas dedicated a basketball court at their Portland campus to him the day before the game. It is the first and only time they have dedicated any building to an athlete. Portland was still selling Lillard jerseys (for twice the price of last year, I might add!)

So, after seeing all of this and feeling love for him at the game. I wondered, what makes him so different? Why do people feel so connected to him?

Related: I Emailed All 30 NBA Owners, Asking Them to Meet With Me. Here's What Happened.

What makes Dame different

He has truly connected with his fans. But on a personal level. Yes, he shares pictures of his adorable children, his music and his brands on social media, but it's more than that.

As mentioned above, he came from a small school. He has shared how he wasn't always sought after and how he had to work harder. He's shared how he had to put time behind the scenes when nobody was watching (or, quite frankly, cared) and didn't know if he would actually make it to the NBA.

I feel like many of us can connect with that. Especially entrepreneurs. We put a lot of work in behind the scenes, and we're unsure if it will be enough.

All athletes, celebrities, and mega-successful entrepreneurs are real humans, but we don't always get to see that side of them or really connect with them. Damian has brought us along for the ride.

In addition to his personal story, Damian has spent (a lot of) time giving back to the city of Portland. Not only is he the all-time leading scorer for the Blazers, but he also founded the Lillard Foundation, was highly involved in the RESPECT program in many PDX high schools, and gave his time to the Special Olympics. He is like a family member at college for a semester, and we're ready for him to come home.

A few weeks ago, the Blazers played the Bulls in Chicago. Guess who was at the game? Dame Time. He literally drove from Milwaukee to Chicago to support his old team. For most people, a two-hour drive to see an NBA game wouldn't be that crazy, but for a professional athlete on a Monday night?

That shows who Damian is. I honestly don't know how many professional athletes would do that on their night off. And that's why people love him. He shows that he cares. He gives without expectation.

Related: 5 Simple Steps to Build a Personal Brand

How to improve your personal brand like Damian Lillard

Marketing will always be based on relationships. Creating them. Building them. Strengthening them. Enjoying them.

Damian crushes this.

Personal branding is becoming more important because people crave more connections (especially post-pandemic). And the fact is, like Dame Time, we all have a personal brand whether we like it or not, so it's advantageous to put some effort into your brand. We may not have his exposure, but we all have a story to tell. People to help. Dreams to pursue.

A personal brand is so much more than your color scheme, tagline, or logo. It's your vibe. It's how you want to make people feel when they come across your social media platforms, sign up for your email list or browse your website. It's more than pictures of your products, travels or kids. Don't get me wrong, those are part of it, but it's how you make them feel.

Remember Maya Angelou's quote, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Related: 6 Tips for Leveraging Your Personal Brand to Create Partnership Opportunities

Feelings = Memories

What is your mission? What is your experience? What have you pushed through? How can you connect with your ideal customers? What do they need to feel from you to reach out to you?

How do you make people feel when they meet you at your business? How do you make them feel when they read your content or watch your videos?

That will ripple through everything.

Action steps

Take some time to review your messaging, branding, social media profiles, website and any other marketing channels you use to connect with potential and current customers.

Try not to:

1. Overthink this.

2. View this as an arduous item on your to-do list.

Remember why you started your business, and have fun with it! Block off an hour and put some thought into your brand.

If you need some inspiration, just Google Damian Lillard!

Nicole Bernard

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Marketing Strategist & Founder at nb. marketing

Nicole Bernard's career began with Microsoft over 15 years ago, and since that time, she has owned and operated two successful businesses as well as worked with other major brands including RE/MAX and Venus Williams. She also hosts a popular podcast.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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