How Michael Phelps Built His Personal Brand

How Michael Phelps Built His Personal Brand

With his all-time-best Olympic career seemingly coming to an end with a record-setting 23 gold medals in the 2016 Summer games in Rio, Michael Phelps has certainly cemented himself in both the record books and in the minds of the world for eternity. He was recently named the greatest Olympian of all-time in a recent poll. All of that seemingly would build a personal brand for himself, yet even the greatness displayed in the pool didn’t define him. An examination of his social media activity shows that even those that have a brand thrust upon them work at building their own personal brand.

Even leading up to and during his historic performance in Rio, Phelps was on social media. His engagement in social media tells a story. Like much all personal branding, it tells a story of who he is beyond even his legendary accomplishments. Before leaving for the Olympic games on a quest for more gold he tweeted out an Instagram pic of his last workout:

Even with all of the activity going on during the games and the mental preparation it takes before competing, he found time and tweeted other pics made through his Instagram account:

Phelps won six total medals in the 2016 edition of the Summer Games. Five gold medals came from the Men's 4x200m freestyle relay, the Men's 200m butterfly, the Men's 4x100 medley relay, the Men's 4x100m freestyle relay, and the Men's 200m individual medley. He tweeted to Texas Longhorn, Joseph Schooling, congratulating Schooling after he beat him in the 100m butterfly, Phelps' lone Silver medal of the games:

Further down Michael Phelp's twitter timeline, before leaving for the Rio games, Michael gave a nod to his local barbershop for getting his haircut right:

There are plenty of golf tweets in his timeline too. A sport he enjoys when not in the pool. There is his shout out to Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson after the incredible finish of this year's British Open:

Another to Dustin Johnson after the US Open:

What could be more American than to take the time for tweet on the 4th of July from Phelps wishing everyone a safe and happy 4th of July holiday:

There are countless tweets about being a dad and how much he loves and enjoys his family:

There is much that can be taken from this activity. First and foremost, what comes across is what you would want from the greatest American Olympian of all-time, for him to be all-American. His tweets don't have a hint of self-promotion or cockiness, even though he has every reason to feel good about himself. They are comprised of:

  • Humility - congratulating a competitor on a great victory.
  • Fun - pics of him goofing around with teammates.
  • Athletic - associating himself with another favorite American pastime, golf.
  • Community - thanking his local barbershop for a haircut.
  • Patriotism - posting on Independence day for all to be safe and have fun.
  • Family - really. His timeline is filled with joy about his family.

Phelp's social media activity is perfect. It isn't filled with pictures of him eating any of the 12,000 calories a day he ingests or mindless activities he is doing. It is concentrated on the areas above. Whether intended or not, his public brand is built in a way that leaves us with an idea of his character and his being. We know much of what he has accomplished in his field, but few understand who he is outside of his interaction through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets. It is a great thing to think that we have the same ability to reach the world as the greatest Olympion ever. It doesn't cost anything to have an account and publish the moments and thoughts that make up our own identity. If you are a professional and don't have one, you should create a LinkedIn profile and start talking to your professional community today.

Michael Phelps' 23 gold medals should be an inspiration to us all for what can be done when one sets their mind on a goal and strives to achieve it. He should also allow us to recognize that even with the inconceivable number of hours he must train to reach such athletic accomplishments, commitments he has with sponsors and the time he invests in building strong relationships with his friends, family and community, he still has time to engage in meaningful interactions with social media. There are plenty of personal branding articles to get you started on a path of letting the world know your values, even if your accomplishments don't compare. Then again, even the greatest Olympians of all-time can't compare.

He is a great American hero.

Thanks for the memories, Michael.

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