European Super League controversy shows the importance of listening to fans - Rashmi Dube

Personal brand versus corporate brand – which is better, or do both sit together?

Fans hold up a banner protesting against the European Super League ahead of the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, London.

We all understand the difference, but as a business starting out, particularly if a start-up involving one or two people, inevitably a person’s personal brand becomes intertwined with the corporate brand.

As businesses develop, there is often a conscious effort to separate the two but not always. Take KFC for instance, which still has its founder Colonel Harland Sanders front and centre. But which is best? They both are. There is no wrong or right answer in this question. There are, however, considerations that should apply.

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After all a brand can hold a lot of value provided by stakeholders. So, whether you are starting out, growing your business, or running a multi-international corporation, certain ‘rules’ should always be considered.

There are more than 300 million brands in the world today, from the one-person start-up at home to the likes of Barclays Bank and Shell. Sometimes, of course, the ‘personal brand’ is also the corporate brand – as seen by the Kardashians.

Brands then elevate their position by joining forces. This can be seen clearly in the sporting world with athletes aligning their brands to corporates such as Nike and Adidas. It is not always smooth sailing and things can go wrong.

For instance, take Nike and the athlete Allyson Felix. She was being penalised by Nike who she has an association with (and contract) because she, like other female athletes, had a child. Since the public fall out, Nike reviewed their position and changed their contracts for pregnant athletes.

But what happens when boards don’t take into consideration stakeholders’ views, and their own brand’s position, ethics and mission?

Last week, we saw the fierce criticism that surrounded all who were involved with the European Super League. No one brand was left untouched, including JP Morgan for backing the league. Having realised the reputational damage and making attempts to mitigate the damage, they issued what they believed was an apology saying that they “…misjudged how the deal would be viewed by the wider football community…”

In respect of the clubs, it took 48 hours from the announcement for the six English clubs involved to pull out of the scheme, but only because of the backlash not just from the fans but also the managers, players, Premier League and even the Government.

The disdain that vibrated throughout all aspects of the football world was because of the concept of open and closed systems, meaning the benefits and money were to be hoarded by the few. For most of us, even if we don’t have an affiliation or love of the footballing world, we do have a sense of club names and brand.

This unprecedented move and backlash brought damage to the clubs’ brand but something else happened. The backlash brought into the equation the owner’s personal brand. It is a situation that shows us that the corporate brand will be punished for the executive’s decision, but it will also be the executive that will be tarnished in public.

I am not saying that the landscape of football will not change. There is a lucrative market out there in many forms that is being considered, developed, and experimented with.

Each board member must remember that their reputation lives and dies with their own actions, but it is also intertwined with the corporate’s brand. A personal brand will be judged on the person’s values and integrity, and their ability to communicate their brand through their actions or non-actions.

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