Dare to Play Your Own Game: 3 Lessons for Winning Brand Strategy

What would you do if you just retired as one of the most winning and accomplished athletes of all time?

I don’t know about you, but I think I might be inclined to sit back next to my pool, kick my feet up and raise a glass or two of iced tea.

If golf legend Annika Sorenstam did self-indulge, it must have been for a nanosecond. Because she’s been one busy woman – showing us how to be a winner off the course too.

In recent years,she’s artfully transitioned from full time life on the LPGA tour to successful entrepreneur by thoughtfully building the ANNIKA brand– including a wine label, apparel collection, golf academy, course design, foundation and even boutique financial group.

And, by the way, she seems to be really living it. As in, not just living but loving life.

How’d she do it?

She and her husband Mike McGee, managing director of the ANNIKA Brand, turned to Duane Knapp, branding consultant and author, to create a distinct brand promise as the thread that weaves all her various interests, charitable works and ventures together.

Here’s 3 lessons you can take from Annika to set yourself apart and nurture your own brand:

1. Build your brand on what you really love.

At every turn, the ANNIKA brand represents the personal passion of Annika herself. Cooking, skiing, family, friends, causes, and, of course, golf — the brand promise works because it’s played out by the narrative that Annika presents in her life. She’s living passionately and building businesses around those passions. It’s the very definition of authenticity. And it really shines through in everything she’s doing.

2. Play it forward.

The ANNIKA brand is a great example of how a brand story can support potential and growth. Let me explain: When I worked with the LPGA, I witnessed a champion who’s dedication to giving it her all was unparalled.  She worked harder, smarter… raising her game by uncovering every angle of how she could improve.  I have no idea if it was about breaking records and barriers, but one thing was apparent: she was not going to be satisfied with simply phoning it in. And, she seemed to really love the challenge and the game. This woman was living it: giving the experience her very best shot.  That passionate spirit really lives on in the ANNIKA brand, as her personal participation and involvement in the various extensions — winery, foundation, course design — are logical because they reflect ventures in which she’s really engaged.  Annika’s not just slapping her logo on a product and phoning it in… she’s involved.  A story that’s supported by point #3 — we see her cooking, skiing and playing out her life story with us.

3. Open Up & Share

Annika is remarkably candid and open in sharing her story, so the authenticity of her passion not only shines through… but we get to be a part of it, too. Whether it’s a winning recipe from her own kitchen, daughter Ava’s first trip to a golf course or her ideas on how to inspire healthier children, she shares it in her personal newsletter “At the Turn.”   She personally tweets and writes blog posts about her life in a way that enables us to see, despite her tremendous achievement, a little bit of ourselves in her.

She’s bravely revealed her vulnerability, too.  In 2011, Annika poignantly shared the story of her son Will’s premature birth with all of us — sharing his progress and revealing her own emotional highs and lows for us all — giving all of us the opportunity to experience life, together, withher.

I can’t wait to see how Annika’s story — and her brand — unfolds in the years to come.

It begs the question: how can you invite people into your story, too?

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