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Three employer branding lessons from NBA star Stephen Curry

Reading Time: 5 minutes

With the 2016-2017 NBA season officially underway, fans are waiting for several plot lines to unravel, not the least of which including how superstar Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors will come back from their devastating collapse in the NBA finals this past June.

Beyond the on-the-court logistics of that final series, here at Stories we are always interested to see whether brands can survive temporary setbacks. Built carefully and deliberately, Curry’s personal brand has continued to remain strong despite the disappointing defeat. Want an employer brand reputation that lasts? Take a page or two out of Mr. Curry’s three-pointer-laden notes.

Understand your brand

A large part of Curry’s brand is his authenticity and enthusiasm in everything he does. The companies he chooses to conduct business with are no exception. If he does not feel a genuine connection to the product, he will let the opportunity pass. This has led him to invest in startups such as Coachup, a business that matches young athletes with former college or pro players for private coaching. Having had great success from his own experiences with private coaching, Curry identified with this business and therefore began a relationship with them, turning down lucrative offers from other organizations that did not offer such a connection. By choosing to present a consistent image of himself, he better controls how he is perceived and is a stronger brand for it.

Similarly, your employer brand does not need to be everything to everyone. Your job is to market your company’s culture for the end goal of hiring the right talent that will flourish within your organization. If you provide an authentic look into what it is really like to work in your organization, some candidates will self-select themselves out of the position if they do not believe themselves to be a good fit. That is a good thing.

Do not be afraid to stray from the norm

Part of the reason Curry’s brand is so successful is the same reason he is such a surprising star—he is relatable. How many superstar professional athletes can say that? With his scrawny, 6’3” frame, he should not be physically capable of dominating the NBA. But with his flawless dribbling and his seemingly unguardable shot, he does just that. He has given a lot of young athletes the hope that with a ball, a basket, and enough practice they, too, can overcome the odds.

In fact, his physique caused so much doubt that in 2013 sponsorship negotiations with his then-sponsor Nike, Curry realized that he was going to be treated as a second tier athlete in the company. They did not believe a scrawny shooter from Davidson College could sell shoes. Curry believed this different type of persona could succeed—on and off the court—and he ended up signing with Under Armour, who embraced Curry’s differences and used them as a strength in their marketing. So strong a strength, in fact, that Morgan Stanley has projected Curry’s potential worth to Under Armour to be more than $14 billion.

If you are working to brand your company to potential candidates, do not be afraid to stray from the norm. Just as a candidate who breaks the mold will stand out to you, anything that makes your employer brand different will resonate with candidates as well. What are you offering that other employers are not? Show them, it just may work out in your favor.

Relentlessly improve

Besides his incredible in-game performances, Curry is so highly regarded due to his commitment to improvement. Even as the first unanimous league MVP this past year, Curry still believes he can refine his game, and before each game goes through an extensive warm-up routine with the goal of constantly improving his ball handling and shooting.

Relentlessly improve and celebrate success is one of our core values here at Stories Inc. and something we, like Curry, strive towards each day. No matter how good your employer brand is or how many accolades your company receives, you can always improve. Push your brand to be the best, and once you reach that point, push it to be even better.

So while we may not all be able to shoot like Stephen Curry, his consistency, authenticity, and dedication to improvement are all attributes to apply to employer branding strategies in order to attract the best talent for your company.

Photo Attribution: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Stephen Curry), via Wikimedia Commons