Who is Ochocinco? Branding Lessons from an NFL Star

Chad Ochocinco

Unless you’re a football fan, chances are you have no idea who Chad Johnson is. However, I can almost guarantee that you have seen Ochocinco grace your TV screen. But what does he have to do with your small business?

Chad Ochocinco (formerly Johnson) is an NFL star for the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2008, he made headlines by legally changing his name to the Spanish translation of his jersey number (Eight and Five, for #85). That’s not all:

–    he was recently a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars (placing in the top four competitors),

–    he appeared on the cover of EA Sports’ NFL Street 3

–    he was featured in R&B singer Monica’s video Everything to Me

–    he has his own iPhone app, and even a reality dating show on VH1

How did Ochocinco get so huge? Early in his career, the former Johnson seemed like just another obnoxious pro athlete with a penchant for entertaining touchdown celebrations and envelope-pushing antics.  However, it appears he had a strategy in place.

In interviews, he repeatedly referred to himself as Ocho Cinco until the moniker stuck. Eventually Johnson realized that the media would go into a frenzy over his unprecedented (if not ridiculous) name change to Ochocinco.

Since then he has leveraged his popularity into multiple TV appearances and is one of the most visible athlete/celebrities in the world. Ochocinco is even dominating the social media space, amassing over 1 million Twitter followers and 528,000+ members of his Facebook Page.

So how did he do it? Here are a few takeaways:

Be entertaining, but not at the cost of being great.

Ochocinco would have never received any attention if he didn’t score touchdowns. Had an average player tried similar antics, he would have been ignored – whereas Johnson/Ochocinco has been one of the best receivers in the NFL, which in turn allowed him to showcase his humorous and creative persona. This, of course, helped his mainstream popularity skyrocket.

Educate others to your brand – and be persistent.

Even before his name change, the former Chad Johnson repeatedly referred to himself in interviews as Ochocinco. Eventually this caught on as a nickname as the media and fans were conditioned to it. Ochocinco is constantly in pursuit of developing his image – announcing recently that he will legally change his name to “Hachi Go” (Eight and Five in Japanese) next season. One can only imagine next year’s spike in jersey sales for Chad Hachi Go.

Be prolific and personable.

Ochocinco seems determined to win over every potential fan by conquering all media platforms out there: he even has an online tv site, and checks in daily. His Facebook page is dominated by personal observations, pictures of his family, friends and team, and engaging questions and comments about the world around him. He responds to fan queries, meets with them to watch movies, and has even posted his personal cell phone number in public.

In a few short years, Chad Ochocinco has become a household name. How? By executing a successful branding strategy. You might not appear on Dancing with the Stars, and you don’t have to copy all of his tactics – but there’s no arguing with the results. By applying some of these principles, hopefully you can get a jump on branding your business too!