On January 19, 2014, the Seattle Seahawks faced off against the San Francisco 49ers to determine who would go to the Super Bowl. With about 30 seconds left on the clock, the 49ers were down by six and in the red zone. San Francisco’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick attempted to clinch a victory by throwing a pass to 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree located in the end zone. However, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman deflected the ball and secured a Super Bowl spot for Seattle.
Despite the memorable play, what’s even more memorable is Sherman’s post-game interview with Fox Sports broadcaster Erin Andrews. During the interview, Sherman referred to Crabtree as a “sorry receiver” and called him out for talking about him.
The social sphere exploded with reactions to Sherman’s remarks. YouTube videos of the interview generated millions of views and Sherman’s Twitter followers jumped from 268,000 to 567,000 overnight, according to Colin Resch, sports anchor for KGO-TV. The interview also generated more than four million social mentions within a two-week span, according to Adobe.
“Social media: It’s an incredible beast in itself,” Sherman said during the two-day keynote at the Adobe Summit. “[It’s] always evolving.”
While the 25-year-old cornerback may not be a marketer by trade, his story is a true playbook for how brand marketers can reinvent themselves. Here are three key takeaways that can help marketers become the ultimate brand champion.
Have a game plan
Sherman’s outburst wasn’t as off-the-cuff as one might expect. The cornerback said that he had planned on addressing the Crabtree issue before the game. Although, he suspects that the delivery wouldn’t have been as emotional had the final play not occurred. “[And] maybe Erin Andrews wouldn’t have been so scared,” he added. Knowing that he was under the microscope, Sherman made sure to deliver the message without a single cuss. Hence, like all great brand marketers, Sherman capitalized on an opportunity by having a game plan.
“You can never predict when the ball is going to come to your direction….I can safely assume that [I’m] not going to play terrible and that [my] teammates are going to do well,” he said. “You can formulate a plan for events that are going to happen.”
Be true to your brand
Granted, not everyone reacted to Sherman’s remarks favorably. Many people criticized the Seahawks player for being “too brash” and for coming off angry. Sherman said that the interview reflected “a moment in the game” and didn’t show his true personality.
“The interview didn’t go the way I wanted it to go,” he confessed.
As a result, Sherman went into what he called “recovery mode” and worked to show off his entrepreneurial and charitable side—such as through follow-up interviews and volunteer work—as well as his personality off the field.
“You have to stay the same person throughout,” he said. “You can’t let anyone change who you are.”
Don’t be afraid to disrupt
Despite the criticism, Sherman said being genuine and honest is part of his brand. And while some athletes may respond with “great player, great opponent, great respect” when asked about a competitor, Sherman believes in being a little more blunt.
“Sometimes it’s ‘I hate that dude,’” he said. “In football, you need rivalries. You need conflict.”
Hence, controversy isn’t a complete negative for Sherman. While people will always have their own opinions, he said that generating buzz can result in a lot of positives, such as social media fame and followers.
“You want to provoke a response,” he said. “You want to be unique in the field…. I’ll be the one to step outside of the cookie-cutter mode.”