Open, Authentic, and Consistent: How Bryce Harper Won Philly’s Heart With the Ideal Personal Brand

Bryce Harper mania has officially come to Philadelphia. The announcement that the Phillies had acquired the star right fielder from the Washington Nationals was met with widespread joy. Within 24 hours of the news breaking, sales of his jersey broke records and the team store ran out of the letter ‘R.

Bryce’s arrival was celebrated with good reason. His 13-year, $330m contract (the most expensive in North American sports at the time—though overtaken by Mike Trout’s $426.5m deal just days later) indicated that the Phillies were serious about investing in winning this season.

Bryce commanded a figure of that magnitude thanks to his equally oversized stats. He was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, became the youngest position player to make the All-Star game in 2012, tied for the most home runs in the National League in 2015 (and was named the youngest ever NL MVP), and at age 26, is already a six-time All-Star.

Great Player, Better Person

On top of being an incredible athlete, Harper is also a study in personal responsibility, authenticity, passion, and graciousness. Known for his tireless dedication to improving his craft, Bryce credits his father Ron, an ironworker in Las Vegas, for his work ethic: “I wanted to come out and I wanted to work hard because he worked hard. He did it for over 25 years.”

It’s for these reasons, and more, that the entire Phillies community, including my own family, have so quickly embraced Harper. We don’t miss a Phillies game in my household, and I quickly made a habit of following all of Bryce’s exploits on and off the field on his Instagram account.

His heartfelt Instagram post thanking the Nationals’ organization and fans for their support during his tenure in Washington shows his character and that his competitive drive doesn’t prevent him from acknowledging a team that is now a major division rival. And by wearing a pair of spiffy Phillie Phanatic-inspired cleats for opening day, he let his new hometown fans know that he is all in on the next chapter of his career.

There’s no doubt about it, everyone loves Bryce Harper.

In the Social Media Age, Personal Brands Move Markets

If corporate branding is all about creating positive and enduring associations for an organization in the minds of its audience, personal branding is doing the very same thing—but about yourself. Think of how the many members of the Kardashian clan created lucrative brands tied to each of their own identities and each with millions of followers. Personal brands with that kind of influence are worth literally billions.

Personal branding is hardly a new concept (“Think and Grow Rich” by self-help author Napoleon Hill promoted the practice as far back as the 1937), but the rise of social media has taken things to a whole new league.

Society has become more transparent. Our private photos of friends and families, the tracking of our whereabouts, and our personal and professional accomplishments are no longer hidden in a dusty album under the bed or framed on the walls of our offices; they are prominently displayed on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platforms built specifically to share our every thought and experience.

Bryce’s Best Attribute is His Realness

Successful personal branding views the individual as the star of a dramatic story. They overcome obstacles, compete with rivals, learn valuable lessons, and win the hearts and minds of adoring fans through hard work, talent, selflessness, and mental toughness.

Plenty of celebrities and athletes present that image, but the best among them never appear insincere in doing so. They aren’t just playing the hero, they actually are one. Their values aren’t a costume they take off when they clock out, it’s just who they are.

The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. It’s not overtly trying to sell something. It’s just an honest message that comes across as personal, funny, real, and meaningful. It’s a message that piques our curiosity, strikes an emotional chord, and hits on universal themes.

Between his consistently great performances, his infectious enthusiasm, his displays of goodwill, and his willingness to share it all with his fans, Bryce has built pretty much the perfect personal brand.