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The Derek Jeter Brand

The art of “branding” is a complicated road, and one that requires intent and determination. Brands don’t build themselves; customers build them. Companies constantly look for ways to evoke emotion from their customers, which builds reputation and their place in the market—their brand.

This was a remarkable week in baseball history. Derek Jeter, a 20-year career Yankee veteran and long-time team captain, is retiring. Last night, he played his final game in the Bronx wearing pinstripes and ending the game with a walk-off single. A Hollywood director couldn’t have scripted it any better. More than 48,600 fans had the privilege (and money) to watch The Captain pull off another historical moment. Some of New York’s biggest celebrity brands were also in attendance to say their final goodbyes. Millions more watched from their homes, online and listened from the radio. Major companies, like Nike Jordan and Gatorade developed tribute spots to this icon (capturing more than 15 million views combined) and trigger tears from baseball fans, including those from the Yankees’ bitter arch rivals, the fans of the Boston Red Sox.

Derek Jeter represents so many things to so many people. But if we look at his brand through a marketing lens, he spent more than 20 years connecting with people in ways that most companies could only dream of. He evoked emotion from fans, critics, rivals, kids, men and women. He did it purposefully and through difficult times. Baseball meant everything to him, and he made it his mission to share that with everyone.

As EMA’s Brand as Friend index outlines, successful brands are friends. They build connection, relevance and trust with their fans (aka their target audience). Derek Jeter did that from day one, and continued to do so throughout his tenure. He built trust among his peers and fans, his brand loyalists—in an industry that has been riddled with negative publicity about performance enhancing drugs for a more than a decade. His nickname became Mr. November for coming through during tense, clutch moments with record breaking statistics that even the cynics must applaud. He is a class act and has earned #RE2PECT from millions all over the world. And what’s more, he gave the sport of baseball hope.

By being a part of the Yankees organization, he helped their reputation too. The Yankees were lucky to have him. And smart to never let him go.

Marketers should look to the brand of Derek Jeter as a how-to guide for building a brand that connects, builds truth and is always relevant. This may be the end of his career as a player, but if I were you, I’d expect many more things to come from this brand. This legend.

By Kelly Russell, Account Supervisor