Lessons from star athletes on leaving the right brand legacy.

By Luke Sklar and Amber Hudson

This week anyone who clapped eyes on the news likely has the image of Kevin Ware’s snapped leg burned on their retinas.  For.  Ever.  You can check it out here if you must, but consider yourself warned.  The dangling leg, the grimace of pain, the reaction of the players on the bench, Ware on crutches post operation, the images tell an incredible story.  And Ware became a household name because of it.

To many it brings back memories of Lawrence Taylor’s career-ending sack of Joe Theismann; call it the original leg snap heard around the world.  Theismann’s career summed up in a single visual.

Then there’s Bo Jackson, the first person to be named an All-Star in two major sports, NFL and MLB (and the guy who did the “Bo Knows…” ads for Nike).   A serious hip injury not only ended his career but became the lasting memory for many, over-shadowing what was a stellar career.

These dramatic stories, these visual episodes have become the lasting legacy of these talented athletes.  It can easily happen to brands.  Look at BP…forever defined by the horrible 2010 oil spill and the images of the environmental damage.   Then there was Tylenol, Coke, McDonald’s, Tropicana (that packaging SNAFU was almost a career-ender).  Their injuries will never be forgotten, but they have worked hard to make them merely a chapter in the brand’s history, not their legacy.  So if your brand gets slammed to the ground it’s important to make sure what your brand stands for, and not the injury, is the lasting picture in your consumers’ mind.