He was born the son of a fishing boat captain in Panama. His family lived in a very poor town – Puerto Caimito. Growing up he and his friends played futbol (soccer) and baseball on the village’s field – the beach at low tide. Baseball equipment was improvised – tree branches for bats, balls made from taped up wads of old fishing net, gloves were fashioned from milk cartons. He had his sights set on becoming a professional soccer player.
This past September he retired from Major League Baseball (MLB) after a nineteen year career. He is one of the most dominant closing pitchers in the history of the game and holds the all-time saves record with 652. He was a thirteen time all-star and a five time World Series champion having played his entire career for the New York Yankees. It is all but a lock that he will be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee in his first year of eligibility.
From the time he played on the beach to receiving the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award at the 2013 World Series he remained the same dedicated, fun-loving, caring and likable person.
Mariano Rivera – known in baseball circles as the Sandman – is this Friday’s Fearless Brand not because of his fame and success and riches. As is the case with each fearless brand in this series, he has achieved what he has because he is a fearless brand.
Fearless brands demonstrate consistency which in turn builds the key attributes of trust and respect.
Here is why that is key – all things being equal, people will do business with – and refer business to – people that they know, like and trust. That concept has been shown to be true time and again. Importantly, change ‘do business with’ to ‘interact with’ and this truism is significant throughout all facets of life.
Rivera came to the United States as a professional baseball player – not the soccer player he had aspired to become. He was signed by the Yankees as a pitcher but had been playing shortstop. He had never left home and did not speak any English. His life journey was fluid at best yet he was open to the opportunities as they appeared before him. He leveraged his talent and his chances into one of the most dynamic careers in the game. At the core of his success is the fact that Rivera remained true to the person he had always been. He was trusted by his managers, his teammates and his fans. He was respected by everyone – including his opponents.
Each and every opposing team paid tribute to Rivera as he made his final visits throughout his final season. Teams went to great lengths to present meaningful keepsakes. The Cleveland Indians presented a gold record of his entrance song Enter Sandman. Minnesota gifted him with a rocking chair made of broken bats – most broken by pitches he had thrown. The Yankee’s arch rival Boston Red Sox gave him a painting they had commissioned along with seats and other artifacts from Fenway Park.
A great deal of attention was given to what Mariano received from his opponents. Much less press was given to what Rivera was doing in each of those cities. He made it his practice in each ballpark to visit with the grounds crews, other team employees and fans – the unsung people critical to the game. He listened to their stories and gave his thanks for their contributions.
Mariano Rivera is a classic case study of a fearless brand. His story and his life exemplify my Seven C’s of Branding. From knowing what he can – and cannot – control, to achieving clarity in his life – both personally and professionally, to having the conviction to embrace his brand. He was able to convert the intangibles of who and what he is into very tangible actions. He communicated clearly in every way imaginable and the connections he has made are seemingly endless.
He has lived consistently in all aspects of his life – every situation, year after year, whether in New York, Boston or back home in Panama. That is the lesson to learn from this fearless brand. Know who you are. Know where you are headed. Be true to yourself and above all be consistent…whether it is at Yankee Stadium or on the beach in Panama.
The Sandman may have retired from a significant part of his life – but one this is for certain – wherever his journey takes him from here, he’ll be the same person he’s always been.