Hours before the 2015 NBA draft, Tyus Jones posted on Twitter, “Write Your Own Story.”
It has been his mantra throughout his life and the rallying cry behind the young Timberwolves player’s push to brand himself.
For many athletes, the idea of a personal brand is still relatively new. Most players don’t emerge out of the shadow of their team’s image and the ones who do often rely on their agents, chiefly to secure endorsement deals. Ever ambitious, Tyus Jones wants to shoot for opportunities both on and off the court.
“I just think that my brand is bigger than just basketball. … It’s more so about inspiring and trying to help others,” Jones said in an interview.
Jones, 20, is into his second season as a professional basketball player and recently decided to work with Minneapolis marketing firm Morsekode to develop his personal brand.
The firm designed a polished website for Jones and a plan to connect him with companies as well as nonprofits that align with his values. Morsekode is currently in discussions with potential partners that could work with Jones.
By establishing their brand and what makes them different, athletes will set themselves up for long-term success even after they no longer play sports, said Mark Morse, chief executive and chief creative officer at Morsekode.
“Professional athletes have maybe three years or, if they are lucky, 10 years to make an impact with athletic success,” Morse said. “You may have 20 years after that off the court. What we are trying to instruct our clients to do is to ‘Make sure you understand who you are.’ ”
Agents, attorneys and financial planners who advise professional athletes may not always look at the big picture or think beyond the immediate financial gain of an endorsement deal to what brand relationships really fit that individual, Morse said.
In a digital age when athletes have even more interactions with fans and other players, a precise and well-thought brand message is even more key, he said.
“Because of social media … [athletes] are connected to culture in more ways than ever,” Morse said. “They have more channels to communicate. Each one of those communications, whether they are liking a post or sharing an image, they are shaping their personal brand.”
For Jones, an Apple Valley native who won an NCAA title with Duke University, it was important to define what he is about early in his career. His father has told him since he was a child to “write your own story.”
“Writing your own story is you controlling the things that you can control in your life and trying to be great no matter what it is,” Jones said. “Your life is your story and you are the author of it.”
While he isn’t 100 percent sure what he will do when he eventually stops playing basketball, Jones knows that he wants to continue to work to reach out and inspire young people maybe through coaching, personal training or hosting a basketball academy.
Morsekode helped Jones work with the Excell Academy in Brooklyn Park to donate money and his time to create the “write your own story creative lab,” a computer lab to help students explore their passions.
Morse made the connection with the Jones family when he coached Tyus’ brother when he was younger. Earlier this year, Tyus Jones became interested in building a website and when he talked to Morsekode, they discussed that instead of just creating content that they should work with him on his brand.
“It was really good timing for us to begin working together,” Morse said.
Morse’s nearly 30-member firm housed in downtown Minneapolis has experience with branding, digital strategy and content creation. The firm has been in business for almost 15 years.
Jones is the firm’s first personal brand sports account, though it has worked on other personal brands projects and in sports with the Timberwolves and others.
Morsekode’s other clients have included 3M, Betty Danger’s, Ecolab and independent record label 300 Entertainment.
Morsekode’s office resembles a record company with a band setup for visiting music clients to jam and Morse’s personal office decorated with old LPs. Even the firm’s business cards come with guitar pick punchouts.
Morsekode has recently dedicated resources to make a specialty sports/entertainment practice within its brand strategy team to be able to help more clients like Jones and other figures in the sports and entertainment realm.
“As we have seen the sports industry and the entertainment industry became more intertwined, it just became a really natural evolution for us,” Morse said.