Pittsburgh Steelers Rashard Mendenhall's recent tweets have resulted in athletic apparel maker Champion, terminating the NFL running back's endorsement contract that was to run through 2015.  
Mendenhall made controversial comments about Osama bin Laden's death using the popular social media tool. He questioned why people would celebrate his death, and also seemed to question whether he was even involved in the September 11th attacks.
Brand Before You Speak, Tweet, Act
Some think this was an overreaction by Champion, others agree with the company. Regardless of where you stand, this is not the first time an elite athlete has paid a price for 'off the cuff comments.'
What you say and how you communicate with fans, media, executives, and the business and sporting communities can make a huge difference in how people respond to you and your brand. What you say can help you/your brand stand apart from others, or as we observed by these unprepared and spontaneous comments, it can haunt you and your brand reputation.
Think Big Picture > Personal Branding Is Smart Business
Your social media strategy should be driven by your personal brand strategy – you have to be conscious of consistently building and communicating the distinctive brand that is you. This applies to world-class athletes, executives, and students – everyone. Social media is a powerful tool that can help you tell your story after you develop your overall brand strategy. The process helps you learn the do’s and don’ts of communication as you strategically develop your social media personality.
Branding Is Storytelling
A brand is what people think of you – it is the foundation for everything you do. A brand positioned and perceived as distinctively different will drive unprecedented in-game and post-game business successes. Your personal brand is the authentic brand that is uniquely you – it is synonymous with your reputation. Branding consists of a range of different but strongly interconnected activities that are all distinctly designed to express who you are to the world.
Are You ‘Just An Athlete?’
Yes, being a professional athlete is an amazing accomplishment that few achieve. But careers span on average less than 4 years for the ‘Big 4’ players. And according to Sports Illustrated, almost 80 percent of NFL players are flirting with bankruptcy two years after they retire. NBA players aren’t faring much better – 60 percent of NBA former players end up broke within five years of retirement. MLB and NHL players also suffer from these same ‘Life After Sports’ challenges. Too many athletes pay the price for bad financial decisions, lavish spending, and for not having a strategy to leverage their brand beyond the game – a plan for their next dream. Too many players limit their life potential by being branded ‘as just an athlete.’
Personal Brand Statement (PBS)
To develop a compelling and unique story for life long success, you should craft your very own personal brand statement. The ultimate goal is to create a buzz about you, your accomplishments on and off the playing field, and to engage all audiences from the locker room to the boardroom. To do this you will need to position yourself in the mind of your target marketplace. Your personal brand statement is a few memorable sentences summing up your unique promise of value. It is your goal to paint a concise, honest, accurate, and positive picture of who you are. You want to be perceived as a leader, not a follower, in your world or sphere of influence, which in turn will help you stand out from all others.
Leverage Your Celebrity, Your Brand Reputation
Your personal brand statement is distinctive to you and you alone. It refers to the way other people see you and the lasting impression you want to make. Most importantly, it supports all your life’s passion and expertise, not just your athletic accomplishments. The goal is transcend the game and be the best at your next career or life endeavor.
Whether you are an athlete at the top of your game, or winding down your career, or you are an entrepreneur, or a corporate employee, the process of creating your PBS will help you better communicate your story, engage audiences, and will drive life long success.
Action Steps
Write your PBS out, memorize it, and be prepared to tell it, briefly and with compassion. 
Consistently incorporate your personal brand statement into your professional environment and communications. Connect it to your in-game and post-game career and life goals, and your social media platforms.
Branding is dynamic – a flexible work in progress – so you will continually need to revisit your PBS to ensure it is current and relevant.
Need help writing your statement or identifying other passions? Find a Personal Branding Coach and possibly a leading, certified Business/Life Coach.
A Personal Brand Coach will help you proactively tell your story so you attract opportunities and avoid costly communication blunders. With a strongly crafted brand story you can be seen as a leader and an influencer, a celebrity in your game and beyond, resulting in your enhanced ability to earn an income long after the final whistle.