When playing professional sports and being in the spotlight 24/7, athletes have a lot to maintain. They need to be in top physical condition, ensure they are always eating right and be professional at all times. With the explosion of social media, athletes now have to worry about how they look and act before, during and after games because if they mess up it will be captured and shared around the world in a matter of seconds. To make sure a player is on their “P’s” and “Q’s,” in comes Lauren Walsh of LW Branding, a strategic branding agency for the talented humans who get paid to play sports.
Along with her team, Lauren works with pro athletes to create, develop and expand their personal brands for a successful career. Lauren and her team provide full service personal branding, image consulting and concierge services. Think of them as ‘Olivia Pope’ for athletes.
Lauren’s job isn’t all about the glitz and glam. There are definitely some tough moments, but in the end it’s all worth it to make a difference in her client’s lives. About her role with athletes Lauren says, “There’s nothing I love more than being the behind-the-scenes facilitator that allows them to fulfill their dreams. It isn’t about notoriety or a paycheck, but truly about the look on their face when they realize that you truly have their best interest at heart.”
Before starting LW branding in 2015, Lauren worked in the financial world and also as a recruiter at a staffing agency. But now after following her lifelong dream she now works with athletes like Houston Rockets Sam Dekker; NBA Draft Prospects Perry Ellis, Wade Baldwin, Michael Gbinije, Dragan Bender; retired NFL star Jermichael Finley and many more. From the NBA Combine to NBA Draft to the ESPYs and even more, the LW Branding team has put together some great looks for pro athletes.
Style Jock had a chance to chat with Lauren to find out more about her business, fashion in sports and how LW Branding works on looks and events for players in the NBA, NFL and more.
Style Jock: What’s the process when you first start working with a client?
Lauren Walsh: The first step is always a thorough search of that individual across all forms of media including web, publication and social. We don't make a formal decision based solely on this, however it's important that we know what type of brand is already out there prior to moving forward and accepting a meeting.
The next step is always an informal meeting. We don't take on every client that we meet so it's important that we start things off by simply talking and getting to know one another. Assuming that we get along, we schedule a follow up meeting that includes a formal meeting where we run through the gamut of who they are, where they came from, what they want their legacy to be, their WHY in life, goals, dreams, family etc.
This always ends with a formal proposal summing up everything that we discussed and of course, a contract. Then it’s time to get to work! For those that we don’t feel would be a great fit for us, or that we don’t feel that we would be the best for them, we make strong recommendations to others in the industry.
SJ: From the services your team provides, what would you say is the most important for athletes today in regards to their brand and image?
LW: Honestly, it's all relative and important, although we hope that we never have to implement our crisis management techniques. However, if I had to pick one I would say that character management is the most important as it relates to professional athletes and their brand. The reason that we are able to be successful at what we do is because we truly take the time to get to know our clients and understand their character. Character is at the core of each of us. Nothing else matters if the athlete doesn’t care about being a good person over all.
SJ: LW branding provides styling services, how difficult is it prepping looks and shopping for an athlete who is 6’6?
LW: 6’6 is nothing! Try working with our most recent client who is a little over 7 feet tall! Let’s just say that custom clothing has become my best friend! With enough time it's not that big of an issue. I have scoured long and hard to find the best brands to fit all of the different body types and in an affordable way! The real problems arise when the guys over 6’9 need things last minute, which as you can imagine happens more often than not. That’s why I have a job sometimes! Those situations are where my relationships with stores, custom clothiers and tailors come in handy! I have an amazing tailor in Chicago who will complete a full alteration in less than 20 minutes!
SJ: Who would be your dream client to work with?
LW: My dream client would honestly be an NBA rookie who is down to earth, fashion forward and committed to making a difference in the sport and in the world. I love working with rookies because it's an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the client to create a brand. At that point, the possibilities are literally endless!
SJ: Getting ready for events like the ESPYs and NBA draft, what would you say it takes to get your team and an athlete ready for the big day?
LW: It takes a high attention to detail and a lot of work! These are extremely big days in the clients’ lives and it's important that everything is perfect. It's important that we work closely with the clients to develop the direction that we want to take in regards to the look. We also generally work with major brands and custom clothiers for the outfits and accessories, which requires a high level of consistent communication.
We check in with everyone that we are working with on a regular basis to ensure that everything will be in with a sufficient amount of time. Although we can control who we work with, we cannot control things like UPS, FedEx or even customs when it comes to custom suits that are being made overseas!
SJ: From working with athletes in NBA, NFL, NHL and more who would you say are the most fashion-forward clients and why?
LW: It's the NBA, hands down! C’mon, how many people watch the beginning of the NBA games to see what the guys are going to walk in wearing? I have even seen specials on ESPN where they go into detail on what Russell Westbrook has been wearing recently. Over the last few years, various NBA players have played a role in branding the league as being fashion-forward. With that you see more and more rookies following suit! Look at the NBA Draft! That’s where it all really starts with the suits.