“Kaepernicking”™: The Importance for Athletes to Protect Their Brand

Colin Kaepernick has taken the sporting world by storm.  Since his installation as the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback earlier this season, Kaepernick has received much praise for transforming the NFL with his “read-option” style of offense. 

Off the field, Mr. Kaepernick is demonstrating a high degree of business savvy by pursuing a trademark for the term “Kaepernicking”, which refers to his gesture of kissing his heavily-tattooed bicep after a score.  Much like Tim Tebow in 2011 and his “Tebowing”, everyone is paying homage to Kaepernick’s trademark move.  By trademarking the phrase, Mr. Kaepernick is ensuring that should others produce t-shirts, posters or other items celebrating “Kaepernicking”, he’ll be entitled to compensation from such products.

Colin Kaepernick’s decision to trademark the term “Kaepernicking” is an example of an athlete protecting his brand, and it’s a practice that other athletes – regardless of their sport – should emulate.  Recently I was interviewed on Roshini Rajkumar’s “News and Views” program on WCCO 830 am alongside my client, former Viking and Pro Football Hall of Famer Carl Eller.  Carl, despite his extraordinary level of fame achieved in professional sports, also sees the addictiveness that comes with being seen by so many as a “hero”.  This “herolism” – a term Carl coined to describe athletes’ response to the rewards system offered by professional sports – can prove to be an impediment to an athlete’s normalization into real life.  Stories abound regarding retired athletes and their post-career financial problems.  Carl’s passion is to impart to current players the need to focus as hard on business and life skills during their careers as they do on the athletic skills needed to maintain their playing careers.  I share his passion and I have to smile when I see stories about a current player trademarking a nickname or catchphrase and thereby protecting his brand for the life of his career and beyond.