Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
Mohamed Muktar Jama “Mo” Farah
As Olympic fever is still in the air this month following Great Britain’s best medal haul in 108 years, it seemed only fitting to award this Brand of the Month to one of the giants in British athletics: Mo Farah. He is “the UK’s finest ever distance runner” and gets the gold for personal branding this month. What sets his personal brand apart?
His powerful combination
Farah possesses a powerful combination of ability, passion, purpose and values…essential core branding attributes of a strong personal brand. His talent of course is evident: by winning the hallowed “double-double” of 5,000m and 10,000m at two consecutive Olympics, Farah cemented his title as Britain’s most successful track athlete. This golden victory means he becomes just the second man after Finland’s Lasse Viren to win both long-distance events at successive Olympics.
His electrifying performance was largely fueled by a sense of purpose; he not only aspired to be one of the greatest long distance runners, but also to win a gold medal for each of his four children. The runner had dedicated his London 2012 medals to his twins, and wanted to have one gold medal for each of his children. He had revealed in an interview how fear of not winning a medal for his oldest child had propelled him to win the 10,000m. After his triumph, Farah explained, “I just want to go home now and see my beautiful kids and hang my medals around their necks.” He continued, ‘I’m going to engrave their names on each of the medal so they have something when I am gone.
While Farah has managed to marry his values of family with his passion for the sport, he is also forthcoming about the difficulties of balancing the two. “Being a father and having four kids is not easy. My wife struggles and that is the hardest part of your life”. “I miss my kids. For six months of the year [I’m away at a training camp].”
While Farah said he “owed it to my country” to race again at the World Athletics Championships in London next year, he would most likely rule out a return at Tokyo 2020 as he has now decided he wants to spend more time with his family.
His powerful story
Farah’s status today as one of Britain’s highest achieving athletes is a far cry from his humble beginnings in Somalia, and so he captures us with a powerful story: “from humble beginnings to Olympic gold-medalist”, one of determination and extraordinary personal sacrifice. Farah described himself as “a child who did not even know which way to run round the track when he first arrived in Britain, and dreamed of winning just one medal.” He continues, “Just knowing where I grew up, where I come from, the journey I have taken, it would be amazing.”
Farah also has a dark chapter to his story. His reputation had taken a bruising last year when he was forced to deny accusations of performance enhancing drug use after his coach Alberto Salazar was accused of violating anti-doping laws in 2002. While Mo distanced himself from his coach and denied using himself, he did speak openly in an interview as well as in his 2013 autobiography about one occasion during a visit to Somalia in 2003 when he tried Khat, “a natural, traditional Somali stimulant that is used widely in that country and until June 2014 was on sale in the UK (and was not deemed a prohibited substance in 2003)”. In more recent controversial news, Farah’s Somalian coach Jama Aden was also arrested in June 2016 when performance enhancing drugs were found in his hotel room in Spain. Farah managed to weather the storm of accusations, which could have left his brand permanently damaged, and went on be in the running (pardon the pun!) for Britain’s greatest ever sportsperson.
When interviewed about talk of being knighted, Farah explained that “being Sir Mo would be incredible, to be able to be in the same category as Sir Alex Ferguson for what he did at Manchester United and Sir Steve Redgrave for what he did for rowing would be pretty amazing.”
Congratulations Mo on achieving a gold medal brand!