About Branded a Leader


Branded a Leader (BAL) is a leadership program that teaches critical decision-making skills to student-athletes while challenging them to be responsible for their decisions and those of their teammates. BAL is a highly interactive training that engages student-athletes in unusually effective ways. BAL trainings are also utilized for coaches and staff.

Branded a Leader, created in 2008 by the National Consortium for Academics & Sports (NCAS),now officially the Institute For Sport & Social Justice (ISSJ) was developed in partnership with Michigan State University. Michigan State’s Student Athlete Support Services was seeking a training that would engage their student-athletes in educational discussions on key issues such as: Violence Against Women, Alcohol & Drugs, Hazing and Responsible Computing. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) adopted BAL as a conference-wide training initiative beginning in 2008.


Branded a Leader Goals

  • Challenge participant thinking regarding these social aspects of their lives
  • Empower participants with information and skills necessary to make good decisions and to confront peers
  • Foster participant accountability for personal and peer behavior
  • Create awareness and greater understanding of impact of decisions on a wide-range of brands

Branded a Leader Training

Branded a Leader utilizes the appeal of mainstream branding strategies as a foundation for student-athletes to discuss personal decisions and difficult social situations involving teammates. The program illustrates the impact of individual and institutional decision-making on a wide range of brands through case studies of various companies and individuals like LeBron James and Michael Vick.

BAL trainers lead student-athletes through the “brands” that they represent (family, hometown/country, institution, team, MLB, community, etc.) and have them articulate how a range of good decisions and bad decisions will likely impact each of their “brands.” Each segment of this training utilizes a specific aspect of decision-making skills, consequences and accountability for self, teammates and beyond.

Student-athletes develop a success plan for enhancing their “personal brand” and share with their teammates. Branded a Leader trainers challenge the student-athletes to hold each other accountable for their espoused success goals and for making good decisions. Their role as their teammates “keeper” will be reinforced through social scenarios where they will decide the best options for intervening on a teammate’s behalf.

BAL Training Options

  • 4 Hour Awareness Raising Sessions
    (90 minutes)
  • Large Group Presentations
    (45-60 minutes)
  • Train the Trainer programs
    (2 days)

Branded a Leader Topics

BAL can incorporate a range of topics into a training session. All Branded a Leader (BAL) discussions will focus on character, leadership and decision‐making. The respective Impacting Your Brand segments serve as the introduction to each session. BAL can incorporate a range of topics into a training session. They include:

Impacting Your Brand Segment 1

Stage 1 participants create their own brand and determine who the other “brands” are that they represent and impact with their decisions.

Impacting Your Brand Segment 2

Stage 2 participants identify their personal core “brand” values and grade themselves on how well they are behaving in line with their stated values. Their teammates offer feedback and examples of how well their teammate is doing as well.

Impacting Your Brand Segment 3

In stage 3, participants determine their short and long term personal goals as well as what they believe the team’s goals should be.

Impacting Your Brand Segment 4

Stage 4 asks student-athletes to consider the expectations the four core groups have for them: their team; their coaches; their teammates and their families. Lastly, they list the expectations they have for themselves.

Brand Changer Topics & Descriptions

Mental Health Issues
Mental health is a key factor for a player having a successful and positive experience ‐‐ on and off the field. We want to provide a safe space for them to talk about the stress and pressure they feel, and how they deal with it. Discussions will challenge existing norms about strength and weakness and encourage participants to invest in their own and their teammates’ health.
Diversity – Intolerance
Attitudes regarding diversity affect all of us. We will increase participants’ personal awareness of diversity issues, and build a foundation of respect and understanding for people who may be different. Discussions will also challenge participants to develop strategies for dealing with abusive, harassing and insensitive behavior.
Public Drunkenness
Binge Drinking and the abuse of alcohol are major issues. Participants will be challenged to consider social norms, personal reasons for alcohol use, and how it can compromise decision‐making ability and athletic performance. Discussions will empower the group to be proactive bystanders with teammates.
There are “street laws” that govern the way people have each other’s back. Participants will discuss existing norms for friends regarding fighting/violence and encourage participants to resist those norms. Participants will be challenged to look out for their teammates or friends in ways that are positive and healthy.
Street Drugs
The use of street drugs is common in our culture. Participants will be challenged to consider social norms, personal reasons for drug use, and how it can compromise decision‐making ability and athletic performance. Discussions will challenge group to intervene with teammates.
Irresponsible Computing
Social networking sites and technologies have become major communication tools. This brand changer will highlight the cost and benefits of using this technology, and provide information to enable safe, healthy use. Discussion will include developing communications that are consistent with the participants’ character/brand.
Participants will be challenged to consider their responsibility for their own behavior, and their teammates’ behavior, as leadership issues. An interactive discussion on responsibility, leadership & courage will push the group to develop strategies for effectively dealing with teammates who are making bad decisions. If you consider yourself a leader, then what are you willing to do to help your team and teammates?
Student-athletes work hard and put in a lot of time to become elite athletes. As a result, some student-athletes feel they deserve special attention, benefits and/or treatment. The Entitlement brand changer raises participant awareness about these issues and challenges them to consider their responsibility to represent the team and entire organization well.
Eating Disorders
There has been extraordinary pressure on girls and women in our culture regarding body image. This has led to a variety of health issues, including negatively impacted self-esteem, a range of eating disorders, depression and suicide. Within athletics, female student-athletes can go to extremes to maintain a certain weight, body fat percentage and appearance. This brand changer will empower women to identify and assist teammates in trouble.
Power of Language
Language is a dominant form of communicating our feelings, attitudes and beliefs. Words within our language can often have different meanings to different people. This brand changer will utilize a few “commonly” used terms (like the word “bitch”) and talk about how these words, and their use, have been normalized in mainstream culture. Participants will be challenged to consider the impact of their words.
Sexual Consent
This training deals “head-on” with the issue of sexual behavior and sexual consent. Importantly, BAL trainers will initiate a discussion on the issues surrounding alcohol and sexual consent. This is a highly realistic and common dynamic of which many student-athletes have been participants, observers, or possibly survivors of assaults. The training will examine the dangers and consequences of abusing alcohol and/or other drugs as they relate to sexual decision-making. More importantly, the trainers lead a discussion about male and female expectations regarding sex, and how alcohol can exacerbate those expectations.
Battering (Healthy vs. Abusive Relationships)
Verbal, Emotional, Physical & Sexual Abuse within intimate relationships are serious problems in contemporary society. Sadly, many student-athletes have experience with these issues. The University of Virginia murder brought this home for a lot of people. The battering brand changer explores components of abusive relationships (power & control) and healthy relationships, empowering participants to help teammates in need and to also clarify what they want in a relationship themselves.
Masculinity 101/Femininity 101
Participants will explore their respective understanding on what it means to be a man/woman and how that definition impacts decision-making and behavior. Mainstream stereotypes about masculinity/femininity and the expectations that come with those stereotypes will be exposed as facilitators for unhealthy behavior and belief systems. Participants will deconstruct media representations of masculinity to help them better understand how they are being manipulated into believing that anti-social behavior is the norm for men and passivity is the norm for women. Lastly, participants will brainstorm their personal definition of being a man/woman with strategies for living their life on their own terms and deflecting negative peer pressure associated with traditional masculinity/femininity.
Unfortunately, some student-athletes adopt a “no harm, no foul” approach to burglary believing that these are victimless crimes or not really crimes at all. Participants will discuss the brand impact this type of behavior can have, and how the actions of a few can negatively impact the brand of the rest of the team and possibly the entire organization.
Gun possession without a permit, in some areas, is a crime. We will discuss potential dangers involving guns in social situations, and reinforce participants’ leadership role in dealing with teammates who possess guns.

BAL Training & Presentations

Boston Red Sox
University of Alabama
University of Arkansas
Chicago Cubs
Auburn University
University of Florida
New York Mets
University of Georgia
Louisiana State University
Michigan State University
University of Kentucky
University of Mississippi
Suffolk University
Mississippi State University
University of South Carolina
Sigma Alpha Mu National Fraternity
University of Tennessee
Vanderbilt University
D1A Athletic Directors Conference
University of Central Florida
Northeastern University
SEC New Coaches Orientation
NASPA Annual Conference
Indiana University
LaSalle University
Canisius College
University of South Florida
Temple University
University of Richmond
Emmanuel College
University of Cincinnati
Florida State University
Philadelphia Phillies

More Information?

For more information or to schedule a training session, please fill out the form below.


Dr. Jeff O'Brien
P.O. Box 161400
Orlando, FL 32816

P: 407.823.477