This past March, we sat down with Clifford Taylor, a football player at the University of Florida who tapped into the power of social media to build his personal brand and started growing a large TikTok following.
Taylor, who graduated in May, was unable to participate in NIL activities while in Gainesville, but shortly after graduation, he landed deals with Gatorade, Wilson, and Goodlife Clothing. He’s continued to see growth across all his platforms and has over 375K+ social media followers.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
Clifford Taylor’s story is a great example of how athlete brand development in college can lead to long-term gains. When we last spoke with Taylor, he discussed his plans after he graduated with his degree in graphic design. He said, “If I can manage social media, that would be the dream.” Not long after graduation, he found himself living out that dream, heading to Los Angeles to work with the LA Rams in a social media and graphic design role.
“Since we last spoke,” he says, “I’ve learned so much in the world of social media that I never, ever thought I would know.”
Transitioning from student-athlete to full-time
“I’m going into this big entity, and I don’t want people to think that I’m just this guy that happens to have a big following [on social media] who thinks he knows everything. That’s one of the things I was very nervous about,” Taylor admits. “When you’re going into a corporate world for social media, you need to put in 110%.”
Despite having a large personal following, Taylor is still considered an industry rookie. But holding a degree in graphic design, he gets to apply both his major and passion for social media in his current role.
“As far as graphic design, it’s taught me to feed off of criticism,” Taylor says. “At this point, I eat criticism for breakfast. I’ll make a design or concept to send to creative and they’ll give me their feedback and that’s refreshing because you think what you’re doing is fantastic, but when you hear from other people, especially those who have been in the organization for so long, you grow a new appreciation for that criticism.”
Taylor is now in a position where his teammates and friends turn to him for advice.
“Being able to show the guys who are currently on the Gators, if you just put a little bit of effort and passion into this social media world, the opportunities are endless,” he says. Taylor notes that he enjoys seeing his former teammates capitalizing on NIL opportunities and learning new skills in the process.
“It’s great seeing how people are developing websites, developing merch and people are actually [buying] it.”
COACHING THE NEXT GENERATION
Clifford Taylor’s advice to athletes on branding and endorsements includes:
+ Be yourself. Don’t try to be a character you’re not.
+ Introduce yourself, show your audience what you do.
+ Block out the noise, everybody has haters at some point.
+ Have fun, be smart, and be safe.
All of these are easier said than done, but it shouldn’t be a stressful experience if you stay consistent and stay true to yourself.
“Don’t wait on [brands],” Taylor explains. “If you really love a company or what they’re about, just message them. The worst thing they can say is no.’”
As for the personal brand that has helped bring so much success, he has shifted his focus so he can be all in with his professional role and still make time for everything else. Instead of recording and acting on an idea right away, he jots it down to revisit later. He now looks at content and the sports social media industry through a different lens. He plans to start expanding his reach on YouTube to create long-form content there.
Taylor is a great example of what a strong personal brand can do. It’s a tool that can be used to achieve personal and professional growth, and long-term goals. This Gator is proof that investing in yourself can play a notable role in helping secure career opportunities after college.