Michael Jordan seems to me to be one of the forerunners in terms of thinking of himself as a brand and then licensing that brand and actively managing it. He went beyond the traditional endorsement, and even seemed to take an active role in brand management across various endorsements and companies owned (e.g. when his gambling became a potential PR issue, he worked with Nike to market the “I am not a role model, I’m a professional athlete” message). I may be completely off base with the above, but the point is that personal branding is now rather common, and I found HBS professor John Deighton’s study of author James Patterson to be a fascinating case study:
While he doesn’t enjoy the same name recognition, Patterson regularly outsells other “brand-name authors” such as Stephen King and Tom Clancy by simply publishing more books, averaging three titles each year with the occasional assistance of a coauthor…Whatever the genre (he has also published romance novels, science fiction, and children’s books), readers expect a “good read” from the James Patterson brand.