On the surface, being a professional footballer looks pretty straightforward. Train during the week and play matches at the weekend. However, they’re now required to be much more.

We recently got chance to sit down with Orel Mangala to talk about being a professional footballer, the importance of building a personal brand and working with B-Engaged.

Orel Mangala

Mangala has spent the second half of this season on loan from Nottingham Forest in France with Lyon. Joining in the January transfer window, he’s played part in a team that’s fought its way out of potential relegation trouble to securing European football next season.

“It’s been an amazing experience to come back from the relegation zone to a European place, it’s been great, I’ve enjoyed it.”

Orel Mangala
Photo credit: @regzphotos

The 26-year-old defensive midfielder spent his youth career with Anderlecht before making the move to VfB Stuttgart in 2017 at age 19. As we talk more about the ambitions he has on the pitch, it’s very clear what drives him.

“I want to add trophies on a club and international level, performing on the highest stage. That’s where my motivation comes from.”

Photo credit: @regzphotos

As footballers transcend being more than just footballers, personal branding has become the focus for so many players. One thing that’s clear as we continue chatting is Orel’s clear understanding of the importance of building a personal brand and the long-lasting impact it can have.

“Personally I think it’s important to build your brand because it helps people recognise you in order to help others. I want to help people through my journey so it’s very important to take time to show myself and my story.”

Orel Mangala

The Belgian national has recently started working with the London-based sports marketing agency, B-Engaged to help with his off-pitch ventures. The agency, co-founded by former Arsenal star Héctor Bellerín and Ehsen Shah has gone from strength to strength in recent years, signing a number of high-profile talents to their books.

“They have a lot of experience, to help me build my profile across social media and help me build my identity beyond the football pitch. They are important as I want to build a platform to help people recognise themselves and who they are.”

With the playing career of a footballer being much shorter than other professions, preparation for life on the other side of the game is important for every player. Although only 26, Mangala is already putting plans in place.

“I have a barber shop in Brussels and some other business on the way, stay tuned for that.”

The topic of conversations continues to delve into the ever-expanding expectations of footballers and we talk about if it’s fair or not that they are now expected to do more than play football.

“I don’t think it is unfair, it is a new generation of footballers. We are more than just football, we are role models for the community around us. I think it’s a great thing that we can do other things, people want to see the footballer but also the human.”

It’s a challenging role being a footballer, and one that now comes with a number of demands. From the ever-increasing number of games they now play, to media appearances and more, you’d think that Orel would want to see changes made…

“Personally, I wouldn’t change anything, I think we are good! It is important for footballers to manage the demands on themselves, don’t read everything online about yourself and work with brands and people that you truly believe in.”

Orel Mangala
Photo credit: @regzphotos

As always with Behind Sport interviews, we finish every time with asking for a piece of advice. With the conversation focusing on athlete’s building their personal brand, we asked Orel if he could give us a piece of advice for an athlete who is looking to start building their brand.

“If I have any advice to give, it is to never be afraid of being yourself and showing yourself who you truly are.”

Thanks to Orel Mangala for sitting down with us to chat all things athlete marketing. To read more from our Insight series, click hereJoin over 1,800 sport professionals who receive our weekly newsletter here.