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Value of an athlete's brand

Barbara Bergeaud

March 12, 2022

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Athletes are much more than what they used to be. Everyone has their own brand, and whether it’s a fashion deal with Gucci, leading a charitable foundation, or starting an esports organisation, clubs can do more to help foster their athletes’ brands in order to amplify their own.

Evolution of brand image

Influencer marketing has become a key component of the ever professionalised sports industry. Players have become huge brands and although they don’t necessarily want to become a brand, a career can only last so long, while a brand creates a legacy. In the United States, there is a wider acceptance that sports and entertainment are cut from the same cloth. Athletes who are perceived to be more than just an athlete, whether because of their philanthropy, entrepreneurship or fashion sense, are celebrated as personalities. Taking fashion for instance, Loewe had a collection with USWNT’s Megan Rapinoe (who has become a leading light in football), while Jordan collaborated with PSG and their players (brands in and of themselves: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé, Sergio Ramos). Brands see the value in athlete collaboration, and this benefit is mutual.

Creating a brand around a player not only benefits the player financially, but also gives them better angles for negotiation and self-promotion as they play through their career. These days, sports leaders also have to examine the non-sporting benefits of signing a player as they can represent new revenue opportunities (e.g., new market opportunities).

As an agent, you think, ‘OK, I have a footballer here. But how do I create a brand?’ - Erkut Sogut, Mesut Ozil’s agent

Leaders are turning to their huge swathes of digital media that increase every match day and season, to drive their new business development strategies. They have realised that these valuable digital assets (such as photos, videos), shared by athletes on social media, can set their brand apart and push fans to purchase, whether online or in-person. More importantly they are able to foster brand loyalty and engage their fans by giving them insights into the lives of their idols. This short-form, non-live media now plays a crucial role in the sports experience as much as any long-form, live match content.

Athlete or asset?

Athletes represent sport leaders’ most effective marketing channel. They are the best way to engage your fans and audiences while bringing exponential growth to an organisation’s reach and engagement on social media for the team. Gone are the days of traditional TV advertisement spots or stadium posters driving fan loyalty, now it’s the athletes themselves. A gentle meander through Twitter and Instagram will show you an infinite amount of fan pages for athletes, rather than teams. Perhaps accelerated by the ever polarising debate about Messi versus Ronaldo, we are in a new era. Harnessing this change can amplify an organisation’s brand.

Collaborating with athletes to drive captivating content across all digital platforms offers sports organisations the quickest path to fan loyalty and revenue expansion. Just like in the entertainment industry, storytelling makes the best content. Following athlete’s arcs and understanding how their personal lives are interlinked with their professional lives is part of the attractive sporting narrative. When done properly, an athlete can be the creator and participant in their own brand narrative.

We always look at our players as one of our most valuable marketing assets - Taylor Soares, Marketing coordinator at Sacramento Republic

Stories help athlete personalities come through, making them better marketers, and subsequently giving their brand partners and team more visibility. But athletes need the correct content in order to build their personal brand. There is a revolving cycle of brand amplification, where athletes use their status as influencers to act as ambassadors for the club by sharing club assets, thus amplifying themselves and building their brand all while being club advocates.

Fostering ambassadors

Your athletes want to create and share content. They, or their advisors, realise that their high-income careers can be even more prosperous with the help of their fans and teams. The more loyal the fans, and the bigger the club, league and sport, the more lucrative their contracts and sponsorship deals are. There is no question that the most effective ambassadors in sports are the athletes themselves as they offer one of the most enticing aspects of the modern sports experience. Athlete-promoted or athlete-created content promises to continue fostering fan loyalty and connections like no other. Overcoming the hurdles of getting, collecting and distributing branded content means putting yourself in a strong position to boost brand loyalty, ticket and merchandising sales.

ScorePlay offers solutions that can help clubs give their players the best assets to amplify both theirs and their club brand. Contact us for a demo today!

Photo credit: West Ham & Orlando City

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