Athletes & The “Brand”
Today an athletes performance on the field or court is just as important as their branding off it. But what is a brand? A brand is the marketability of an athlete developed by incorporating some key aspects: athletic performance, attractive appearance, and a marketable lifestyle. Branding is no longer solely reserved for companies trying to sell product. These days, personal branding is equally important. What an athlete does in his off time is now a story. What they eat, drink, drive or play with is now an opportunity to become a marketing tool in this digital age we now live in. Now don’t get it twisted, an Athletes performance is still the number one driver in building a brand. I mean C’mon no one cares what the 13th guy on Cav’s roster ate for breakfast, but I guarantee if Lebron tweeted out that he eats Now and Laters before every game…stock would sell out at 7-11’s across the US. An athletes performance is synonymous with how we view the products and services that they are endorsing… Meaning if they are winners then so is the brand. – Which also means we wont be seeing any Rhonda Rousey Wheaties boxes anytime soon…
Appearance is another factor in an athletes branding stategy. A main objective for an endorsement deal is an athlete whose personal characteristics mirror or enhance those of the corporate brand. So essentially we can count on not seeing guys who look like Chris Kaman in Cologne ads… Look lets not kid ourselves sex sells and looks matter. Its what draws the curious eye to an ad or endorsement. Just take a look at an athlete like Danica Patrick or Anna Kournikova even… No question great looking women who in some circles are known more for the appeal that they offer rather than winning the chekered flags, or grand slam titles respectively. Now I understand its whats on the inside that counts, but whats on the outside might convince some people where to spend their hard earned cash.
Now lets not forget one of the most important aspects which is a cornerstone of building a brand, which is the artists marketable lifestyle. Athletes are people too, and they enjoy free time, pets, food and family just like the rest of us non super-powered regular humans. They enjoy music and hanging out just like we do, and what they choose to share with the world as far as their personal preferences can be viewed as a marketable lifestyle. Now this can work for and against an athlete, good example- Steph curry, family man, beautiful happy children. Bad example—Joe Mixon, NFL draft hopeful and former University of Oklahoma standout, is currently embroiled in a bit of controversy surrounding his involvement in an assault against a female student in an off campus incident while he was still a student at the university. Bad press as well as a social and morally agregious actions have caused his draft stock to plummet, including some teams taking him completely off of the draft boards for their teams respectively. Not only does he lose status in the draft potentially costing him millions in salary, he has basically killed any shot of becoming an endorser for a product or a service coming into the NFL. One bad lifestyle choice can have a ripple effect on the marketability of an athlete for their entire career.
According to Julie Frank of Navigation Research, sports fans that see a brand message on social media are 78% more likely to have a positive perception of them. The size of an athlete’s social following is invaluable, and their marketing representatives know this. That’s why its so important for the Athlete to protect their brand and to make wise decisions if they are open to becoming an endorsement figure in this day and age. With technology advancing everyday and everyone with a smartphone becoming a field reporter, Athletes have to really think about the message they are conveying to the public and the image they present at all times. Unfortunately while this may be more work than not around the clock in their everyday lives, that’s the cost of building a brand.
—Anthony “THE HAMMER” Munroe