It’s becoming more and more challenging in today’s competitive world to gain brands, media and fans attention. If you are an athlete looking for good endorsement deals (and let’s face it, elite sport is a business so you need to get as many sponsors as you can to ensure you not only survive but also that you thrive through it), you need to get your brand out there, being spoken by your sport tribe.
Nevertheless this can be a really tough challenge, as your main focus is to compete. Until now.
So here’s five things you should care about, alongside your training drills:
1-Understand what makes you unique
Make your own SWOT. Understand what are your (S)trenghts, (W)eakeness and the (O)pportunities and (T)hreats around you.
When you think about your strengths, you should care about things that you are really good at. The things where you stand out from the competition, not only as an athlete but also as a human being. On the other hand, try to understand what you need to improve about yourself, what weaknesses you have.
Now look around you. Analyse your sport, the club that you represent, and the other athletes that are competing with you for a place in the team or that want to gain attention for their own brand. What opportunities and threats do you identify?
After doing this, you should now make three things:
a) Compare your strengths with your weaknesses in order to set up the one thing where you really shine;
b) Compare the opportunities around you with your strengths and try to see in what way your skills can really improve the reality you live in;
c) Compare the opportunities and threats around you and identify what is trending in your sports environment and/or in the consumption behaviour of the fans, which means, in other words, the variables where you should invest your time and energy to create more value for your brand.
After you do this, you should now be able to identify what makes you unique: your “critical success factor”. This is where you should, from now on, invest your time.
2-Define objectives as an athlete and as brand
They are both correlated (the performance as an athlete and the value of your brand), so define short (1 year), medium (2-3 years) and long term objectives (4-5 years). Define objectives for your brand, like the way you are going to tell your story to your stakeholders, never forgetting that is it very hard to dissociate your brand message from your athlete performance.
3-Create the brand itself
For that you should consider a mix of three elements:
a) Signs: the visual representation of yourself, like your logo and slogan;
b) Identity: who you are, your values and personality;
c) Image: the way you want to be seen by your stakeholders, like the brands, the media and the fans. This is where you define your audience. For example, you have to define each brands are aligned with you and that you want to impact and get endorsement deals with.
All the three aspects must have one thing in common: the “critical success factor” that you have found in your SWOT analysis. This is the glue that will make things coherent and genuine.
4-Time to market yourself
Now it’s time to strategize about your marketing-mix. You should now think about:
a) You as a product: the signs, identity and image we have discussed previously;
b) The price/investment for brands: is it worth to invest in you? Are you able to deliver significant ROI to your sponsors/partners?;
c) Think about your communication: how are you going to promote yourself? What content will you use?;
d) How are going to distribute your brand? Are you going to use digital channels like social media?;
e) And what kind of people do you need to have on your side? Do you will need a designer, a community manager or a media manager?
5-Build your action plan
a) Define the channels you are going to use to communicate. It can be a website, social media, e-mail marketing, apps, and/or many other more;
b) Set up your content strategy plan, which must be based in the three elements composing your brand (signs, identity and image);
c) Identify the resources (human, financial, time, etc.) you need to have to make sure you are continually communicating relevant and timely content to your audience;
d) Elaborate ways to measure if you are being successful or not. Create key performance indicators (KPI) that reflect your objectives.
Bonus. 6-Continually (re)evaluate everything
Always question yourself: is there any way to get more exposure for my brand? Am I delivering relevant ROI to my sponsors? Are my fans getting content that really resonates with them?
So, now you don´t have any excuse to not become relevant for someone. It’s up to you to start your own business and get lifetime value for yourself, your sport, your team and your… pocket.
Former EHF Communications Committee Member and Marketing Manager at Portugal Hockey
Currently Football Category and Business Development Manager at Prozis, and Digital Sports Marketing Consultant and Teacher