Updated: Oct 17, 2018
In today’s world of professional sports, outside business opportunities for professional athletes are at an all time high. Brands are continuously changing the game when it comes to creative marketing campaigns focusing on an athlete endorsement. Because these opportunities remain plentiful, off-the-field success doesn't just happen to “star” players.
The professional athletes who have secured lucrative endorsements and other post-career opportunities tend to be very similar regarding their “off-the-field” identity. Business success for these athletes is determined by the strength of their personal brand image and the size of their fan base. It is vital that athletes understand that their on field performance is not the only factor to their overall success. Today’s athletes have become more business savvy and brand conscious then ever.
Waiting For The Right Opportunity
Many athletes make the mistake of waiting for opportunities to come to them. Just like any other business model, to maximize growth and success you must seek out and create opportunities for yourself. Focusing on your online and offline identity will strengthen your fan following and can result in a “no-brainer” business proposition to a sponsor company or brand. The sports industry is full of Athlete Marketing and Manager Executives who will help in these off-field aspects and find outside revenue generating opportunities for their athletes.
Personal branding is the key component for professional athletes who want to leverage and capitalize on their brand and name recognition. You must completely understand that everything you say and do shapes and impacts your brand image. Having a brand tailor an opportunity or endorsement to reflect your brand image will increase your earning potential, during your playing career, and beyond.
Think Before You Brand
Many professional athletes try to market themselves without thinking about the big picture or strategically thinking about how they want to be perceived outside of their career. You wouldn't show up to training camp without an extensive off-season conditioning and nutrition program, so do not try and brand yourself without planning on the position of your brand for life.
More Than Just An Athlete
Companies, sponsors and brands look to partner with athletes who’s identity includes other passions outside of their career. Being a professional athlete comes with a platform and an engaged audience. Take advantage of this recognition and tell your own compelling story about who you are and what else you’re passionate about. Athletes have a unique opportunity to introduce and promote various aspects about their life and interests, reach new audiences, and showcase a personality with depth that extends well beyond the game.
Celebrity is a marketing vehicle that you must leverage while you are in the spotlight as an active player. Do not let the media shape your identity; instead proactively create your own. Building a strategic brand will not only stand the test of time, it will quickly enable you to realize your potential as a business entity. Research shows that “active athletes who proactively grow and extend their brand, essentially create their own business opportunities, and have a higher perceived value to companies and brands.”
The sooner you realize your potential as your own business entity, the sooner you will generate off-field revenue opportunities and endorsements. Some of today’s athletes who have created a strong brand image earn more off the playing field than on it. Here are three athletes who make more from endorsements than they do from their sports career:
TIGER WOODS has been one of the best-paid athletes in the world for around two decades, and he is now valued at $640 million. Regarded by many as the greatest golfer that the world has ever seen, Woods won his first major in 1997, having turned professional at the age of 20. He has won a total of 14 major golf tournaments over his career, and been ranked world number one for longer than any other golfer in history. After a slump in form, Woods’ annually earnings are down to $600,000, yet he is still earning $50 million in endorsement deals, meaning around 98% of his earnings are not through golf.
ROGER FEDERER is the most successful and many consider the greatest tennis player of all time. He has won 17 Grand Slams, more than any other man in the history of the sport, and is still world number 2; his longevity and success is unprecedented. He has made more money in winnings than any other tennis player in history, earning $6.5 million through his success on the court annually; but this is still dwarfed by the $65 million a year raked in through endorsement deals. Federer’s biggest deals have been with Nike, Mercedes-Benz, Moet & Chandon and Gillette, he is estimated to be worth around $350 million.
MARIA SHARAPOVA is one of the finest female tennis players of her generation, with the Williams sisters being the only active female players who are more successful than her. Sharapova made a huge impression as a youngster, becoming world number one at the age of just 18. She has struggled for injuries for much of her career but has managed to win at least one singles title every year between 2003 and 2015. Sharapova is the highest earning female athlete in the world. She earns $6.7 million through her tennis playing and $23 million in endorsements. Sharapova has a number of major brands she endorses, including Head, Cole Haan, Nike, Porsche and Samsung.
Learn from these athletes, explore your passions and surround yourself with a team of like minded individuals who will help build and propel your brand.
About the Author
Jennifer’s client portfolio consists of corporate organizations, professional sports teams and pro athletes. She aggressively seeks influential and lucrative opportunities for her clients to ensure that their brand not only remains relevant, but continues to grow, thrive, and influence.
Jennifer Mamajek, SportsLink Marketing
Want to learn more about how I can help maximize your brand and increase revenue opportunities? Reach out here!