Branded Entertainment: Athletes in Film

Branded Entertainment: Athletes in Film

by Susan Sember

The mediums of film, television and video content provide a unique platform to establish an athlete’s brand in the most immersive and authentic way.  Branded entertainment is increasingly gaining stride in preference over traditional advertising and demand for sports related programming- documentaries and feature films- is greater than ever. Thus, the opportunities for such undertakings as a means to advance an athlete’s brand are unlimited. If structured appropriately, such projects will allow the athlete to tell his story, on his own terms, in an engaging and personal manner establishing a deeper connection with a fan base or audience. They extend and enhance the athlete’s public relevance, career longevity and brand loyalty and value. They further serve to establish a permanent legacy and narrative that continue beyond the athlete’s life. Hence, the responsibility, strategy and expertise required are paramount.

Creating a story associated with the athlete’s brand requires trust and chemistry. The collaborative process with the creative team mandates active listening and the ability to translate the athlete’s vision successfully. Stories work when they influence, persuade and emote. The relatable connection of the audience’s own experiences is at the core of effectively crafting the athlete’s story, as well.  Audiences love to cheer for the underdog; learn lessons from the athlete who hits bottom and then makes a victorious comeback; support the student athlete who thrives in spite of significant challenges and emerges as a leader; and share in the journey of an athlete who’s injured by his sport only to realize a greater purpose. Therefore, a well-built personal story can be a powerful tool to use for conveying an athlete’s brand values and messages for a variety of social, economic, philanthropic and cultural purposes.

Athletes are becoming more aware of and understanding the power of film making, along with the effect it can have on their personal brand. They can directly benefit by creating original films and television programming around the values of their brand. Celebrity athletes can utilize films to sell their stories in order to reach and engage a broad audience on their own behalf or as corporate or team ambassadors. Film and related content can tactically strengthen their businesses. Sports figures can align their brand with a charitable cause by participating or collaborating in the production of documentaries that highlight socially relevant causes. In addition, these projects can promote an athlete’s career opportunities in broadcast media, acting, public speaking and book authorship.

Like any enterprise, quality and professionalism in the design, implementation and distribution of the film is critical. Athletes should know the business they’re getting into, understand the industry risks and position themselves with like-minded creative, business and legal advisors. Whether the athlete is acting as a producer, writer, talent or interviewee, the learning curve isn’t a quick one nor is it without challenges. However, making use of the art of film can be one of the most rewarding and successful means of asserting and establishing an athlete’s brand, passion and purpose.  Incorporating a personal brand into film and other such content programming, at any stage of an athlete’s career, can productively bridge or transition his goals of long term success.

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