THE MARKETABILITY OF OLYMPIC ATHLETES

THE MARKETABILITY OF OLYMPIC ATHLETES

By Andreas Themistocleous, Contributor

I probably don’t need to say this, but the Olympic Games are by far the greatest sporting event in the world, all matters taken into account. It embodies the values, principles and spirit of sports, as the world has come to know. Perhaps its greatest disadvantage, being held every four years, is at the same time its greatest asset. Once every four years, the greatest athletes come together to compete in a once-off opportunity for sporting immortality.

The Olympic journey is a magnificent opportunity, which is in fact a blessing and a curse at the same time. Olympic athletes are held accountable to higher standards, top-notch performance and are seen as ambassadors of the values and the spirit of sports. One cannot truly grasp the sacrifice needed for the dream to become reality. This is exactly the reason why it’s a great opportunity to turn all these into a commercial advantage that can turn into a long-term benefit. The marketability and commerciality of these athletes are given a great value exactly because of these factors mentioned above.

The Olympic Games create so much interest and attention from media and fans that they have become one of the biggest stages for commercial exploitation. It’s actually no surprise that the list of the 50 most marketable sport figures, includes 20 Olympians. That’s how big it is, even for an event staged every four years.  Athletes such as the likes of Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Michael Phelps, Kevin Durant, Neymar are athletes with great commercial value, competing on a national and international stage every year, yet their true sporting and commercial immortality comes only after success in the Olympic Games.

One would expect that this sporting immortality would have monetary benefits as well. The US Olympic Committee has a program called “operation gold” which pays out medal winning performances at the Olympics. A US athlete who medals in the Summer/Winter Olympics can expect to receive $37,500 for a Gold Medal, $22,500 for a Silver Medal, and $15,000 for a Bronze medal. For pro athletes, these sums are less than a day’s paycheck. For athletes in individual sports this is a lot of money, but still a small fraction of the investment needed to succeed at the Olympics.

It’s evident from the above numbers that athletes need to invest in their own marketability in order to commercially exploit and benefit from their success. It could be argued that winning a medal in the Olympics is enough to make an athlete a commercial icon, worthy of exploitation and of the associated benefits. Well, it is not. An athlete needs to build his/her personal brand, well before heading into the Olympics. The goal should be to utilize a suitable brand strategy that will transform the athlete from a sport figure to a business asset and transfer it into business activity.

Each brand however, has to tell a story; it has to have a niche, something tangible that fans, the media, the corporate world can understand, identify with and appreciate. It has to be accompanied by a clear communication strategy that pays close attention to the athlete’s sporting performance, the athlete’s appearance that should be socially attractive, yet acceptable and humane, as well as a marketable lifestyle that is highly visible.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects in this story-telling, especially for Olympic athletes, is a reflection of high moral standards, strong sporting and business ethics, as well as a focus point on giving back. Athletes’ social responsibility is a must-have element, not only for the sake of appearances, but primarily to respect and promote the true meaning and values of sports and especially those of the Olympic spirit.

The advantage of these athletes and their commercial partners is, evidently, the sporting immortality that arises from Olympic glory. The key element is to constantly thrive for that, but remember that in a once-off competition every four years, things might not turn out as planned. A mistake, an accident, a bad performance day could very easily happen. Hence, the advice that this process is, in essence, a never-ending cycle.

Athletes should, also, acknowledge that Olympic news and interest vanish quickly and the pre and post-Olympic hype can only be sustained if there is a bigger story to share with the public; hence they should take all the necessary steps to build their personal brand from the start of their career and maintain it throughout. Their story should be bigger than the time taken to compete and their story should become much more than winning or losing on the playing field. It has to mirror their sacrifice to sustain Olympic preparation and competition, it has to reflect their true adoption of the Olympic spirit and values and it also has to portray the values and expectations that the public, corporations and sporting authorities have, from the Games themselves.

Olympic athletes should remember that the Olympic movement has very strict regulations, in terms of commercial exploitation, which in fact could become an obstacle and their obligation is to meet legal requirements for the International but also their National Olympic committees. Additionally, they should also keep in mind that their Olympic presence is short-lived, hard to acquire and easy to lose, so excellent financial planning is crucial, having help from professionals that can guide them in proper decision making, good investment planning and proper tax planning.  Our professionals at APC Sports Consulting are here to help athletes in their Olympic journey and we will be happy to hear from you at info@apc-sport.com.

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