Nowadays, the athlete’s brand, its development and the commercial exploitation of the resulting image rights have become an integral part of the athlete’s career. By developing their personal brand, athletes monetize the success of today in the long term. A well crafted brand strategy can transform them from sports related VIPs, to business related VIPs with a life time duration.
The brand value of an athlete can be build in such a way that the athlete can be transformed into a signature brand either locally or globally. When forming an athlete’s branding strategy, the different life/work phases of the athlete should be taken into account. If the branding plan is adjusted to and caters for the athlete’s evolving life/work phases it makes it easier to commercialize the athlete’s brand and add new revenue streams.
As every other person who enjoys fame, each phase of an athlete’s life and career has different characteristics that appeal to different types of audiences with varying purchasing habits.
- Young athletes up to 22 – 23 appeal to younger people, and they are seen as free, young, single, fearless, with a drive to succeed, hungry for life, wanting to make their dream happen.
- Athletes in their middle 20s to early 30s are perceived as young, successful, dynamic, benevolent, wanting to make a difference in the world. They could be possibly married.
- Then we have athletes in their middle to late 30s. They are seen as more settled and mature, successful both professionally and family wise, perhaps they have children. They are role models, their benevolence starts turning into action by supporting foundations, causes, etc. They become life coaches for younger athletes and usually they are getting ready to retire from field play.
- During their 40s athletes have normally transitioned from field play to other businesses. They are considered versatile, adaptable, having a growing family, they could be new entrepreneurs. Giving back to society becomes a priority for them.
- In their 50s the retired athletes have already built the business, they are business networkers, responsible family persons, care about youngsters in sport, pursue philanthropy and they are health and fitness conscious.
- And finally in their 60s + they are considered to be acknowledged businessmen, mature family persons, more laid back, they enjoy the pleasures of life and they have more time to pursue hobbies. They are established philanthropists, respected and admired by most.
It is very important for athletes to know at which phase they are positioned at all times, so that they are aware of the type of audience they appeal to. This is critical to the commercialization of the athletes’ brand because athletes will be very clear on what types of products/services they can promote successfully in line with their characteristics, while at the same time aligning with their audience’s expectations and interests.
It is clear that athletes can have a different appeal and a different audience at each stage of their life and it is obvious that a carefully crafted branding strategy can actually keep athletes in the spotlight during all of their life/work phases.