By Demetris Constantinou, Contributor
In the year 2020, the world was caught by surprise by the unprecedented emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic, an event that has altered every individual’s day-to-day life and has challenged everyone to re-think how they go about their lives. Athletes were not affected any less, as they saw their playing time cancelled and their ability to engage with the crowds taken away. Nevertheless, such circumstances, should not prevent athletes from keeping up with their brands and finding ways to engage with their fanbase. In previous articles, we discussed the importance of an Athlete’s brand and how brands allow one to reach beyond their sport, to a broader, more diverse crowd. Brands go beyond the sport, they’re about who you are and how you will eventually be remembered as, ten or twenty years from now. It’s therefore vital for Athletes to not lose sight of their branding strategy and use this pandemic to rethink how they promote their brand in the days of the “new normal” that we live in.
Before jumping into how athletes should strategize and control their brand narrative, we need to examine how, and to what extent, this Pandemic has affected Athletes’ brands. Generally speaking, the Coronavirus pandemic has been costly for most brands, mainly due to reduced on-court visibility and inability of the crowds to directly engage with athletes. A lot of athletes saw their endorsement contracts renegotiated or even taken away, causing the loss of affiliations with strong athletic apparel brands. However, a brand goes beyond the athlete’s performance in the field and very few endorsements are contingent on an athlete’s performance. This creates a unique opportunity for every athlete to enhance their brand, during a time where social media engagement is at its peak.
The most important pillar in an athlete’s revised strategy is higher engagement through virtual platforms. Creating videos on YouTube, live Q&As, as well as podcasts, are just a few examples of how athletes can become more active in the virtual world that we currently live in. After all, nearly everyone can access these platforms, giving the athlete an immense opportunity to expand their fanbase to anyone with access to these platforms. Having said that, it’s important for athletes to keep their loyal and core fanbase engaged, by creating more sports-focused content and providing insights into their future career plans and goals. Moving on, in a period where people around the world undergo suffering in all fronts, it’s important for athletes to show their human side and take actions to help communities in need. Athletes need to engage with the average person and show them that everyone, even athletes, experience similar day-to-day happenings in this period of hardship and uncertainty. Reaching out to the world and displaying that even an athlete can be vulnerable, creates a mutual feeling of empathy between athletes and their fanbase, giving the athlete’s brand a more humane touch. It’s equally vital for the athlete to avoid dehumanizing themselves, by promoting their lavish lifestyles and their complete disconnect from the average person’s reality. Such actions are not only dangerous for an athlete’s brand but can also trigger a death spiral where the people revolt against the athlete, causing them to be drowned by the so-called “cancel culture”.
One could say that while the pandemic has adversely affected athletes’ brands in the short run, it has created opportunities that, if taken seriously, can boost the athlete’s exposure to markets that were impossible to reach in the pre-pandemic era. Athletes have a unique opportunity, through the emergence of the virtual reality that we live in, to strengthen their brands and build bridges with communities that were not within their reach. It’s therefore in the athletes’ hands, to take this opportunity, create relatable content and engage with the endless potential crowd that has embraced this virtual reality that is undoubtedly here to stay, even in the post-pandemic era.
For more information on how athletes should strategize their branding approach during the pandemic, you can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.