By Constantinos Massonos, Contributor
An increasing number of professional athletes are shifting their focus into building their public image, the way the public (or fans) perceive them. Allowing fans to get a glimpse of their lifestyle can help them gain a sports celebrity status that will not only bring them fame but will also allow them to create alternative income streams, additional to their sports related income.
Sports celebrities are not a modern invention. Many athletes from as back as Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire had a huge following, mainly because of their athletic achievements in the Olympic Games or other organized events such as chariot races. Cheating was not uncommon either and usually ended with athletes getting away with a suspension or a fine. Nowadays, a scandal can stain an athlete’s image to an unsalvageable level.
There are many types of scandals that have captured the audience’s attention through the years, and some of the biggest sports stars of all time were involved in them. Cyclist Lance Armstrong’s career success was based on performance enhancing drugs, while basketball star Michael Jordan and top golfer Tiger Woods had to recover from their extra marital affairs being exposed by the media. Others, such as heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson were convicted to jail for their crimes.
Whatever the type of scandal, whatever the events or actions that lead to it, it will always have a damaging effect on an athlete’s image. The steps an athlete will take with the help of their Public Relations advisor(s) will determine whether their public image can be successfully recovered or not:
- One of the most important factors is time. Athletes should react in a timely manner in order to convince their fans that they have made a single mistake but have nothing else to hide. Failing to do so can cause further rumors to ignite and cause further public distrust.
- The apology should be honest and sincere, showing remorse and include a promise that the athlete will avoid the same mistake in the future.
- Athletes should give time to their fans to accept and process their apology by limiting public appearances and their social media presence. Concentrating on training and finding ways to get positively involved in their community can assist the process.
- While laying low, athletes should not alienate the If they need to make a statement, they should answer openly and frankly.
- For the whole process to be effective in rebuilding the athlete’s public image, athletes must show that they are working to improve themselves not only through statements but through their actions over time.
Each scandal has its own characteristics and should be handled accordingly with the help of a PR team. In most cases the public understands that everyone can make a mistake. Owning your mistake and showing remorse can work in your favor to diffuse the situation and gain back the trust of your fan base.
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