While some athletes are simply popular because of their work, there are some who have gone the extra mile to create a ‘killer’ personal brand that can always be utilized for profit and influence. A personal sports brand can be build in such a way to transform the athlete into a local, national or even a global signature brand, which can be leveraged to sell, be endorsed and make a profit.
The sports celebrity brand has three identifiable main components which are vital in the potential influence of the sports brand to its audience and fan base. These components are:
- Athletic Performance
- Attractive Appearance, and
- Marketable Lifestyle
Each of the above components consists of several sub-components which must be thoroughly analyzed, interpreted and utilized accordingly when creating the sports persona’s brand strategy.
The overall appeal of the athlete’s image can be evaluated by analyzing the components of their image from a consumer’s point of view; this is quite a useful evaluation tool for brands looking to recruit the best celebrity athlete as their brand ambassador. Analyzing an athlete’s brand image components helps brands determine the massiveness and extent of the appeal celebrity athletes have with their fans, and the potential ability to influence their fans’ purchasing habits. In addition, by analyzing their brand image components and sub-components, celebrity athletes can create suitable strategies for the commercial exploitation of their celebrity status.
The main components of an athlete’s brand image and their sub-components are discussed below in detail.
Athletic performance reflects an athlete’s sport performance related features. Usually an excellent athletic performance is a prerequisite in building the athlete’s personal sports brand. The first touch point of athletes with fans is usually through their on-the-field performance; an excellent performance always catches the eye of spectators and sports fans and triggers the curiosity to learn more about a high performing athlete. Athletic performance has several sub-components which can be utilized when building the personal sports brand and they are:
- Athletic Expertise – An athlete’s individual athletic capability and achievement. A perfect example of this, is Lebron James whose athletic achievements have made him well-known beyond the United States and around the world.
- Competition Style – An athlete’s sports playing style. The soccer player Christiano Ronaldo is considered to have an aggressive competition style whereas Lionel Messi is considered to be mild when competing, yet very swift and effective on the field.
- Sportsmanship – How the athlete approaches the game, i.e. with respect for the game, abides by fair play rules, etc. The tennis player Roger Federer is considered to have a gentlemanly attitude both inside and outside the tennis court and his sportsmanship is recognized to be of the highest standard.
- Rivalry – The athlete’s competitive relationship with other athletes. A good example in this case is the intense rivalry style of soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic which has been much talked about.
Attractive appearance refers to an athlete’s attractive external characteristics and has the following components:
- Physical attractiveness – The physical qualities and characteristics of the athlete that fans and spectators find attractive.
- Being a Symbol – An athlete’s appealing and engaging personal style which transform him/her into a symbol.
- Body fitness – An athlete’s body fitness in his/her sport.
Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, is the embodiment of all of the above characteristics of attractive appearance. Brady’s physical qualities appeal to a large audience, not only to game spectators; he is into health and fitness with a book to support his keen interest in health and fitness and, generally, he is acknowledged as a fitness symbol, even at age 40!
Marketable Lifestyle is all about the athlete’s off-field marketable features such as:
- The athlete’s Life story– An appealing, interesting off-field life story that includes a message and reflects the athlete’s personal values. The case of Colin Kaepernick,the American football quarterback, is a perfect example of an athlete whose personal beliefs brought him into the spotlight when he participated in the recent Nike campaign with the message “Believe in Something”.
- Whether the athlete is a Role model and has an ethical behavior. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all times, is a role model for youngsters with learning disorders because he has channeled the negative effects of his ADHD condition to swimming and managed to turn a negative situation into a success story.
- The athlete’s Relationship effort – An athlete’s positive attitude when interacting with fans, sponsors and media. Athletes who invite their fan base into their lives through the use of social media, have a much higher visibility than those who don’t.
Capitalizing on a celebrity athlete’s brand components can be beneficial for both the athlete and the sponsoring brands. We have seen Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most dominant centers to play in the NBA, who has successfully capitalized on the Athletic Performance component from a young age, while on the other hand, David Beckham and his family, have fully capitalized on and still utilize the Marketable Lifestyle component as a means to revenue generation.
Each athlete is unique, with different qualities and characteristics, each of which can be successfully utilized in developing the athlete’s personal marketing plan. For more information on the various aspects of the athlete’s personal brand and how they can be successfully utilized and marketed you may contact us at [email protected].