6 Ways Athlete Branding and Marketing Pays for Itself — And Then Some

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

You already know the future of athlete branding and marketing lives on the Internet, where the scalability of exposure, fan engagement and additional income are unprecedented.

You already know that a more marketable athlete is worth significantly more to teams, leagues, sponsors and anyone else who wants to affiliate themselves with the athlete.

And you already know it primarily falls on the shoulders of the athlete's representatives to help the athlete create and implement a comprehensive personal branding and digital marketing strategy that consistently generates additional, scalable financial opportunities for the athlete.

So, it's time to call out the elephant in the room: How does the investment of modern-day athlete branding and marketing get paid for?

After all, the last thing you want is for this undertaking to be a business expense or, in a few years, the cost of entry into acquiring and retaining clients.

At The Institute for Athlete Branding and Marketing, we see it as an incredibly savvy, forward-thinking investment. And like any smart investment, an investor (the athlete's representatives) must make their money back several times over.

Of course there's the argument that you can make your money back by creating leverage to command more lucrative, more athlete-friendly contracts with teams and sponsors. While this is certainly true, it can be challenging to measure the dollar-value a strong athlete brand has on contract negotiations, and athletes may not be up for a new team contract anytime soon.

That's why our sole focus at The Institute for Athlete Branding and Marketing is positioning athletes and their representatives to utilize completely measurable opportunities that enable athlete brand building to pay for itself — and then some.

Out of the myriad of these completely measurable opportunities, here are a few thought-starters:

Revenue-Sharing Programs

As we outline in our insider's guide How to Create the Most Profitable Athlete Brand, both Facebook and YouTube offer revenue-sharing programs in which content creators (the athletes) receive 55 percent of all ads Facebook and YouTube run within the athlete's content.

It's simple: The more that people view an athlete's content on these channels, the more money the athlete generates from the 55-45 split.

Of course, this requires a creative, efficient content production and distribution strategy to ensure an athlete's content is consistently reaching and engaging the most amount of people, but the payoff is more than worth it.

For example, the highest-earning YouTube content creator made $16.5 million via the YouTube Partner Program, while the top-10 most lucrative YouTube channels combined to generate more than $125 million, in 2017. In other words, there's plenty of money to be made on YouTube (as well as Facebook).

Owning the Fan Experience

Channels like Facebook and YouTube are great moneymakers for athletes, but it can dangerous to put all your eggs in their basket. Facebook and YouTube make changes to their platforms all the time, and these changes aren't always in the best interest of content creators.

That's why it's imperative for athletes to have their own website, where they can:

  1. Totally control the fan experience
  2. Create more ways to reach more of their fans, more often ("re-marketing"), and 
  3. Keep 100 percent of the income generated from their website

In addition to more conventional website monetization opportunities like Google AdSense and e-commerce (online stores), athletes can develop long-term sponsorship packages specifically for their website. (The more website visitors an athlete drives, the more these packages are worth.)

Sponsored content is a major part of these packages, in which brands pay athletes to create content about them, and/or with their products. While many athletes simply post ads on behalf of their sponsors, sponsored content is a more creative approach to maximizing the value of an athlete-sponsor relationship. For one thing, sponsored content deals can run as long as six-to-12 months (and even longer).

Athletes can also create a membership club that lives on their website, in which fans pay a monthly amount to get exclusive content and access to the athlete. Imagine a situation in which an athlete with a strong personal brand has a conservative estimate of 250 fans paying $50 per month for exclusive content and access to the athlete.

A membership club in it and of itself could very well pay for the investment of building and growing a strong, highly lucrative athlete brand. Not to mention, the myriad of other monetization opportunities.

About the Author:

Josh Hoffman is the Chief Strategy Officer at The Institute for Athlete Branding and Marketing. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.