How Players Associations Can Better Serve Their Members: Athlete Branding and Marketing
We know every players association is designed to uphold their members' best interests.
For example, the National Basketball Payers Association's mission is to "ensure that every conceivable measure is taken to assist players in maximizing their opportunities and achieving their goals, both on and off the court."
I have no doubt when I read on the NFL Players Association's website that it "has a long history of assuring proper recognition and representation of players’ interests."
And, according to Jeff Fannell, "the entire MLBPA staff is dedicated to providing an ever-increasing array of services to players in order to protect and advance their interests."
As players become an exponentially greater window through which fans support teams, leagues, sponsors and other stakeholders, players associations can create even more pro-player leverage and financial opportunities by ensuring their members are equipped to take advantage of the latest, most advanced athlete branding and marketing practices.
Sure, most professional athletes are already using the Internet and its auxiliary tools (e.g. social media), but nine players out of 10 lack the education and resources to turn these tools into optimal value, influence, marketability and ultimately, massively profitable athlete brands. This includes education and resources about strategies such as:
- Engagement campaigns and digital brand activations that encourage fans to engage in social sharing, therefore exposing an athlete's brand to significantly more people
- The four brand association models to strategically reach fans who engage with the team he plays for, the league he plays in, the sport he plays, and the city he plays in
- An Integrated Content Strategy that positions athletes to better connect with their fans through the most innovative suite of digital media formats
- A Converged Media Strategy that combines the four types of digital media — earned, owned, paid and rented media — to generate more exposure, followers and fan loyalty at scale
With this in mind, here are three ways (plus a "bonus") in which players associations can better position their members to maximize the value, influence and marketability during their playing careers, with the ultimate goal of building massively profitable athlete brands and a stronger, higher-leveraged union.
1. Provide intensive training programs for rookies.
As incoming players become first-time professionals, it's imperative for them to know how to take advantage of the short window of opportunity they have to build and scale a modern-day athlete brand.
This includes deep-dive lessons into the fundamentals of personal branding, digital media and marketing — with actionable, practical resources that enable these players to cultivate a modern-day athlete brand which best positions them to maximize their earnings potential and other financial opportunities.
2. Offer seminars to current players.
While current players likely have a larger online following mainly based on more public exposure, most of them also lack proper, actionable education within personal branding, digital media and marketing — often the missing link between professional athletes and highly innovative, massively profitable athlete brands.
By offering seminars that delve into comprehensive, high-level strategies and implementable tactics, unions will ensure more of their members take full advantage of this short window of opportunity.
3. Build an online education portal.
To scale their assistance and enable as many of their members as possible, unions can also create a digital portal that houses best practices, resources and support — consistently updated with the latest, most advantageous athlete branding and marketing education.
Through this portal, members and their representatives could even have exclusive access to consultants, strategists and advisors, should a union see the value in providing these assets as well.
BONUS: The Hub-and-Spokes Model
Reserved for the most forward-thinking and entrepreneurial unions, the Hub-and-Spokes Model is designed to drive considerable revenues and profits for a union, while strategically positioning it to further promote and leverage its members' athlete brands.
In short, this model starts with a branded online media property (the hub), which is operated by the union. Using the right combination of strategies, tactics and tools to minimize the investment of resources and maximize profits, the hub produces and distributes original content that further promotes and strengthens the value of the union's members and their athlete brands (the spokes).
Simultaneously, these athletes (the spokes) promote and strengthen the exposure, engagement and therefore monetary value of the hub — by virtue of participating in and sharing the original content — creating a virtuous cycle between the union and its members.
* Source: Sport Management Review