4 Major Profit Centers Where Sports Agencies Are Striking Out

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

There's only one (simple) way to measure the success of an athlete brand: a continuous and consistent increase in attributable, measurable, scalable income — both for athletes and their representatives.

Of course, a more skilled and accomplished athlete is easier to brand and market. But in today's world of digital followers and subscribers, any athlete who has some level of exposure can produce attributable, measurable, scalable income via the Internet.

If your clients are not continuously and consistently generating additional income that you can attribute, measure and scale, here are four kick-starters to put you on this path:

1. Revenue Sharing

Did you know the two hottest social media companies — Facebook and YouTube — offer revenue sharing programs in which content creators (athletes) receive a considerable share of the revenues generated from advertising run against their content?

These programs are known as Instant Articles Monetization (Facebook) and the YouTube Partner Program.

In 2017, the top-10 YouTube earners averaged only $13 million each, so there's plenty of money to be made.

2. Sponsorships

Thanks to the rise of native advertising, online media consumption, and companies that measure the value of an athlete's influence — such as Hookit and MVPindex — it's never been easier to create sponsorships packages according to detailed data points that give even more leverage to athletes.

Sponsored content positions athletes to receive compensation from brands that want athletes to create content about their products and services in an interesting, authentic and relevant way. 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.

Sponsored content opportunities are also available via an athlete's personal website and email marketing (more on these two tactics below).

3. Owned Media

Channels like Facebook and YouTube are great moneymakers for athletes, but it can be dangerous to put all your eggs in their basket. After all, Facebook and YouTube constantly update their platforms, and these changes aren't always in the best interest of everyone involved.

In reality, the most successful athlete brands have a Converged Media Strategy, which utilizes a combination of paid, earned, owned and rented media, characterized by a consistent storyline, look and feel, whereby all channels work in concert in order to reach fans exactly where, how, and when they want, regardless of channel, medium or device.

A Converged Media Strategy starts and ends with owned media, making it imperative for athletes to have their own website, where they can:

  1. Totally control the online fan experience without relying on third-parties
  2. Reach more of their fans, more often (known as "re-marketing"), and 
  3. Keep nearly 100 percent of the income generated from this platform

This income can come from a variety of places within a website, including sponsorship packages, email marketing, affiliate marketing, membership clubs, e-commerce (online stores), and advertising networks like Google AdSense and Media.net.

Just a membership club alone could generate tens of thousands of dollars per month.

NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald uses an advertising network on his website (bottom right).

NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald uses an advertising network on his website (bottom right).

4. Affiliate Marketing

The growth of online shopping has created another tremendous opportunity for athletes, who can join affiliate marketing programs like Amazon's Affiliate Program to generate passive, scalable income.

Not to mention, most online retailers have affiliate marketing programs, making it easy for athletes to make even more money when they endorse a product or service that's sold online.

BONUS: The Hub-and-Spokes Model

Reserved for the most forward-thinking and entrepreneurial agencies, the Hub-and-Spokes Model is designed to drive considerable revenues and profits for agencies, while strategically positioning them to further leverage the athlete brands of their clients.

In short, this model starts with a branded online media property (the hub), which is operated by the agency. 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 their clients' athlete brands (the spokes).

Simultaneously, the athlete clients (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 agency and its clients.

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.