Why Every Sports Team Should Invest in Athlete Branding and Marketing

Photo by Jerry Yu on Unsplash

Photo by Jerry Yu on Unsplash

You can blame it on fantasy sports, social media or global warming, but it's no secret players are becoming an exponentially greater window through which fans support teams, leagues, sponsors and other stakeholders.

It's also not a secret that the vast majority of professional athletes lack the proper education and resources to turn the Internet and its auxiliary tools (e.g. social media) into optimal value, influence, marketability and ultimately, massively profitable athlete brands.

Just ask an athlete if he's ever heard of the Team Association Model, an Integrated Content Strategy, or the Converged Media Model.

This is precisely why it's in every team's vested interest to equip its players with the proper education, resources and opportunities, so they can take advantage of the latest, most advanced athlete branding and marketing practices.

In other words, the more a player can strategically keep fans hyper-engaged with his or her athlete brand at scale, the more these fans will pay attention when this player shares team-related content. And the more fans pay attention to the team-related content, the more a team will benefit (better ratings, higher ticket and merchandise sales, and an increase in the plethora of other direct and indirect income streams).

Here are four ways (and a "bonus") in which a team can invest in athlete branding and marketing, for its own benefits and gains:

1. Create and publish a player-team brand handbook.

While most teams' front office staff probably knows the team's brand strategy, brand values, et cetera, how many of their players are familiar and privy to this information? And, more importantly, how many of these players know how to strategically use this information within their own personal brands, so that it further exposes and advances the team's brand?

By creating an easy-to-understand handbook (print or digital) that clearly defines a team's brand values, brand strategy, co-branding opportunities, unique value propositions, and other branding and marketing fundamentals — and, again, how players can interweave these aspects into their personal brands — teams will better position themselves to scale their brand (and profits) via their players.

Athlete-Fan-Team Relationship - Athlete Branding and Marketing

2. Develop co-branding opportunities.

Using the Player-Team Association Model (PTAM) — which increases brand equity — team's should use their existing media production and distribution capabilities to develop creative, massively profitable co-branding opportunities that portray their players through a 360-degree lens. After all, the average fan cares just as much (if not more) about what athletes do away from playing turf, compared to what they do on it.

By strategically enhancing this 360-degree lens for their players, teams will further strengthen each athlete-fan relationship, which in turn will strengthen and scale the athlete-fan-team relationship.

3. 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 brandingdigital 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.

4. Offer seminars and hands-on training to all players.

While non-rookies 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 and hands-on training that delve into comprehensive, high-level strategies and implementable tactics, teams will ensure more of their players take full advantage of this short window of opportunity, which ultimately benefits the team for which they play.

BONUS: The Hub-and-Spokes Model

Reserved for the most forward-thinking and entrepreneurial teams, the Hub-and-Spokes Model is designed to drive considerable revenues and profits for a team, while strategically positioning it to further leverage its players' athlete brands.

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

Simultaneously, these players (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 team and its players.

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.