The Good News and Bad News About Modern-Day Athlete Brands
The good news is most athletes are using the Internet (e.g. social media) to connect with their fans.
The not-so-good news is most athletes do not have a comprehensive strategy to consistently generate and maximize additional income and other financial opportunities using the Internet.
Producing desired results
An athlete brand only produces desired results when athletes (and their brand managers) have a rhyme to their reason (specific, measurable goals) and a method to their madness (a comprehensive strategy). This involves a well-thought-out content production and distribution schedule, within the context of a tangible blueprint (the strategy), based on the specific and measurable goals of the athlete brand.
More often than not, however, an athlete's representatives shy away from getting too involved in the athlete's online brand, so the athlete ends up posting what, when, where and how the athlete wants – without any real sense of marketing or branding know-how. As a result, the athlete's potential to consistently generate and maximize additional income and other financial opportunities is not fully realized (which is unfortunate, because the additional income and opportunities are really there for the taking).
Athletes (and their brand managers) who want to maximize additional income and other financial opportunities must understand both the art and science of why people become fans of theirs, and why existing fans become even more fanatical about them. At the end of the day, the more fans an athlete has, and the more fanatical these fans are, the more an athlete brand is worth to teams, leagues, sponsors, business ventures and other financial opportunities, both now and in the future.
(The beautiful thing about the Internet is it allows athletes and their brand managers to (a) precisely measure how many fans they have, and (b) continuously grow their fanbase at tremendous scale, with the right strategy and plan of action.)
Athlete Brand Study and Model of Athlete Brand Image*
To understand the art and science of fandom, every brand manager should start by performing an Athlete Brand Study (ABS), followed by a Model of Athlete Brand Image (MABI).
An ABS examines the athlete's existing brand assets (i.e. digital platforms) and brand equity, which is defined as: attitudes, awareness, credibility, likeability, loyalty, perceptions and associations (related to the athlete, of course). After performing an ABS, the areas for growth, expansion and optimization become clear.
An MABI defines the athlete's professional characteristics, achievements, capabilities and competition style; personal style and appearance; and marketable lifestyle. By defining an athlete's MABI, the gameplan for developing, enhancing and scaling the success of an athlete brand becomes clear.
Only after performing both an ABS and MABI will athletes (via their brand managers) understand what, where, when and how to most effectively post and interact with their fans online.
And only then will athletes (and their representatives) start to consistently generate and maximize additional income and other financial opportunities.
* Source: Sport Management Review