Why Academic Institutions Should Teach Athlete Branding and Marketing

Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

Thanks to fantasy sports, social media and other forms of technology, a major power shift is happening right now: from teams, leagues, sponsors and traditional media companies, to the individual athlete.

Gone are the days when only the most skilled and accomplished athletes garner the top sponsorship and endorsement deals. Gone are the days when TV channels attract the most eyeballs. Gone are the days when teams and leagues decided which athletes are the most marketable.

Today and moving forward, every athlete (from the superstar to the twenty-fifth man) can build a mega personal brand backed by millions of measurable fans (followers and subscribers), A-list sponsors, and financial opportunities up the wazoo — regardless of talent, experience, accomplishments and any other traditional measure of an athlete's marketability.

And, as athletes become the primary window through which fans watch and support teams, leagues and competitions, athletes will need professionals to help them capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity and maximize the value of their athlete brands.

Not to mention, demand is skyrocketing for professionals who have the skills, knowledge and education to leverage the most advanced technologies and latest trends for building strong, highly lucrative athlete brands — especially since modern-day athlete branding and marketing is no longer reserved for the cream of the athlete crop.

What's more: This combination of skills, knowledge and education is being exponentially sought after across the sports marketing and business landscape, including teams, leagues, agencies, consumer brands and media companies.

Athlete Branding and Marketing

Here are three disciplines that academic institutions should start implementing into their curriculum, in order to provide students with the most cutting-edge education in sports marketing and business, and create a decided advantage over competing institutions:


If marketing is the process of building value, standing out and staying relevant in the minds of target customers until they are willing, able and ready to take a desired action, academic institutions must teach the most up-to-date systems, strategies and tactics that expedite and scale this process.

Within athlete branding and marketing, this includes:

Athlete Brand Life Story


With the ultimate goal of teaching students how to maximize and scale an athlete's brand equity, academic institutions must equip their students with the know-how and skills to perform:

  • Athlete brand studies
  • Model of Athlete Brand Image (MABI)*
  • Brand association models
  • Brand activations (online and offline)
  • Crisis management


To tie it all together, academic institutions must teach students how to develop and scale monetization of athlete brands, including:

Students who want to pursue careers in this field will also be required to have education and knowledge regarding:

  • Comprehensive sponsorship and endorsement packages (both online and offline)
  • Monetization measurement and tracking
  • Branding and marketing budget allocation
  • Analytics and reporting

With the worldwide popularity of individual athletes as influencers, entrepreneurs, community leaders and entertainers, the future looks bright for academic institutions that take proactive measures to be at the forefront of athlete branding and marketing education — before they're forced to play catchup.

* Source: Sport Management Review

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.