Sat | Apr 4, 2020

Tanya Lee | Athletes, be aware of your brand!

Published:Friday | March 27, 2020 | 12:25 AM
Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt is considered a master of marketing his brand both on and off the track.
Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt is considered a master of marketing his brand both on and off the track.

The world continues to grapple with COVID-19 as we ride the wave of the virus and hope we stagger the spread across Jamaica as best as possible.

The rescheduling of sporting events becomes critical for the latter part of 2020, and beyond, to limit the far-reaching economic impact.

There will be a rising demand for sports for months to come as sports fans crave live programming. Television Jamaica Sports Network is airing replays of all five days of Champs 2019, and it has been golden!

I assume that stakeholders have begun discussions around deriving earnings from the latter part of 2020. Staging meets later in the year may provide revenues while allowing athletes to maintain some level of conditioning going into what will be a heavily anticipated 2021 season.

For some athletes, these are tough economic times. Outside of the sports’ flagbearers, who have the cushion of lofty shoe contracts and significant earnings from prize monies, bonuses, and appearance fees, the majority of athletes and coaches do not have the economic luxury of foregoing an entire season.

This economic setback brings into sharper focus the importance of diversifying athletes’ income streams and increasing their earning potential going forward. The shoe contracts and salaries from competing at the top- or mid-tier meets are essential to realising prime earnings in the sport. Still, I believe that all athletes need to now reconsider brand building as a critical part of their arsenal.

Athletes ignoring global trends

I have often said that many track-and-field athletes locally are ignoring global trends to their financial detriment. Long gone are the days when athletes collect their competition salary and head home. In 2020, there are no limits to athletes’ success as they can earn additional millions from endorsements. Endorsement earnings far outstrip player salaries across most sports. The top-ranked athletes are usually able to generate the extra income that sports personalities can generate from endorsements because they are typically represented by a team that focuses on the brand building while they play.

With only a small earning window of 10 to 15 years, athletes can create additional value by building their social-media profile, increasing engagement with fans of the sport, increasing their digital and traditional media presence in and out of competition, and developing corporate partnerships. More fan engagement and developing a solid reputation are essential aspects of improving the athlete’s social influence.

The newest buzzword in advertising is ‘influencer marketing’, and the sports influencer’s advantage is a built-in audience of inspired fans. Corporate companies are now paying macro and micro influencers to endorse their products and services. Many of our local athletes are left behind because they have not developed a brand voice, explored their marketability, or displayed the level of professionalism required.

Connecting with fans

Currently, with sports in the US at a standstill, the airwaves are flooded with athletes. Their day-to-day activities, their family time, their TikTok dance moves, and insider details that the fan would not typically be aware of become golden for brands and television stations seeking to connect with an audience. While Jamaica does not have a rabid fan culture, there are still opportunities for athletes to connect more with fans locally.

I suggest that any athlete seeking to maximise on their playing years consider a team that includes not just a coach and booking agent, but brand managers who will ensure that they can derive more value from their golden years.

Jamaica’s best blueprint remains Usain Bolt, who made roughly 30 times in endorsement earnings than he did on the track.

I always try to look for the silver lining in any circumstance. I urge the next generation of athletes to assess how they can increase their marketability, develop their brand, and diversify their income streams as one of the takeaways from 2020.

One love.

Tanya Lee has over 10 years’ expertise as a Caribbean sports marketer and is also an athlete manager and publicist.