There are athletes of all kinds in the world of sports. They could range from your local street footballer to LeBron James. What makes a top athlete is not just their elite skills in their sport. It is their brand and their reach. You could argue that brand value and importance of the athlete is now as relevant as their sporting ability.
Athlete marketing is a study of standing out and building value in the minds of anyone watching sports or wants to watch sports. This helps them maximize fan support. This is called athlete brand equity.
Fan support may seem easy to garner if you are a top athlete. But that is hardly the case in this day and age. We live in a world of blogs, social media and websites, and accordingly, fans support and fandom doesn’t just arrive by way of ticket purchase and merchandise sales, watching games, attending athlete public appearances or consuming news concerning them. It also stems from attention.
Attention may be in the form of consuming their posts and other content on social media, listening to their radio and podcast appearances or watching the advertisements they are involved in. The more fans do this for an athlete, the greater the athlete’s brand value and value to teams, leagues, marketers, sponsors and other stakeholders in sports.
As Brian Solis said, “In the digital space, attention is a currency. We earn it. We spend it.” The practice of treating human attention as a scarce commodity is called attention economics. All human beings have a limited amount of attention, and hence it becomes important to utilize it properly and effectively.
Athletes who recognize the importance of fan attention as a commodity that is not handed, but earned, will have a better athlete brand. Those who adopt a systematic and scientific approach to standing out from the rest of the pack and building brand value will have greater fan support, even if said athlete is not the absolute best in their sport. The result is a more profitable, result-oriented and dynamic athlete brand.
Where the fan attention goes, the money will follow it. Athlete branding is thus of paramount importance, since it cultivates and maximizes fan loyalty and awareness and associations for the athlete. An athlete with a great athlete brand can attract the most valuable monetary benefits, like player contracts, sponsorships and other such income sources. They can also maintain fan support even when they decline or retire from the sport altogether. Then, in their retirement time, they can use said brand value to be of massive relevance. For example, legendary football player David Beckham continues to be a very high-profile athlete, and he retired from football many years ago.