Digital Tools and Athletes: Build, Brand and Monetize
Social media can be a profitable gold mine, or a decimating land mine to professional athletes. Executed properly with consideration and purpose, pro sports players can find their social media pages to be a robust community of fans, supporters and friends with various options for monetization and sponsorship through digital means.
Or, this landscape can be hazardous and toxic: too outspoken and undisciplined personalities can get burned by reckless sharing and irresponsible commentary subsequently ruining their personal brand and jeopardizing their relationship with their respective professional organization.
Tough? Yes. Impossible? Of course not.
Athletes are of course “people too”, but care and consideration is necessary in defining what social media translates into for a potentially multi-million-dollar public figure and brand.
Which Digital Tools Should Athletes Use?
Keep it simple. Regardless of your professional organization, branding is essential. These 3 tools noted below are a basic foundation of digital tools to use during and after your career:
- Social Media
Make Digital Tools Work FOR you, Not Against You
Here are 3 important functions professional athletes can take advantage of with calculated use of digital tools:
1. Build Influence
An interactive and engaging website complimented by an active social media presence can help build influence and set the stage for other financial opportunities to arise. For consumer and retail brands looking to expend their sponsorship dollars or partner with an athlete in their marketing endeavors, a player’s online community exhibiting strong social influence will translate into a larger investment from brands into financial partnerships with prospective athletes.
Invest in a website that represents your brand, interests and is an extension of your real persona. Don’t let media articles become your only representation. A website with your image, bio, video, community calendar, etc. allows you take control of your personal brand. Whether you are a professional current, former or retired athlete, a personal website should be established to build, protect and maintain your professional name for defining credibility and value to any current or future endeavor.
An example of a well organized athlete website with various content categories, is that of 2015 Australian Open champion, Serena Williams.
NFL athletes may face the biggest challenge with branding; frequently players rely on social media to build their brand and show personality outside of the helmet, while media interviews typically are desired for game-influencing playmakers. US Soccer, MLB, USTA, NBA and USATF athletes often see plenty of face time and opportunity to communicate, share and be in front of the public eye, yet these sports talents can also greatly benefit from social media to share their personality and character.
Fans are going to “Google” you. What do you want them to know of your first? With proper SEO techniques (and thanks to Google’s Knowledge Graph) your personal website and social media assets will be among first links to populate during a search.
As a pro athlete’s career and notoriety grows, more fans will want to learn more about their favorite playmaker, connect with them and follow their career, charitable or personal endeavors. Establish these digital assets with your namesake and take control of your online presence.
According to Forbes, “The NFL’s top 15 earners made a total of $351 million over the last 12 months with $44 million, or 13%, derived from off-field income.”
Hint: “Where can we buy Beast Mode gear?” – asks an eager reporter
Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch reportedly made $200,000 in apparel over Superbowl XXIV weekend in Arizona.
Let’s not overstate the obvious. Monetizing your brand is a big opportunity for income.
Social media as a conduit for ad revenue.
Usually marked with the #ad hashtag, Social media can easily become an avenue by which athletes can make extra money supporting product campaigns and even influencing the expansion of a company’s brand into a new market.
— Jerry Rice (@JerryRice) February 3, 2015
— Terrell Davis (@Terrell_Davis) January 31, 2015
For all athletes around the roster and from various sports organizations, digital tools are here to be your friend, not foe. A sincere investment into striking balance between your personal use and brand management will grant you peace of mind as you work to build a career and make a living.
For yourself, use social media casually within reason, and consider working in partnership with a social media consultant or firm to ensure that there is a reasonable balance between personal and functional use. Its difficult being both a highly visible athlete, and a multi-million dollar brand, yet both sides should be unequivocally measured and attended to with accordingly.