Your brand must impact their brand
In “mainstream” sports, being great at your game is enough for a player to make some good on-course/on-field money and hopefully some brand partnerships for ancillary income. The ability to prove why you and your sport are worthwhile, and to prove why someone should associate their brand with yours is the question. Therein lies the key to success. It’s not enough to be talented on the course/field, you need to build meaning to what you do. It’s vital that you carry a positive message, represent yourself, your sport, and be impactful in your community. You need to become a business person. You and your team need to build your brand. Companies are much more inclined to build strategic brand partnerships, rather than standard endorsements. Be a strategic partner. It starts with social media (see Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Periscope, etc.) — and I can remember feeling a ton of energy from sports fans because it was so new. You could never connect with an athlete, entertainer, or musician like this before. You could never connect with your fanbase like this before, either. The tone has to change. You’ve got to dare to be different. Have unique conversations. One of the worst mistakes an athlete can make is to try and accumulate as many "sponsors" as possible. Typically, that means more money and more associated exposure and look like you are wearing “NASCAR apparel". However, it’s not about the number of sponsors, fans or particular sales. It’s about building strong and impactful brand partnerships with all of the above. Your goal should be to partner with brands that you identify with; brands you frequently use, and those that help you improve. You want your social media followers to like your posts and engage with you in an "authentic", meaningful conversation. In mainstream sports, big-time athletes often turn down more offers than they accept. In addition, there’s this mindset that when you get an endorsement, it’s because ‘you deserve it.’ Many athletes think they should be treated like royalty and complete the minimum appearances required of them — all while expecting the brand to go above and beyond to showcase their brilliance. This is all wrong, do the opposite. Go above and beyond the requirements to show your support of the brand. By participating in creative meetings, you and your team can help out with R&D and marketing strategies. Anything with your name on it – from tweets to hard goods to apparel to commercials — partake in the process. Your corporate brand partners will not forget it. The same qualities that make you successful on the course/field — perseverance, savvy and hard work — can be the things that set you apart as you try to make a career off of it. It’s up to you to have the ambition to utilize them. All of these skills have no finish line. Until next time, hope you enjoyed my take on athlete brand partnerships.