Successful Branding For Up-And -Coming Athletes

Hearty congratulations to the Jamaica Team to the 2013 World Championships. It cannot be said too many times. You did us proud, and the entire nation should be challenged to step up our game to world beating standards. Thanks Team Jamaica for illustrating life lessons and for challenging us: to believe and persist like Javon until the job is well done; to put in the hard background work and show up when it matters like Shelly-Ann; to be authentic, to love and love will come back to you like Usain; and that talent is not all that it takes to be a super star.

The Championships are over, but the careers of some of our athletes have just begun. An athlete’s career is more similar to that of an entrepreneur than it is to that of someone who leaves college, takes a job, show up and gets paid every day. An athlete has the potential to be a business house. Branding of athletes has revolutionized in the last 20 or so years and I believe that the revolution is not over. Consequently, young athletes should not simply follow the branding strategies of their predecessor, but they should engage in a process of thought and consultation to devise strategies which may be unique and forward-looking. The branding strategies should also bear in mind that not every athlete will be able to command his/her own logo, have a clothing or shoe line, and no athlete will appeal to everyone.

The athlete’s business is comprised of a lot of intangibles, including his personality, name and face recognition, popularity and relationships with fans. Some athletes have extra-ordinary talent and will win almost all the time, like Usain, Shelly-Ann, Mo Farrah, Allyson Felix, etc. But, even mid-level athletes can have successful brands. Think about it, not every business looking for endorsement deals will be able to afford Usain, Shelly-Ann, Mo Farrah, and Allyson Felix.

The most important thing to know regarding any personal branding strategy is that the athlete’s interest must be properly protected and balanced with the interest of other parties in a contract. Contracts form the basis for performance fees, royalty payments, benefits and perquisites due to athletes and contract fee forfeiture clauses. Contracts also indicate the scope of services, duration of services, territories in which services are offered and deliverables that the athlete provides to the sponsor.

The athlete should also seek legal advice in relation to his contracts with his management and other persons who provide services to him. He should be clear on how much he is paying, for what services, for how long and at what standard, whether payment is based on deliverables, how the contract can be terminated and what are the termination consequences. Of course, this list is not exhaustive of the considerations that an athlete would want to ensure are clearly vetted and implications explained to him/her. Obtaining proper legal advice regarding contracts is the first tip in personal branding 101 because building a brand is not a destination but a journey and the athlete should try to get it right from the start. Getting it wrong at the start could have deleterious effects for his/her career, for example, by unnecessarily limiting the kinds of endorsements contracts that he can accept, or by making forfeiture of earnings clauses too wide.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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