Athlete branding has become an extremely necessary part for both budding and established sports personality. Sports management is a relatively new field in India. A major reason for this is the lack of awareness among sportspersons about athlete branding.

What is a brand?

A quick search tells that brand is a name, symbol or a feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. Oxford defines a brand as an “A particular identity or image regarded as an asset.” This brand is nothing but the image people have or associate within their mind.

Why should I build my ‘Brand’?

The importance of why athletes should build a brand cannot be overstated any further. Athletes have a limited sporting career of not more than 20 years. (Depending on when they start, what sports they compete in or how frequently they get injured) The career options post-retirement is limited. Some take up government jobs. Others, start their own enterprises, such as opening a sports academy.

No matter what option you choose, one thing is for sure – athletes have to ensure that they cash in on their on-field achievements as much as they can so as to secure their future. Brand building is essential to achieve this. That is easily the biggest reason why athletes should seriously consider brand building and brand management.

Would good field performance mean good branding?

It’s a common misconception that brands are built only by a good reputation. “I will win a medal and the world will be at my feet,” one might think. But the truth is far different from that. No doubt, a good performance is elementarily needed to build a reputation. But a good reputation doesn’t necessarily make a good brand for a player.

“YOUR BRAND DEPENDS ON HOW YOUR REPUTATION IS PROJECTED TO THE WORLD”

Case Study: PV Sindhu & Sakshi Malik

At the Rio Olympics in 2016, India was at the verge of a national embarrassment. In the round up to the games, hopes were high. They were at the back of a successful London Olympic Games, where they won 6 medals. Also, the country had sent their biggest ever contingent of 117 to Brazil, including Oly medalists like Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, and Yogeshwar Dutt.

However, 13 days into the tournament, the country had a solitary bronze medal, from Sakshi Malik. All eyes were fixed on a relatively unknown badminton player who had quietly made her way into the women’s badminton finals. It was Hyderabad’s, PV Sindhu. Although she lost, post the finals, PV Sindhu became a national sensation. She had the distinction of saving India from a major humiliation of sorts.

Post Olympics

The point to note here is that she got the maximum media coverage and her brand value skyrocketed overnight. That is the power of media. In no time, she had become a crorepati, with multiple state governments. She was flooded with endorsement offers. Soon in 2017, she was named by Forbes among the richest sports personalities. She pocketed over ₹57.25 crore that year and net worth soaring a record 17 times.

In a stark contrast, Sakshi Malik, who had opened India’s account in Rio, is a relatively obscure figure. She featured on the Forbes’ ‘2016 Celebrity 100’ list at #80 with the lowest earnings of ₹0.30 crores. It was reported that she was endorsing Datsun and Haryana government’s Beti Bachao campaign, for a combined ₹ 3.5 crores, that is the last marketing campaign for her. Soon, as the buzz dried up, the offers stopped. She quietly took up a post of gazette officer at Indian Railways. The last time she came in news was for an off-field reason: her marriage with a fellow Indian wrestler, Satyawart Kadian.

What was the difference?

Media Coverage. On one hand, Sindhu always kept on being media’s darling. All her on-field antiques closely followed and documented by the news agencies. On the other hand, Sakshi kept on performing well in the various international tournaments, but the media coverage she received was relatively petty.

Thus, for athletes, how they manage and project their brand image is imperative to their financial success.

How to be a successful brand ambassador of oneself and attract brand endorsers?

Brand image is a vicious circle that includes on-field success, media coverage, fan following, brand endorsements and ultimately financial benefits. For eg. A XYZ player wins a medal at an important international event, he will get media coverage. More people will know about him/her, leading to a sudden burst in fan following. This, in turn, will attract brand endorsements leading to an elevation in the monetary benefits that the athlete enjoys. As a result of this, (s)he can afford expensive equipment and focus on building on his/her performances. This will help to further better the athlete’s on-field performance, leveraging his/her media coverage and the cycle goes on. The biggest outcome is that, in this cyclic process, the athletes create a brand image for themselves.

What will happen after athlete branding?

Two things: Recognition and more importantly, monetary gains.

Recognition

Athletes and sports professionals play to make their country proud. But their biggest defeat is no on turf. It is when their country fails to recognize and respect them as much as they deserve. There have been so many examples of legends who, today, lie in stark obscurity. Recognition is thus the biggest outcome of the athlete branding. With athlete branding, players could expect a better reach of themselves and their achievements among wider audiences. This may further reflect in elevated fan following on social media.

Monetary Gains

Brands are built for the purpose that their value can be utilized to generate sustained monetary returns.

How can I gain monetarily after brand building?

Two of the biggest commercial sources of income for athletes today is: Social Media and Brand Endorsements

Social Media

Sportspersons with successful brand identity attract copious amounts of fans on social media handles like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. The number may run anywhere between thousands, to lakhs to even crores. This means more internet traffic on the respective social media website and more financial dividends for them. Therefore, these handles pay exorbitant sums to athletes so that they keep on posting content.

Virat Kohli, for examples, bags a cool $ 1,20,000 PER POST on Instagram. That is a ridiculous ₹ 88,00,000 per photo!

Brand Endorsements

This is a no-brainer. Athletes with a successful brand image will attract endorsers. The calculation is simple: The more your popularity and following, the more organizations will want to exploit your goodwill to sell their product. Virat Kohli is the undisputed No.1 sports person when it comes to exploiting his brand value through endorsements. For starters, last year, he struck a record whopping ₹ 110 crore endorsement deal with Puma. He charges an average ₹ 5 crores per day for endorsements.

Other Income Sources  

Apart from the above two, there are plenty of other avenues to make big bucks for athletes. Selling rights for a biopic movie or a biographic book are some of them. According to numerous reports, MS Dhoni pocketed between ₹ 20 to ₹ 60 crores for a popular biopic on him.  

Conclusion:

BRAND BUILDING IS EXTREMELY VITAL FOR ATHLETE’S EMOTIONAL AND FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY.  With a better brand image, you are able to attract more fans thus more recognition and as a result, more financial avenues to exploit. Also, athlete branding plays an important role in elevating player’s on-field performances. 

Amrita is a content writer/editor and social media manager at KreedOn. Amrita looks after the content creation and marketing of the website. Her love for sports made her join this organization where her intention is to help every athlete get the recognition they deserve through her profession. Amrita started writing when only sketching cartoons at the back of her notebook seemed a little too vague for a school pass out.

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