In today’s social media savvy, digital strategy and international marketing world, it is not unfounded to see Athletes, Entertainers and even YouTube sensations have a global presence and connection to the world.
If you think about it, historically an athlete had to go through traditional media channels (TV, radio broadcasting and print) to elevate their brand and get their message out to the world. Of course you had Michael Jordan with his Nike, Gatorade and Hanes partnerships and maybe even a Scottie Pippen Chevy Dealership endorsement here and there. But 20 years ago, it would have been much more challenging for a player like Jamal Crawford (NBA Sixth-Man of the year) or even a personality like DC Young fly to expand their brand globally. It was even less common for the 10th or 11th man on an NBA roster, who is not a starter, to be concerned about building his personal brand and image off the court. In the past, launching a presence in a new geographic location required an office, a relationship with that community or maybe even a contact on the ground to connect you with the right influencers in that country. Not to mention the overhead of sending a representative on several trips to scout out a location and create relationships. Today, an athlete, marketer or representative can reach people in faraway places using the athlete’s website, social media mentions and data driven analytics, to gauge interest in a prospective, non-traditional market.
Sports have become such a universal language on a global scale and has increasingly become a great platform to launch and expand one’s social footprint. So if you’re an athlete, how do you make it count? Since the advent of social media and hyper-local advertising, athletes have been able to connect with people in remote countries and promote their personal brand across waters, in one simple push of a button. As we have seen, some athletes do it better than others using it as stepping stone and not as a stumbling block. Another important factor is how an athlete’s connection to his fans can be very appealing to a global brand like a Beats By Dre which can end up being very lucrative for that individual player.
Marketers and Brand managers are also empowered by this new world order, but in so many different ways; particularly through analytics. While they may not be able to strictly control who is visiting the client’s website, social media and YouTube pages, they can use that data to ascertain where these visitors are coming from. If they see significant traffic from a given country or in a given language, this data can help them make an informed decision on where to launch a campaign and with what company, in a specific locale. For example, what Adidas has done with Damian Lillard in China this past Summer. Drilling down on this type of information can be useful in targeting organic and lucrative ambassadorships, endorsements and marketing opportunities all over the globe for your clients.
The global business of sports is a booming industry and is manifesting big profits for brands like Nike, Adidas and most recently Under Armour. It wasn’t always like that. International Sports Marketing partnerships seemed to really take off with the global rockstar appeal of the USA Dream Team in the early 90’s, in conjunction with the growing popularity of the Olympic games. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird arriving in Barcelona, Spain, bringing the American phenomenon of basketball with them completely changed the game. I think that is when brands made the decision that it was time to rethink their global branding strategy. Fast forward more than 20 years later, brands are still interested in that athlete that can reach fans and potential consumers across the world. What makes it so attractive for brands to partner with athletes is their ability to create an emotional connection with the customer and influence their buying habits. The smart athletes do this by developing personalized digital content and devising strategies around delivering that content that intern, forges an unbreakable bond with their following domestically and internationally. If the relationship is organic, and with the right athlete, it can create a life long association with the brand across any geographical, cultural and language barriers that may exist.
Whether you are an athlete, agent, manager, or representative we all know the importance of protecting the player’s brand and being careful on who they align themselves with. It is paramount the player’s inner business circle does its due diligence and perform thorough research on whatever company, brand or product that the athlete is planning to enter into any type of relationship with. Know the customs in each country you visit, have a game plan and execute that plan strategically to position yourself as the athlete or your client, to make your brand count globally.