“Athlete marketing is the scientific, strategic and systematic execution of standing out, staying relevant and building value in the minds of current and potential fans, so as to maximize fan support (athlete brand equity).”

In the age of the Internet and its auxiliary tools (websites, blogs, social media, mobile apps, VR) fan support doesn’t just come in the form of ticket and merchandise sales, watching or listening to games, showing up when athletes make a public appearance, and consuming athlete-related news.

Fan support, in the age of the Internet, comes in the form of attention: watching an athlete’s videos, reading an athlete’s blog posts, listening to an athlete’s podcasts, and engaging with an athlete’s posts on social media. The more fan support and attention athletes can attract, maintain and maximize, the more their athlete brand is worth to teams, leagues, sponsors, marketing deals and other relevant stakeholders.

“In the digital space, attention is a currency. We earn it. We spend it.”

— Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group

This is known as Attention Economics, which treats human attention as a scarce commodity, since we have a limited amount of it.

In the Attention Economy, athletes are all competing for a finite amount of fan attention, and it’s a zero-sum game. If fans are paying attention to someone or something else, they can’t pay attention to you (the athlete) at the same time. And, if they’re not paying as much attention to the athlete, this athlete is not maximizing the worth and value of his or her athlete brand.

“The attention of the end consumer is all that matters, and when you understand where it is … that’s where you need to strike, create and spend against.”

— Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia

Many athletes, however, don’t think about fan attention as a precious or earned commodity. They either take it for granted or assume they’re deserving of it simply because they’re an athlete.

The athletes (and their representatives) who take a scientific, strategic and systematic approach to standing out, staying relevant and building value in the minds of their current and potential fans, will position themselves to maximize fan support (“athlete brand equity”).

The result: a more profitable and dynamic athlete brand.


“Where the attention goes, the money will inevitably follow.”

— Mathew Ingram, Fortune Magazine


“Athlete branding is the art of cultivating and maximizing fan awareness and loyalty; perceived value and qualities; and strong, favorable, unique associations for an individual athlete.”

In doing so, athletes and their representatives will position themselves to:

  • Attain the most valuable and longest-lasting player contracts, sponsorships, marketing deals and digital income streams
  • Maintain (and even increase) fan support when their athletic performance has declined, or when their professional playing career ends
  • Leverage and build upon their brand value through their post-playing career

An athlete’s personal brand is comprised of three main facets — known as the Model of Athlete Brand Image* — including:

  1. Athletic attributes, achievements, capabilities and competition style
  2. Personal style and appearance
  3. Marketable lifestyle

By cultivating and maximizing these aspects of an athlete’s personal brand, athletes will increase athlete brand equity (fan support), resulting in a more profitable and dynamic athlete brand.

* Source: Sport Management Review



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