Sport has been and continues to be a fun way for the masses and a long tradition since the ancient Greek and Roman times. People have always used sport to escape from their everyday problems. Emotions are the ones that lead sports fans to continue to support their favorite athletes and teams.
Over the centuries, sports events have evolved into billions of dollar industries through large investments from corporations who want to associate the brand with a team or athlete. Most people, when they hear branding, think about logos, but branding is much more than that.
What is a Brand
A brand has DNA, personality, identity, and so on. Brand is the essence of the product, and the logo is a small part of this complex set of elements.
This article aims at presenting some theoretical elements on the link between branding and sport, describing the branding process, the strength of the personal brand, and trying to explain the reasons for choosing an athlete as an influencer for a particular brand.
In modern times, sports competitions – being pursued by millions of people have become a new medium for companies to communicate with the general population. This has led to the development of the brand from a local scale to a truly global scale and media and technology are one of the most important factors in this development.
Perhaps many of us would say a brand is a logo, a slogan and a mix of colors that define a company. But it means a lot more.
For sports teams around the world, branding is essential for identifying, creating a fan base, and generating substantial revenue.
Without solid branding, many teams would not benefit from the support they need to succeed.
The link between brand image and athletes
People involved in branding are trying to develop or match the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or features that make it special or unique.
A brand is, therefore, one of the most valuable elements in an advertising theme.
The art of creating and maintaining a brand is called brand management and it takes a colossal job to get the desired results.
Surprisingly, relatively few researchers have systematically studied how athletes or people in general can build personal brands that distinguish them from colleagues and provide reward opportunities.
Only a few academic papers in the field of marketing or consumer research refer to the branding process of people. Celebrity literature casts light on the nature of celebrity, but less on the specific processes through which a person can develop.
Beyond academic literature, most analyzes of the phenomenon are limited to books written for a general audience and although valuable none of them addressed the issue how people in a profession such as a sport can build personal brands with a high level of equity.
In terms of brand image, we can say that it is related to identity and is the way in which identity is perceived and understood by people interacting with the brand.
Thus, in order to connect the brand to the people who interact with it, different strategies are used to attribute the human characteristics to the brand. This process aims at creating brand personality.
The big brands have realized that the association of their products with athletes will contribute not only to the increase in sales but also to the creation of the brand personality.
Apart from sports performance, for the commercial valorization of an athlete’s celebrity, some of the most important assets are the athlete’s personal brand. Thus, a strong personal brand contributes not only to attracting money, increasing profits, the number of supporters around the world, but also to developing unlimited connections.
Social Media has been able to loyalty to fans, to bring new ones, to achieve transparency in the sport world, bringing the athlete closer to his fans.
The personal brand of an athlete includes, besides his public identity, a number of elements that he wants to share with fans such as passions, values in which he believes, his position on various themes, the famous friends around him, his causes on who supports them or other details they make public.
Looking at the psychology of the sports audience, there are several reasons behind why they choose to become passionate about the fans of the game. They can devote a team of interest to them, favors certain players or watch games because they enjoy the beauty of the sport.
Fans make judgments on a player, just as a consumer judges a product. It is essential for a brand to match as many product rating factors as the player’s rating factors.
What are the reasons for companies to link brands to the image of more and more athletes?
Sports brands are a giant industry that earns millions of revenue.
Whether it’s LeBron introducing a new pair of Nike sports shoes, Federer who makes a Mercedes-Benz advertisement or Ronaldo drinking Gatorade after gym, brand names are willing to spend as much as possible to support the athletes in many reasons.
One of the reasons is brand awareness.
Large brands can capitalize on the positive public image of the athlete, the image and values of the company. The best approval deals work to fit the image of a corporate brand with the athlete image to target consumers with similar values and to increase brand awareness. Another reason is the validation of product features.
A thick and healthy hair athlete might be contracted to promote a certain shampoo brand to create the impression that her hair is due to the use of shampoo. Also, an athlete might be contracted to promote a certain brand of nutritional sports drinks, giving the impression that his physical and athletic performances result from the use of a specific sports drink.