Working with athletes, there are some questions I spend a lot of time thinking and strategizing about.
How athletes can best monetize their fan base is one of these questions.
Yesterday, I came across a sports agency’s blogpost that sparked a lot of excitement in me – at first. It was titled:
“Untapped Monetization Opportunities for Athletes”.
The word “untapped” added to that excitement as I couldn’t click on the link fast enough. But as I went on reading the post, I came to the conclusion that there’s a good reason that these opportunities are mostly untapped from athletes.
The first “untapped opportunity” was to drive traffic to an athlete’s website and earn passive income from displaying ads.
This solution can be highly profitable on the short term, no doubt. But there’s a catch: it’s a brand destroyer! The athletes brand will be linked with companies they have no control of. And for obvious image purposes, it’s in no athletes interest to have crap selling ads on their personal website.
The same goes for the second “untapped opportunity” the article suggests: affiliate marketing. (Recommending products and earn a percentage from each sell.)
Just like the first one, this solution can be highly profitable if the fan base trusts the athlete. But will they still trust him/her after he promotes a second or third product? Not only the fans will leave, sponsorship opportunities will too.
In my humble opinion, agencies should stop advising athletes to let brands benefit from their image without closing endorsement deals or partnerships (which is the case for display ads and affiliate marketing). It’s only lucrative on the short term and can hurt the athletes brand in the long run.
What profitable and sustainable strategy should athletes go for then?
Create. Original. Content.
There’s a major shift happening in sports right now. While fans used to be supporters of teams, sports or leagues, they now are fans of individuals. Every athlete is now able to cultivate his own fan base and portray whatever he/her desires. This can best be done by creating original, high quality, engaging content, which will open up better and more sustainable opportunities to generate revenue. The goal should not be to make a quick buck from online advertising or affiliate marketing, but rather to build a strong brand and a loyal fan base to obtain the more profitable and long-term sponsorships, that suit the athletes personal brand.
It’s a fact that brands pay significantly more to work with athletes than they pay other influencers – and I really hope that this article will help more athletes take advantage of it.