The athletes that are able to earn a profit in ways outside of their profession are most often top-end talent in their respective leagues. It seems as though an athlete’s performance in the arena is indicative of their ability to portray a personal brand or to share their voice. At such a young age, athletes are often left with a lack of identity and direction when their careers come to a close, making it most advantageous for them to be establishing a brand during their careers.
At such a young age, athletes are often left with a lack of identity and direction when their careers come to a close, making it most advantageous for them to be establishing a brand during their careers.
A shocking study from the National Bureau of Economic Research show that 15.7% of retired NFL players file for bankruptcy twelve years after playing.
Statistics like these are encouraging a shift in high-end athletes focusing more on life plans following their professional playing careers. Many athletes, like Magic Johnson, Steve Yzerman, and Michael Jordan, enter back into sports franchises, often in a management or ownership position. Others have chosen a different route post-retirement, such as real estate, food and beverage, or investment banking. Nowadays, many athletes also choose the route of running side business during the peak years of their careers, including the likes of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Jake Locker.
Further to this point, the entertainment and marketing industries are a natural and attractive alignment for athletes due to their media exposure throughout their careers. Endorsements and marketing through an athlete has become an increasingly popular and growing phenomenon in North America. This is largely due to the fact that consumers have an elevated level of trust in the brand when it is endorsed by someone, such as an athlete, who they admire.
In turn, marketers ensure a holistic understanding of their brand strategy, digital platforms, and negotiation of partnerships based on their target audience.
Athletes, such as LeBron James, are also aware of this consumer phenomenon and have used it to their advantage. Lebron leveraged his knowledge of athlete endorsements and marketing to create a powerhouse company of his own, Uninterrupted and Spring Film Entertainment. LeBron has successfully built up a media empire where he is able to produce additional revenue outside of his play on the court.
Interestingly, NHL athletes have fallen behind the trend of marketing themselves, leaving an undiscovered niche in sports marketing. While several high-end NHL athletes like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid have utilized their prominence, many others have slid under the radar due to their lack of notoriety outside of the hockey community. If players want the opportunity to build something stronger than their play, it is crucial that they capitalize during their careers on their current relevance and impact.