At a recent Digital Sport event in London, we took part in a Q&A session with Russell Scott, the Director of Digital at the Football League. Whilst people involved in football have very different challenges and opportunities to those in the endurance sports sector, one thing that is similar is that brands (or teams in the case of the Football League) have athletes / players who are supposed to represent them and use their popularity to spread the brand’s / team’s messages. This is a key aspect of the relationship between the brands and their athletes – trading profile for financial and/or kit support.
The opportunity then, is to find ways that the brands can leverage the relationship that they have with the athletes that they support, to increase the publics interest in, and knowledge of, the brand in a way that is authentic and sustainable.
In the case of the Football League, part of the answer has been in creating content that is not available anywhere else – insider information. This is something that brands who work closely with athletes who understand that they need to provide much more than the odd podium moment, are able to do. The content can broadly be categorised thus;
Oh, I didn’t know that
Wow, that really helps me
This means, for example, that an endurance sports brand can give it’s followers and fans direct access to some of the training that its sponsored athletes do or some technique tips or the sorts of food that they eat – these are the sorts of things that fans can incorporate into their own training.
And brands can also reveal things like why their athletes chose the sport they are involved in or what their favourite music is, which are engaging little bits of information that make the brands and the athletes all the more accessible and human.
The relationship between brands and the athletes that they support is changing. The public wants more information, more access and more entertainment and the brands are in the perfect position to provide this. It is no longer enough for athletes to simply be the best they can be (with the possible exception of the absolute best in the world, and even then the brands require more). Now athletes need to acknowledge that they are also assets or employees and ensure that they help to improve the profile of the brands that support them, through everything they do. Are the athletes you support doing that?