26 June 2019

Sports stars and sponsorship – tips for brands and businesses

Cultural changes, technology advancement, social media and athletes as content creators continue to fuel the sports marketing sector.

An ever-increasing number of brands are seeking opportunities to access their market via an association with sports professionals and teams and to exploit the celebrity status of the top athletes.

For the brand or business, it’s about making the right choice to maximise return on investment.

Here are a few points to consider when looking in particular at sports stars to promote your goods and services.

  • Be clear on what you are looking for and what the options are. Do you want;

Sponsorship – where you pay (or provide products or services) in exchange for marketing rights or advertising in order to promote your brand, for example a player’s boot deal with Nike

Endorsement – one step further than sponsorship, where you seek personal recommendation for your products or services, or at least a close association with them in order to raise profile and affect purchasing patterns; for example Lewis Hamilton and luxury watch brand IWC

Merchandising – monetising image rights and status, by applying them to a ’personal’ range of products or services; for example, Sir Chris Hoy branded cycle range sold by Evans Cycles.

  • Have a strategy from the outset as to the type of individual(s) best aligned to your brand and their particular sport. Do they sit well together?
  • Consider potential conflict; which other brands does the athlete work with?
  • Negotiate exclusivity in your product category or wider industry sector and specific territories if global exclusivity is not available
  • Consider the nature and extent of the rights you will need to acquire.

These will typically include;

  • Use of the athlete’s name, likeness and image
  • Personal appearances at specified events
  • Participation in PR and marketing campaigns
  • If relevant, wearing of branded clothing and accessories
  • Creation of content on the athlete’s social media platforms
  • Digital activation of sponsors’ rights through social media is now a vital component in many endorsement and sponsorship negotiations. It’s a powerful tool to access fans and consumers. You’ve only got to look at David Beckham’s 56m followers on Instagram alone to see his potential value to a brand.
  • Protect your reputation by having an exit route should the athlete misbehave. There are many examples of indiscriminate behaviour or inappropriate posts from athletes causing embarrassment and damage to the brand and the athletes themselves.

All of the above are essential issues to consider and need to be properly documented from the outset.

An early discussion with me will ensure that you have the appropriate advice and an agreement which is fit for purpose and will best protect your investment.

If you don’t have access to players or teams, I can help with that too! Contact me at tbailey@hcrlaw.com

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About the Author
Tim Bailey, Consultant
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