Athletes are the ideal brand ‘boosters!’
Athletes as ambassadors and speakers
Stars in sport are stars for a reason. They often hold a superhuman status by virtue of the fact they are truly talented at what they do. When it comes to standing out in sponsorship, admirable and authentic achievement is highly valuable. There is considerable opportunity to utilise the power of athletes with extraordinary stories as inspiring brand ambassadors and speakers.
Whilst it’s understandable that sports brands would choose athletes to promote its products, many outside the world of sport don’t realise they too can use sport as a marketing tool. Athletes’ ability to motivate and inspire people – whatever their achievement – is based on how relatable they are to the people in front of them. In an age of influencer partnerships, authenticity has never been more key.
Athletes inspire and engage corporate teams
In 2016, Aberdeen Standard Investments partnered with wheelchair tennis player, Gordon Reid after he won two Grand Slam singles titles and a Paralympic Gold at the Rio summer games. As world wide partners of the 2018 Ryder Cup the company is no stranger to activating within sport and Reid works with ASI to combat employee disconnection alongside playing as a sponsored athlete, helping engage their internal corporate teams with sport.
“Sport sponsorship is a great vehicle, a powerful marketing tool,” said head of sponsorships, Robin Spring. “We now have a large number of staff in the UK and it’s important they feel part of our sponsorships and also have their say about how we do things.
“We help them engage with Gordon through meet and greets, Q+A’s and a tennis clinic. Gordon’s most recent Q&A was with staff was in our New York office as part of his US Open appearance.”
Valuable brand ambassadors
The skills and characteristics embodied by athletes are largely transferable to those needed for success in a working environment; an ability to reach peak performance, overcome obstacles, set goals and meet deadlines. The pressures of doing so are relatable across the board. It may be on an exaggerated scale in the case of athletic challenge or achievement, even in a ridiculous environment. But those foundation skills underpin achievement in all areas.
World Record holder, Kiko Matthews recently became the fastest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, breaking the previous record by four days. It was particularly remarkable considering she’d had Cushing’s Disease and overcome two brain tumors, one just the year before. Through public speaking, Kiko not only shares her life and adventure experience but can also forge links for upcoming projects. These provide a great opportunity for brands to become part of her story.
Quality content creation
Kiko’s next initiative – Kik plastic – will see her cycle 6500 km around the UK. She’ll be performing beach cleans and public speaking events to raise awareness about plastic in the environment. Whether it be in a Spanish monastery with North Face, or school kids on the beach, connecting through shared values and purpose gets people engaged with the message and generates valuable resources for both.
“What I do creates a huge amount of content, which is something that sponsors like,” said Kiko. “Would you not want to be associated with the world’s fastest solo crossing? Wouldn’t you want to be associated with cycling around the UK and getting everyone together and supporting a great cause? I have that ability to connect very quickly because of my honesty and my authenticity. That’s good for any brand associated with me.”
“One of the things is about inspiring and showing people the legacy,” said Kiko. “You want it to continue. The idea is to prove anything is possible.”
Meaningful partnerships based on shared values
The right platform means sport can transmit values through sport to reach the very top of global affairs. Introducing Stacey Copeland, former professional footballer turned boxer who in August this year became the first British woman to win the Commonwealth boxing title. Just 24 hours later she was back to her reality of working in schools. The following week she spoke at the United Nations’ European headquarters in front of delegates and major representatives. It was just one of 86 speaking events Copeland has done this year.
“Back in Easter 2018 I did a talk at the European Parliament,” Stacey told caytoo. “Someone was there from Sieger, the Sports Integrity Alliance, and they approached me to speak at another UN event.”
Stacey talked about her experience as a woman in sport and its power to inspire and transform lives. Be it simply to increase health and wellbeing, promoting a good cause, connecting with communities or addressing wider issues within society.
“Whether it’s homophobia, racism, people with disabilities or LGBT,” said Stacey. “If you’ve got a platform to speak then it’s even more important because you can hopefully be the voice for people who don’t have one.”
A legacy through charity
Top GB ultra-runner, Tom Evans uses his success to promote a cause close to his heart, holding the values of performance and integrity in high regard when partnering with potential sponsors. The former Army Captain is an ambassador for the military charity, Walking with the Wounded. He finishes every event with a salute. Having run the 2017 Marathon Des Sables with fellow WWTW ambassador, Duncan Slater, the first ever double amputee to complete the race, Tom knew he could do more for the charity.
“I really buy into the work they do. They show that no matter how difficult life may seem at the moment, it’s still possible to conquer an amazing challenge in the face of adversity,” he told caytoo. Evans carried those values into winning the notorious 100km CCC event during the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc.
Inspiring public speakers
People engage with a good story and that’s sometimes the most powerful thing about utilising athletes as speakers. Online mortgage brokers, Habito, saw the shared affinity between their company’s core value of ‘100% backbone’, Tom Evans’ endurance and Stacey Copeland’s success, as a way for their employees to discover something interesting.
“There is an alignment and a relatability with athletes,” Habito told caytoo. “We are a high performing disruptive business and our goal is to beat everyone else.
“People like Stacey Copeland and Tom Evans, they’re not footballers on huge salaries. They work so hard for something they are passionate about. There’s a lot of credibility in that and a lot of transfer-ability to business.”
Athletes inspire all ages
This message of perseverance and unlocking potential is one which resonates with all ages, including the consumers of tomorrow. For some athletes, inspiring others at all levels is a contributing driving factor towards completing the challenge in the first place.
In 2017, Mollie Hughes became the youngest woman to summit Mount Everest from both its north and south sides. She spoke to 2,000 children at a TEDX Conference about resilience – the thing to which she attributes her success.
“Public speaking came about for me as kind of a snowball effect. After completing my first trip, I was invited to talk at some local groups and schools. Since then, I’ve grown into doing more corporate things.
“Part of the reason that I do these things is to push my boundaries. However, mainly it’s to inspire other people to do it as well. To make people realise that challenges may look huge, but i’m a pretty normal person. I just wanted to do it and made it happen. Other people can do that too, whatever challenges they face. You can tell the same motivational message to 16 and 17 year-olds as to the Women’s Institute. People get the same thing from the story.”
Boost your brand with elite athletes
Aligning with an athlete’s story and achievements is a creative way to add depth to your brand message and connect with consumers at a level previously difficult to achieve. At a practical level, the concept is simple: you add a face to a product to connect with new followers, bridging the gap between your brand and consumers.
Suddenly you can reach new geographies, drive excitement and start discussions as a brand among new audiences. Not only them but within your own team. Bringing an ambassador in can align them with your team at a personal level. This creates a shared base from which a team can feel involved, inspired and enamoured by the view of a wider picture. With an athlete ambassador and speaker, you really can boost your brand’s impact from the inside out.
To help marketers, we’ve put together a package using our platform of inspiring athletes to find the ideal ambassador to champion your business. For a free consultation just call me on 020 3176 8135 or drop me a line.
Mark is a co-founder of caytoo. He is a former Director of IPG’s Universal McCann where he managed advertising and sponsorship programmes for some of the world’s biggest brands including Coca-Cola GB, Mastercard, Bacardi – Martini and XBox.