Beyond Sports! by Hans Rey

It’s obvious that if you want to become a professional athlete then you have to be good in your sport. I would like to talk to you a bit about the other side- the business side of sport. Because once you turn pro, you also become a businessperson. This doesn’t mean that you need to get a suit and tie! But, it will be to your benefit to understand why a particular company sponsors you and what you can do to keep that sponsor happy.

The bottom line is that it is a business. And in business, everybody wants something in return. Pro sports is not like local Little League where some rich daddy supports the neighborhood team out of goodwill. When you make it to the top in sports, the sponsors usually have several motives why they re interested in supporting a particular sport or athlete. It could be because they want to establish a relationship and an affiliation between their product and your sport and maybe even your particular image and name.

For example, a company like SWATCH might expect recognition from young skateboaders because of their sponsorship of Andy MacDonald. In addition, once you become a famous athlete your fans want to be just like you, so they might buy the same watch their idol is wearing.

However, most important for most sponsors is to get their name, logo and image in front of as many people as possible. If you win a big competition you might get your picture in the magazines, on TV, on Videos, and on web-sites. If you are a successful athlete, you can reach millions of people all over the world and that is where the biggest value is.

Many sponsors want you to wear their logos on your shirt or helmet and expect proper representation of their products. Other sponsors might be more interested in using an athletes’ name and image in their marketing campaigns (for print ads, catalogs, etc.). And there are also invitations to appear live and give a performance or clinic to show off your outstanding skills. Not every athlete needs to compete. There are pro athletes who are featured in videos and magazines as a tribute to the special (stunt) projects or world records they have achieved.

It’s one thing to get sponsored. It’s another thing to stay sponsored. Some athletes expect too much from their sponsors. They not only want to get paid but they also want to be treated like superstars. They act immature or unprofessional. Sponsors are extremely busy people.

Don’t expect your sponsor to know everything you have achieved. It’s a wise business move for you to keep your sponsor informed of all of your activities. Keep an archive that includes all press clippings, photos, videos and other media related information focusing on your career. Send him your schedule and let them know of your results. Be sure to present your sponsor with any hard copy material, too. That’s all part of being an athlete/businessperson.

You might say that you don’t care about being a businessperson and that you just want to do your sport. In that case, you can hire a manager to do all that for you. But you still need to be professional and responsible. The bad boy image only works for one out of a thousand, if even, and usually does not last very long.

And remember, you must speak positive about your sponsor. Nobody wants you to lie. If you can’t stand behind your sponsor or what they are offering you… then move on. You have got to be tuff enough to turn down a deal ahead of time, if you know it is not going to work for you.

Good Luck – Go for it!
Hans Rey