Get Sponsored: How to Build a Brand as an Athlete

If you are an athlete, you are your own brand – and social media is your main asset.

If you are an athlete, you are your own brand. Actually, according to entrepreneur and public speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, everyone who owns a Facebook or Twitter account represents his or her own brand. These days if you are seeking a new sponsorship, your prospective sponsor will type your name into Google to learn about you before even looking at your resume. Everything you say on social media, blogs, and all your interviews will be analyzed to determine whether you get the sponsorship.

Everything you post on social media either adds value to your brand or detracts from it. This is why it is important to think twice before posting. Anything stupid you say can decrease the value and the credibility of your brand.

Here are some smart ways to use social media to build your brand well, and hopefully lead to a sponsorship.

Customizing for Social Media Platforms

Gary Vaynerchuk emphasizes the context of each social media outlet (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others) and believes too many people use social media as a way to simply distribute content. Instead of using social media to attract people to your blog or website, post different content on each platform that is interesting and shareable.

For instance, on Twitter, instead of simply copy and pasting the link to your new YouTube video, include a quote from your video. On Facebook, instead of posting the video, make a graphic with all the important information from the video. People are much more likely to retweet an interesting quote than a link to a YouTube video.

There is so much content on social media that people don’t take time to click on a YouTube link on Twitter or read a long piece of text on Facebook. Most people scroll quickly through the feed on mobile devices. If you don’t create interesting, catchy, shareable content, you’ll just be one more wave in the social media sea. Furthermore, posting the same picture or quote in all your social media can be repetitive and counterproductive.

It is important to be active on as many social media platforms as possible. Learn to follow the trends and be active in the social media platform that is most important at the moment. Facebook was popular a few years ago, but now other platforms like Snapchat and Vine are taking over.

Devote the most time to the social media platform that fits your brand and your sport the best. For instance, if you are a freestyle skier, upload plenty of YouTube videos. People will want to see your jumps and tricks in action and are likely to share the videos. If you are a good photographer and travel often for competitions and training camps, put more emphasis on Instagram.

Create Your Signature Move

Think about using a hashtag that represents your brand that you can use for every post. Consider it your signature move. In real life, an athlete might perform a unique movement after every race or competition. Olympic champion Mo Farah makes an “M” with his arms over his head after each race, and it has become his signature move. Usain Bolt points to the sky with both his arms like a lightning bolt. A hashtag ties into the bigger question of what differentiates you from other athletes. Why should a brand sponsor you instead of someone else?

“Start promoting a brand even if the company doesn’t sponsor you. If the brand notices you talking about them on social media and in interviews, they will contact you instead of you having to contact them.”

There are many ways to stand out from the crowd. For instance, ultra-runner Anton Krupicka lives a minimalist life and often sleeps in his car so he can train wherever he wants. He has a long beard, almost always runs without a shirt, and never brings a water bottle, food, or any gear – even for three-hour run workouts. His identity and brand is so well established that even though he hasn’t been racing (or winning) for many months due to injuries, he still attracts a lot of media and public attention. This is a sponsor’s dream.

The Benefit of Free Content

Gary Vaynerchuk believes in the Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook way of marketing. In fact, it’s the name of his last book. He uses a boxing metaphor to explain that people should give, give, give (jab) to their audience in order to then ask (hook) and get something back from them.

This might look like uploading a library of free training videos on YouTube before asking your fan base to buy your book. The more free content you give your fans, the more you can ask them to give back. And you don’t necessarily have to have something to sell. Your “hook” could be asking your fans to subscribe to your channel and share your social media posts so you can continue to grow your brand.

This principle also applies to athletes who want to find a new sponsor. Start promoting a brand even if the company doesn’t sponsor you. If the brand notices you talking about them on social media and in interviews, they will contact you instead of you having to contact them. You have better chances of landing a good contract if the company contacts you instead of the other way around.

Good luck, and let me know how you get on!

You’ll also enjoy:

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.