Athletes and Brands: More Than Just a Game

Cheerful large group of sport fans with raised hands cheering at a stadium. 


This week’s inspiration comes from the sporting industry. A lot has happened over the past few weeks: If you’re an NFL fan you know that Peyton Manning has retired as the G.O.A.T in almost every major category for a quarterback, if you’re a tennis fan you know that Maria Sharapova dropped a bomb on the media, and if you’re an Under Armour fan you know that they’ve been releasing some prettttty intense commercials.

So this week, even if you’re not a sports fan, this is your chance to dive deep (pun totally intended) into a few topics surrounding new ways to watch media, sponsorship woes, and the glory of hard work paying off.

Facebook Live Videos of Peyton Manning’s Retirement Reach 2.2 MillionSocial Times

Now, while Peyton Manning retiring is a big deal, the bigger thing here is the means in which it was broadcast. As one spokesperson from Facebook mentioned recently:

We’re investing in live video, as we think it’s a great fit for our platform — more and more people are choosing to watch and share live video on Facebook because it is personal, real-time and authentic.”

So, this begs the question, will live streaming from a social platform really create deeper customer intimacy?

Maria Sharapova And The Brand DilemmaFast Company

Being an athlete is hard work especially when you have multi-million and multi-billion dollar companies investing in you as a spokesperson or figurehead. And, as this article perfectly states:

“…one of the first questions after a pro athlete is involved in any sort of controversy [is] — how will their brands react?”

In the case of Maria Sharapova, she was dropped by her three biggest sponsors in under 25 hours: Nike, Tag Heuer, and Porsche. But my biggest question is not about the companies that dropped her but about how the consumer views her (and those brands) following her live admission. Does owning up to taking a banned substance (which she had been taking for ten years, and was only banned within the last three months) really change a consumer’s perception of the athlete or the brand?

See The Stunning Dark Side of Michael Phelps In This New Under Armour AdFast Company

Michael Phelps has had his stint of contract woes due to his involvement in illegal activity. However, the new “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light” campaign by Under Armour, featuring Phelps, doesn’t focus on that it focuses on the grit and hard work it takes to be one of the world’s greatest Olympic athletes. As Phelps says himself, “this commercial shows a lot of amazing things about me that the world probably has never seen,” which makes me wonder: if consumers paid as much attention to the sacrifices an athlete makes vs. how they appear in public, would their views be different? Let’s see if this commercial can give us that answer.


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