We all know that athletes are big business, but it is unfathomable to many to know just how much they impact the bottom line. The simple answer is that once an athlete begins to endorse a product, fans around the globe take notice. This is a clever marketing campaign that has long since been introduced as a way of insisting that an endorser use or wear the product, visibly, nearly everywhere that they go, and exclusively. We see Federer driving to Grand Slams in a Mercedes, for example, and Lebron insists that he actually drives a Kia (side eye emoji). This type of celebrity prowess behind a brand is simply good for business.
That is fine and good for those fans that are lucky enough to see their favorite athletes in person, but what about those that never make it to the tennis or basketball court? This has always been a perceived limitation of celebrity and athlete endorsements, but that is quickly being answered with the continuing advance of social media and its many possibilities. Instagram has quickly emerged as one of the most lucrative ways of accomplishing this, as athletes who endorse various products are now videoing themselves on a regular basis for millions of fans worldwide to see instantly. This is translating to even more perceived bang for the buck from advertising dollars.
Having an athlete endorse a product can build almost instant brand awareness. In fact, when an athlete is seen over and over on Instagram wearing or using a product, that product and the athlete become one and the same in the eyes of the consumer. This is why companies the world over work so hard to match a particular athlete with their product. Maria Sharapova was viewed as the perfect spokeswoman for Canon, before her recent doping issues, while Federer has long since been synonymous with Rolex. Tennis fans that want a watch are liable to consider all of those videos and pictures they have seen of Federer winning US Open Titles and such while wearing the luxury watch and desire one of their own.
Product Features Validated
Social media has enabled companies to validate their product via the athletes that endorse them. Athletes who have strong and vibrant hair, for example, can show that off with the shampoo that they endorse and use on a regular basis. This has proven equally powerful with the recent addition of Steph Curry to the Muscle Milk family. Viewed as a nutritional drink, consumers view the messages conveyed by Curry on social media in a seemingly organic and natural way, that his beverage of choice contributes to his physique. Again, this is something that was not always noticeable before social media brought off the court athlete brands closer to consumers on a consistent basis.
Profit is the ultimate motivator behind athlete endorsements. Companies would not pay record amounts to athletes if they were not getting real returns on their investment. The possibilities afforded by social media are only likely to drive the price of such a contract up in the coming years, and many companies will be willing to pay because of the exposure it brings. One endorsement is no longer limited to the thousands of fans in attendance at any given event, or the specifically targeted and easily quantifiable audience a TV or radio commercial can provide. The audience is now truly global, and it continues during the offseason and away from game day activities. Athletes who are able to use social media to their advantage will command more from the companies that they endorse, and there seems to be a perfectly justifiable business reason for this.