Managing the Image Rights for Young Athletes

Just as children are educated at school to manage their social media interactions, young athletes should be conscious of the way they use social media. There are certainly benefits to using social media as we have discussed in a previous post, but precaution should also be taken.

From a personal perspective, caution should be used to ensure the personal brand is protected. By and large they need to demonstrate the kind of values they would like to be known for – such as transparency; honesty; respect and tolerance for others, for example.

From a professional standpoint, young athletes need to make sure they don’t put themselves in a position where they prejudice future contracts by projecting the wrong image. In general, the kind of behaviours that guide a young athlete in the real world should likewise guide them on social media.

In both cases, it is imperative to remember that nothing is private and that the young athlete can’t indulge in inappropriate discussions or behaviour whilst online. As the law still applies in the online space, all of the typical regulations should be observed – postings must ensure that they do not defame or discriminate, that they do not breach copyright and trademark law and that they avoid bullying and harassment.

Dumb social media antics are like any dumb antics – there will be consequences and these may be contractual. It is also worth remembering that with the speed that incidences spread on social media, reputation damage can be hard to manage and control.

Can someone stop young talent from commercialising their personal Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or personal website? 

The important thing to always remember when it comes to young talent and social media is that any pre-existing contractual or club commitment must be observed. For instance, an athlete may give up the right to communicate with fans directly online as a part of their membership of a particular club or other body.  Because an athlete can physically open social media accounts and interact with the public does not necessarily entitle him to do so.

The key for the young athlete is to be aware of their rights and not to sign to contracts which relinquish rights such as image and digital presence without receiving both expert advice and, where necessary, appropriate compensation.

Ideally, in talent management arrangements these rights would be dealt with separately and a strategy developed to enhance the individual’s social media presence – for the period of their professional career, but also to set them up for future success post-performance.