Image rights and sporting talent

Endorsements, commercialisation and merchandise have long been an important component of the income stream of athletes and sports players. The evolution and growth of social media has meant this is an increasingly important channel of revenue.

Talent (as I refer to athletes, players and other talented individuals) tend to focus on their primary role as a sportsperson or performer.  An incidental benefit that may result from this focus is the publicity and fan support received when they perform well. As individuals become increasingly sophisticated in shaping and commercialising their image to help propel their income from endorsements and sponsorships, this can in turn help finance training and equipment that drives better performances.

Simply put, the smart use of social media will give talent an edge. It allows them to develop their online brand, to share parts of their daily life such as training, community and charity initiatives they support and, if they choose, the promotion of products and services. To be successful and maintain the interest of the increasingly commercially savvy masses, it is a question of striking a fine balance between personal integrity and promotional expression.

Social media platforms offer talent an opportunity to build their personal brand and showcase particular attributes, but they must be vigilant about their digital footprint. Each photo shared, each comment posted, each opinion given helps to illustrate the attributes of the individual and might be perceived positively or negatively.

The best talent grow their brand by bridging virtual and physical worlds. One impressive example is Shaquille O’Neal who has in excess of 3 million Twitter followers. O’Neal has digital integration and social media strategies that can be deployed by corporations for endorsing their products and services. The key to O’Neal’s – and others – success is in generating and converting traffic, encouraging online fans to support individuals and brands, to start conversations and ultimately, to  generate sales.

Today’s talent understand their social media brand can live longer than their performing career. As such, it is important for them to manage their social media presence carefully and, just as importantly, to remember that their social media persona may be (but is not always) controlled by the code to which they belong. It varies from code to code, sport to sport and it is very important for each individual to know what their position is.