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Industries investing in solo-sport athletes

By Vasilia Polycarpou, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy, Nicosia, Cyprus    

With athletes trying to make the most out of a relatively short-lived career in professional sports, they need to take advantage of how they engage with their fan base in order to build a strong connection through online social media platforms. Athletes of individual sports, which are favored by the general public, can be considered as a safe bet for industries looking to invest in athletes.  

The sports industry can be considered as a significantly profitable one, with billions of dollars generated every year.

Industries investing in athletes of individual sports will often search for stable and predictable ways to generate returns on their investments. These industries will, therefore, search for solo-sport athletes to invest in that possess and promote the values and image they feel aligns with their own. Athletes wishing to stand out from the crowd and attract potential investors should be aware of the dominant sports advertising trends, as well as the types of industries that commonly invest in solo-sport athletes.

With a wide range of industries investing in solo-sport athletes, we will start off with an industry that is constantly evolving and may have been overlooked in the past. The healthcare industry. This has mainly invested in athletes promoting pharmaceutical products, in the past, like nutritional supplements, with an example being Swedish professional golfer, Joakim Lagergren, promoting vitamin supplements.

Recently, we have seen a shift and great focus on mental health. Athletes from around the world have opened up and shared their stories about their mental health struggles to raise awareness and reduce social stigma: from gymnast Simone Biles to Naomi Osaka; with solo-sport athletes more commonly suffering with their mental wellbeing, as supported by studies.

A well-known example of a company partnering with an athlete, aiming to promote mental health awareness, is that of Modern Health. This is a mental health platform, which aims to increase accessibility of mental health services for everyone. They have partnered with Naomi Osaka, who has become a symbol of mental health awareness in the world of sports driving social change.

Industries in the world of fashion, with a focus on luxury products, from high-end fashion houses to luxury jewelry and watches have been traditionally choosing successful professional athletes to wear and promote their brands, so that their names could be associated with those of champions.

A success story is that of luxury Italian brand Golden Goose, which has teamed up with U.S. Skater Cory Juneau to create skate footwear, which instantly became iconic for the brand; combining Juneau’s skating ambitions with the brand’s authentic design.

Luxury watchmakers have also been driving their sales by sponsoring great athletes, aiming to associate their watches with iconic athletes, including tennis legend, Roger Federer, and golf champion, Tiger Woods, for Rolex, as well as Rafael Nadal for Richard Mille.

Furthermore, probably the most popular industry investing in athletes is that of sportswear, sponsoring countless athletes worldwide over the years, including Tiger Woods and Roger Federer, for Nike, amongst many others.

Additionally, the automotive industry is commonly associated with solo-sport athlete brand ambassadors and sponsorships. Tennis superstar, Maria Sharapova, had partnered with Porche, the German automobile manufacturer; whilst Serena Williams was appointed as brand ambassador of Lincoln Motors of the Ford Motor Company in 2018.

Moreover, Rafael Nadal built a great relationship with South Korean automobile manufacturer, Kia Motors, when he was appointed as their global brand ambassador. Once the general public associates an athlete with a particular car brand, that is synonymous with credibility and can, therefore, boost sales.

Watching your favorite sport is closely associated with enjoying your favorite drink; therefore, this creates an opportunity for the beverage industry to launch their marketing campaigns, by investing in athletes of individual sports.

Red Bull energy drink has sponsored a multi-discipline athlete roster in 2021, with 125 sponsored athletes across 18 disciplines and from 49 countries; including, amongst many others, Austrian professional tennis player, Dominic Thiem, and triathlete, Richard Murray, aiming to create a connection between their energy drink and endurance. It is also worth mentioning that Monster energy drink is being endorsed by F1 legend, Lewis Hamilton, and professional rally driver, Ken Block.

With the number of industries seeking to invest in solo-sport athletes constantly increasing, athletes need to focus their efforts in a more targeted manner to take advantage of these marketing opportunities, not only increasing their visibility but also creating additional income sources.

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