Title: From laconophilia to 'The Sportan': balancing athletic excellence, sponsorship, branding and career prospects
Authors: Jonathan A.J. Wilson; Jonathan Liu
Addresses: Business School, University of Greenwich, Maritime Campus, Old Royal Naval College, London SE10 9LS, UK. ' Regent's College London, Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London NW1 4NS, UK
Abstract: This conceptual paper presents a phenomenon, which considers how professionalism encourages athletes to associate image with performance. A by-product of this observes that athletes consider alternative careers, spearheaded by their sponsorship activities. A general assumption exists, that if offered sponsorship, athletes and agents will invariably accept. However, a pilot study conducted with elite athletes, agents, marketers and sports video games manufacturers, using the Socratic elenchus method, reveals that calculating the necessary resources for sponsorship and athlete brand-building activities still remains somewhat of a black box. Furthermore, as personal brand equity is crucial to elite athletes, this paper defines brand-conscious athletes as Sportans. Finally, the authors propose a Rubicon be drawn, in order to preserve athletes' accrued brand equity whereby Sportans consider retirement and movement into a new career, based upon their commercial successes, rather than sporting excellence. A focus has been given to mixed martial arts (MMA) and ultimate fighting championships (UFC) fighters due to the higher levels of risk and minimisation strategies observed, which mitigate sporting failure.
Keywords: sports sponsorship; sports branding; sport marketing; elite athletes; sports personalities; branded individuals; brand extensions; brand life cycle; brand equity; athletic excellence; career prospects; professionalism; personal image; performance; commercial success; sporting excellence; mixed martial arts; ultimate fighting championships; alternative careers; risk; sporting failure.
International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 2012 Vol.11 No.1/2, pp.125 - 142
Received: 19 Apr 2011
Accepted: 21 Nov 2011
Published online: 19 Feb 2012 *