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.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSMM.2012.045492

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 *

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