Breaking Down Two Star Athlete Brands
An athlete’s brand is made up of the unique combination of four key elements, athletic ability, career success, appearance and personality. It takes time and strategy to build a recognisable athlete brand, two of the most important elements is to have consistency and clear pillars which represent your brand.
In this week’s blog we look at two superstar athlete brands and break down their brand pillars and how they’ve used these to grow their personal brands to secure opportunities and incomes outside of their sport.
By having a clear strategy, and using their brand, an athlete has the opportunity to develop commercial interests in whatever they are interested in, to secure additional income opportunities and develop post-career employment or business interests.
Serena Williams and Lewis Hamilton are two of the most recognisable athletes in the world, it is clear what they are building with their brands and how they are using their platform as professional athletes to maximise the opportunities available to them.
There is no denying Serena’s dominance in tennis and sport as a whole, she is one of, if not the most recognisable female athlete in the world. Her brand has now become so strong that she is probably more recognised for being Serena Williams then being arguably the best tennis player of all time. She has won 23 Grand Slam single titles, this is more than Roger Federer, including winning one whilst pregnant.
There are three clear brand pillars to the Serena brand, these are tennis, family and fashion. In the beginning of her career it was very much the “Williams Sisters” which made Serena and Venus unique and recognisable to tennis and sports fans. After many years Serena has well and truly shed the “sisters” branding and is now a household name on her own merit. Now with the birth of her own daughter she has created a new “family” brand, showcasing the life of a successful working mum in a loving relationship with her devoted husband. It’s a powerful message she is sending to every mother across the globe, engaging audiences outside of tennis and sports.
Fashion has always been an important part of Serena’s brand and she’s never shied away from wearing extravagant outfits on the court. Before she was the Tennis superstar she is now, her colourful outfits raised a lot of controversy with other players and the tennis administration who found it offensive. Such opinions don’t carry much weight anymore considering the power that the Serena brand holds, and the flow on revenues that other athletes and tennis has made off of exposure and engagement she has personally brought to women's tennis. Her controversial, exciting and powerful outfits on the court are a chance for her to make a statement and she has implemented this strategy in most of her clothing endorsement deals. Her interest in fashion has expanded past endorsement deals now with her own fashion brand ‘Serena’.
Additionally Serena has dabbled in acting with appearances for Law and Order and ER in her early 20s. More recently she has been involved in movies, such as Pixels and 7 Days in Hell. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Serena continue to position herself in the film industry and pursue this pathway more when she retires from tennis.
5x Formula 1 Race Car Champion, Lewis Hamilton has also built himself as a powerful figure in sports, not just on his freakish racing ability. He has established a powerhouse personal brand, which has made him the most recognisable race car driver of all time. We haven't seen a race car driver successfully grow a personal brand as big as Lewis’s and separate themselves from the sport in the way he has. He has refused to be ‘just a race car driver’ and positioned himself as a fashion icon and international celebrity. Formula One Group CEO Bernie Ecclestone put it quite simply, “Lewis wants to be famous”. Lewis has three clear brand pillars, racing, fashion, and to be famous.
Lewis has used his Formula One platform to connect with musicians, actors and celebrities to grow his brand and the opportunities available to him. These cross-connections assists in exposing him to whole new audiences, and positioning him as a celebrity. In doing this, we have seen Lewis attend a growing amount of red carpet events, fashion shows and feature on the cover of magazines. Whether he is on the Monaco Grand Prix podium with Justin Bieber or creating funny content with Will Smith, he has taken advantage of the networks around him and opportunities he has to branch out of his sport.
Lewis has developed his own personal logo for brand recognition and to sell his own merchandise, he has also partnered with fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger to release a co-branded line of men’s clothing, including shirts to shoes. He is now a regular at all of the exclusive fashion events and front row at many fashion shows.
To keep fans and followers constantly engaged in his escapades, and allow them to follow his celebrity life, he has created the #TeamLH hashtag, which has over 200,000 posts.
Another element of Lewis’s brand is his passion to give back. He is not shy from promoting his recent switch to living a plant-based diet and has been a strong supporter of animal welfare organisations, additionally he works with UNICEF, amFAR and many other charities across the globe that are assisting children, global poverty and disease.
By creating and being consistent with your brand pillars, an athlete can create a recognisable brand which represents more than just your athletic ability. It can also be used to attract the brands, companies that you want to work with and allow you to develop business interests in the industries you are passionate about.
At Agency X we aim to assist more Australian Athletes to consider the opportunities they can create for their long-term future through a strong personal brand and consistent strategy.