What brands are really looking for

Chris Paget is a Partner at Sheridans, a media law firm, who specialises in the sport and entertainment industries with an extensive background in sport. Following a stint as a professional cricketer in England, he has worked for Sheridans for seven years and his current client list includes both top tier and emerging athletes.

  • Chris works with athletes across all of their commercial and contractual activities, central to which is helping them create, protect and exploit their personal brand to its full potential.
  • Athletes have to be aware of what brands are looking for, how they want to communicate their message and how that fits with your brand.
  • Most importantly, be true to who you are as a person, as authenticity tends to attract the best partners for you.

The majority of my work is representing the interests of sportsmen, sportswomen and entertainment professionals across all of their commercial business and contractual affairs. Holistically, my job involves helping my clients create, protect and then exploit intellectual property rights. In the case of athletes, this is primarily concerned with their image rights, or personal brand.

What brands want

Sportspeople have a platform and they can assist in the storytelling that brands need – it’s not necessarily about being a role model but about aligning with a brand’s value (and vice versa).

Increasingly, potential sponsors are looking for authenticity. They’re looking to find genuine parallels between their campaign or message and the athlete, and to plug into that athlete’s network, interests and followers to try to increase their brand awareness. In a way, the athlete becomes a conduit for the brand’s messaging.

Our clients, the ones who are most successful in terms of creating and exploiting their personal brands, are the ones that are true to their beliefs and values. They say or stand for interesting and relevant things and are therefore able to reach out to as many like-minded people as possible.

The long game

There’s no quick fix or a one-stop shop way to create your personal brand overnight. Small, incremental, consistent processes lead to that. There are of course things you can do to help amplify your brand such as strategic partnerships, collaborations and initiatives. Athletes should also consider the platforms that they use to help raise their profile and deliver their message.

It’s about planning. It’s about working out what it is that you stand for, what is important to you, why it’s important and then messaging that. The most memorable and distinctive brand partnerships tend to be ones that resonate with a wide audience and one of the purposes of athlete/brand tie-ups is for the brand to use you to resonate with their, and your, audience.

Red flags

There are a number of things that you as an athlete should be aware of when developing your personal brand and thereafter entering into brand partnerships or sponsorships.

In relation to your brand, rightly or wrongly, your private life and your personal life are intertwined and it’s important that you bear this in mind. It’s not uncommon, for example, for athletes to structure their lives and affairs to take account of this. For example, a lot of athletes will have public facing social media accounts and separate private accounts to engage with their friends and family to keep this separation.

Looking at the actual relationship with brands, it is important to be aware of exactly what it is you’re signing up to. For example: how long the deal lasts for; if it prohibits you from other partnerships; what rights you grant to the brand; your payment; and the contractual warranties you are giving to the brand.

Brand deals are, and will continue to be, important aspects of an athlete’s commercial activities and so it is important that athletes are properly advised before entering into agreements. However, they should be seen as a more than a revenue stream. Brand partnerships can assist in the development of your personal brand and so careful thought should be given about which ones you enter into and how you structure them.

Do you want to hear more about how to approach and develop relationships with brands? Take a look at the Athlete365 Personal Brand toolkit here.