Tell your story

Lauryn Williams, the four-time Olympian, financial planner and author, shares expert advice on how to monetise your athlete brand and negotiate contracts.

  • Lauryn Williams competed in four Olympic Games, and is passionate about empowering other athletes to understand their worth.
  • Here, she offers simple steps to improve your personal brand and ultimately secure monetary opportunities.
  • You can learn more about monetising your athlete brand by using the Athlete365 Personal Brand Toolkit.

In starting the process of becoming a professional athlete you have to consider the message you want to send to the world. People will be looking to you for entertainment and, naturally, they’ll be looking into your life.

Once you recognise that, it’s about diving into the ways that you can best tell your story, and getting to work on building a strong brand that will eventually result in monetary opportunities.

As an Olympic athlete, there’s no one person or company that you’re an employee of – in other words, you are the business. So get ahead of the game by thinking of ways that you can sell yourself, and how you want the world to see you, as soon as possible. To help you get started, here are my top tips…

Start by making a list of the products you know and love, because these automatically match with your personal brand

Getting started

There are two key areas in improving your marketing as an athlete: understanding and learning how you can tell your story in the most authentic way, and assembling a list of the companies you want to target based on how well they fit your own value system.

Consider what it is you actually enjoy. Start by making a list of the products you know and love, because these automatically match with your personal brand. They’re already something you use, whether they sponsor you or not.

Using your time wisely

This all starts with building good habits. You should try to spend a consistent amount of time on the administrative side of being a professional athlete, and look to plan this part of your schedule in advance.

Posting on social media; taking care of your finances; meeting with your agent and members of your entourage; setting up meets, performances and speaking engagements – these are all integral aspects of running a business, and you need to make time for them. Ask yourself if you are truly putting in the necessary hours to be great at what you’re doing.

Assembling a trustworthy entourage

The full package is crucial. In picking the team around you, it’s important to be very, very diligent about asking the right questions to fully determine if they’re going to be a good fit. You’ll need at least one or two people you can truly trust when you need extra support, particularly in areas you have little experience in. Getting this wrong could damage your brand and overall image. It’s not worth the risk.

When I was competing, I saw this as simply another challenge – and you should too. I saw it as an opportunity to test myself, so before I said yes or no to someone interested in joining my team, I would take a break, do a little research and bring some more questions to the table.

Taking care on social media

Social media is a huge platform for you to make yourself known and heard, but we often invest much of our time enviously looking at what others are doing or have, and sometimes post things we later regret.

Try to devote a few minutes every day in selecting what you believe would be authentic to post, and what you could share that will allow you to really engage with your audience. It always goes back to understanding who you are as a person. Focus your efforts on trying to tell people the full story and the full scope of who you are.

Take the time to think about your values, the life you want to create for yourself, and be mindful in what you’re posting, especially so if you’re having a bad day. It’s okay to share your difficulties, but consider how you can turn your emotions around to inspire others. Use social media not only to influence your followers but also to set an example.

Click here for communications expert Karim Bashir’s advice on managing your social media.

Securing a sponsorship deal – and keeping it

You’ll know that in sports there are no guarantees. A sponsor might say they believe in you, but they’re ultimately expecting a return on their investment. They don’t want to associate themselves with someone who’s not going to help grow their brand.

Avoid falling into the mistake of seeing a sponsorship deal as simply a pay cheque. As they’re hoping to get a return on their investment, you’ll need to be responsible with the funds you’re given to make sure you’re taking care of what needs to be done to ensure you perform well. In doing this, you’re also building a strong business relationship that could flourish for a long period of time. It’s about continuing to express your value, and forming an authentic commitment to the sponsor.

To add to this, it’s also hugely important that you don’t take the first deal that comes your way. Be patient and be sensible. If one sponsor is expressing interest, even if it’s a brand you’ve admired since childhood, it’s likely there’s a competitor keen to come in too. See what else is out there before you come to a decision. And take the time to consider your market value; don’t allow someone else to tell you what you’re worth.

Negotiating with confidence

Negotiating contracts can be intimidating to begin with. But you don’t need a law degree to be able to read and understand the finer details of what you’re being offered. You don’t want to leave yourself susceptible to losing a sponsorship deal by not fully understanding your obligations. For example, it’s key that you know the length of any deal, and what could result in it coming to an abrupt, unexpected end.

But don’t forget, you’ve been invited into the room for a reason. You have a place on the table, even if you initially feel intimidated. As an athlete, there are many situations you’re going to put yourself in that you’ve never experienced before – and this is yet another opportunity to rise to the occasion. Show up in that room prepared but also with the confidence that you belong there. Let yourself shine.

You can learn even more about the topics covered by Lauryn by using the Athlete365 Personal Brand Toolkit.