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Athletes below superstar status are marketing gems

by michelle
Published: Updated:

Recap: This article discusses the underutilized strategy of brands partnering with lower profile athletes for marketing. Since social media now makes it easier than ever for fans to get access to first-person athlete content, athletes in niche sports have an opportunity to build out their personal brand and in turn, their following. “Today’s Gen Z fans want to know that their favorite athletes care about the things that they care about and to use those athletes as role models in a new way — as entrepreneurs, activists, or influencers in their own right. While superstars have paved the way in many regards, they require a different level of financial compensation and may not be able to give the same level of commitment,” the article states.

Observations: Athletes from all sports will have an opportunity to monetize their NIL once NCAA changes go into effect. However, development of a personal brand does take time, effort, and strategy.

Athlete Tips & Takeaways: 

  • Take a look at your social accounts. What is your audience like? What types of brands do you think have the same audience as you?
  • What steps can you take today to build your personal brand? Can you post more content? Engage with your followers?


My formative years as an entrepreneur were spent in the music industry, a field that has been forced to evolve more rapidly over time than almost any other, due to the changes in technology and consumer behavior. Some of the trends we’re just now seeing in sports — such as digital memorabilia, enhanced fan experiences in arenas and stadiums, and creator-driven content companies — were all in play during my time in music, in which I was an artist manager and which lasted until 2013. Still, even as the music industry has evolved, there is one consistent factor that I feel has many parallels that can be leveraged in sports.

Every major label has its global stars who sell out every tour and hit No. 1 with every album release, just as every sport has global stars who transcend athletic competition. The biggest opportunities for brands may always lie with these stars: Once they’ve reached the top, they become infinitely valuable, reaching the widest possible audiences while also becoming unattainable to fans.  

But in music, what keeps the lights on aside from those superstars are career artists — the musicians who can pack small or medium-sized venues consistently over time with reliable fan bases who will support merchandise sales in addition to ticket and record sales. These artists are the mainstays of every music genre, and at times, they’re the ones who have major creative influence on those A-list stars and, in turn, the fans.


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