NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 4 – Can sportspersons still earn from their status as champion even long after their active days are gone?
That is the question that most are left with in a fast-changing world, spurn around by the ever-evolving social media and the urge for brands to use sociable figures to sell their products using means other than the traditional advertising on radio, television and print.
The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) in another of its webinar series on Thursday night tackled this sticky and un-ignorable issue as they sought to find ways in which athletes can turn their status as champions into stars, and eventually brands to secure their futures financially.
Moderated by Citizen TV Sports Editor Mike Okinyi, the panel that included IMG Chief Executive Peter Gacheru, Kenya Sevens star Collins Injera and 2014 Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion Mercy Cherono delved on the issue, with awareness raised for fellow athletes that it is time to look at themselves beyond their active years.
“We have big champions, but remove them from the field and you will find that people will not buy something because they said,” posed Gacheru as he explained how athletes fade into oblivion once their days competing end.
Most athletes have seen their popularity collapse after their careers hit the sunset days and a huge number are forgotten quicker than they rose to fame.
Most do not leverage on the popularity they gained during their active days to ensure they continue earning from their yester year victories even when they long remain distant memories.
Currently, very few athletes have gained marketing value away from the sport with the most notable being Marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge who is the Isuzu Brand Ambassador while his name was used for a week by Safaricom as the M-Pesa logo after breaking the two hour marathon barrier.
Other than that, very few sportsmen have translated their popularity on the field to off it to earn endorsements, different from what we see from the outside world.
“Athletes need to start growing themselves to go beyond being a star and they need to continue making money in the years after their careers are over,” Gacheru further said.
-Make use of the media-
He went on to further urge the sportsmen to make use of traditional and social media to put themselves up for visibility and ensure the numbers that cheer them on the field or track translate to financial worth with brands fighting to have them promote their products.
“Media is your friend and it will make you known. Do those interviews, be out there,” Gacheru urged athletes.
But, both Injera and Cherono have agreed that Kenyan sportsmen need to have better media training as most shy off from interviews and media appearances which they view as ‘disturbance’ and fail to look at it as a marketing tool.
“We need to get used to the cameras and also get to learn more about communication because that’s what hinders most athletes from being out there. Sometimes they are shy to talk or do not know how to express themselves,” Cherono posed.
His sentiments were shared by Injera who noted; “We need more media training and with that, we will now how to handle situations better. It doesn’t come naturally. If we had management teams who will work to package us better, then that’s good.”
“It is difficult for an athlete to train and focus on keeping his performance at peak and at the same time worry about building his brand. If we had managers coming in early and identifying sportsmen then start building them from down, it would be better,” further stated Injera, the second top try scorer in World Rugby Sevens history.
-Build social media profile-
With the advent of social media, athletes have now been encouraged to start building their brands from early enough to make sure they are visible to the public consistently.
“Social media was first seen as a social thing on the side and more or less like a distraction. It is time our federations embrace it and train our athletes on it. We need to stay sharp and focused, we need to create content, tell people about things that we are doing beyond the field.”
“It’s just the same way you talk to your friends. If you want to be a star today, you cannot be away from social media. Engage with people, remind them that you exist,” further advised the sports marketing guru.
Injera has meanwhile started reaping the benefits of his social media activity having landed several influencer roles.