As the name suggests, public relations (PR) for athletes describes the process of building media relationships with sports journalists and getting publicity for individual athletes and sports teams through earned media channels, both online and offline.
Today’s sports PR professionals serve national and international audiences, even if they work for teams in “small” media markets. While press organizations have consolidated, folded, or shifted to different formats, messages travel faster and further than at any time.
Let’s explore PR for athletes and why it’s essential—whether you’re an athlete, former athlete, or athletically-minded professional.
Athletic PR Shapes Public Opinion of Your Brand
When owning a business or brand, the essential factor is to develop brand awareness—tell your brand’s story. We explored the concept of brand awareness and how to be intentional in developing your story in a previous article. This, in short, is the role of PR. While many believe that PR isn’t necessary with the rise and influence of social media and online communication platforms, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Social media is an essential component of an overall business strategy, but it doesn’t take the place of traditional PR.
PR is vital to increase industry presence, further your reach and reputation as a brand, and direct a product or service to a specific audience. PR can help a brand generate earned media and construct brand identity and industry equity when done successfully. Industry equity is how much power and influence a brand has over its competitors. This is often best measured in the sheer number of sales. Consumers and investors alike desire successful brands that tell a good story and understand their why. Further, PR is the most effective way to communicate with a target audience and attract future investors and fans.
Properly executed, PR can reap enormous dividends. Some brands hire an internal PR specialist, while others outsource this through an agency. When deciding which direction to go, consider your budget, experience, and desired direction. Ask yourself the following questions: Do you have a clear story, brand guidelines, and vision? Do you understand what your unique selling point is?
If you’re an athlete or athletic business owner, you likely understand how critical PR is in sports. A sports PR specialist or agency tailored to the sports industry is best suited to help with the outreach of an athlete’s brand. Media relations are critical to landing robust partnerships, and sponsorship opportunities, and a sports pr professional is in the best position to help you develop a positive image.
The Tools You Need to Master PR
With an understanding of the importance of PR and a decision of whether or not to bring the responsibility in-house, let’s explore the tools you need to master this skill. Keep in mind that this is a high-level overview. Sports PR specialists and sports PR experts are experts in digital marketing, media reports, writing press releases, and communicating with media outlets. These individuals will handle the nitty-gritty details of your collaboration.
The first component of stellar sports PR is content. Creative and attention-grabbing content in sports media is essential. Public relations firms understand this firsthand, so their team often consists of pr specialists working to understand an athlete’s image potential and craft the perfect story that paints the athlete in a positive light to showcase in press releases.
Whether you’re an athlete, former athlete, or athletically-minded professional, content creation comes down to telling the perfect story.
Think about the most significant moments in your life. Perhaps it was a game-winning catch in overtime of the football tournament or a home run in a minor league that tied the score against a challenging team. Whatever the accomplishment, you’ve likely shared that moment in a story. Why? Because human beings are hardwired for narratives. We’ve been telling them since the dawn of man.
Stories are considered the most memorable method of communication. Whether it be on a billboard, social media, or website, you must share a compelling story. They’re the most effective way to captivate, convince, and convert your audience.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the vision for your brand?
- What consumer problem do you solve? In other words, what is your why?
- How can you create an emotional connection?
For athletes and business owners, you must also have excellent interpersonal skills and consider media training for any in-person events. This will ensure you’re well-equipped to handle any question related to your brand.
A brand’s public image is essential and a great responsibility for any sports public relations agency. These organizations understand viral stories on social media and seek to position athletes, business owners, and other sports-related businesses in a good place. The key is to narrow your focus on the platforms where your audience spends the vast majority of their free time. This is the best chance of success amongst the general public.
Cold Calling & Pitching
Ah, cold-calling and pitching—many individuals’ worst nightmare but PR specialists’ greatest strength. With your story in hand, this is how smaller, lesser-known brands can begin to develop industry connections, increase brand awareness, and land early publicity. Don’t overcomplicate this. Narrow your list to publications in the sports industry and pick up the phone. Be friendly, pleasant, and to the point. Most of all, provide value. Editors hear from dozens of sports teams, PR specialists, big companies, and individual players each week. Stand out by being courteous of their time and giving them something of value.
Excellent Examples of PR in Sports
To understand PR specialists, sports PR, or a public relations society, analyze some past examples of successful campaigns. There are plenty of media to learn from, from news interviews on YouTube to articles about sports teams, such as the Golden State Warriors, good PR on a player’s image, and even comments from coaches. It’s easiest if your interests align with your organization, career services, and brand.
Nike & Serena Williams
Nike x Serena Williams is an excellent example, as they’ve generated positive publicity from their co-branded partnership and line of exclusive products. The Serena Williams collection features custom-designed clothing, shoes, and tennis gear. Co-branded partnerships are an excellent way to boost annual income, expand brand awareness to previously untapped markets or different platforms, and build stronger relationships in the industry. The key to performing well together is to connect brands that share similar target audiences.
Under Armour & Stephen Curry
Under Armour x Stephen Curry is another excellent example of a partnership that generates sports PR for sports organizations, the individual athlete, and the clients involved. The Stephen Curry collection featured custom athletic shoes for both children and adults. Curry is already famous for his personable personality and demeanor, but he’s also profited from solid business relationships. Athletes and athletic business owners must focus on their brand and image, as giving back to the fans is essential to creating a legacy.
How to Gain Leads & Expand Your Reach
Only one question remains, what’s next? How do you gain leads and expand your reach amongst sports fans through sports PR? Simple, take action.
It’s Time to Take Action
Hire the right individual or team to support your vision. Sports PR is no easy feat. It takes the right attitude, the right content writer, and the right contact. Stay determined, as failure is inevitable. But with the right mindset, grit, and motivation, so is success.