Branding the World of Sports

Archive for the ‘Athletes’ Category

Which athletes are the talk of Twitter?

Posted by ZA on July 17, 2009

If you love sports, you probably talk about them online these days.  The water cooler conversations of yesteryear have almost all gone online today.  There are myriads of options to share your personal opinions on players, teams or leagues.  You can blog about sports, leave comments on a written article, chat on a message board or write updates via Twitter.  There is an infinite amount of sports chatter online today.

Sports chat got its start online with message boards that came into their own a decade ago.  These early communities are often not talked about when people are talking about social media, but they were where the online conversations about sports started.  And many of these online message boards (now referred to as communities) are huge today, just like at the college sports focused or  Each of them boast tens of thousands of paying members and millions of conversations about sports.

These days there are also more people blogging about sports (like me) and more people using other social media sites to share their opinions.  But it is no longer just the media and fans participating in these conversations.  These days the athletes who are the topic behind many of the conversations are involved as well.  Many athletes are using Twitter, Facebook and the like to share their views on the sports world.  This allows the conversations to come full circle, where often fan and athlete are talking together.

So in this ever evolving online world, which are athletes are subject to the most chatter?  Who are the athletes getting the most buzz from the blog-sphere today?  Vitrue has come up with a way to measure which athletes receive the most mentions via social media (e.g.- Twitter) and other online methods.  From that they produced a list of the top 25 “social athletes”.  Below are their rankings for July 2009:

Top 25 Social Athletes
1. Lance Armstrong
2. Tony Hawk
3. Roger Federer
4. Ronaldinho
5. Michael Phelps
6. Dwight Howard
7. David Beckham
8. Valentino Rossi
9. Lebron James
10. Michael Jordan
11. Maria Sharapova
12. Serena Williams
13. Rafael Nadal
14. Kobe Bryant
15. Paul Pierce
16. Usain Bolt
17. Tiger Woods
18. Ryan Sheckler
19. Shaquille O’Neal
20. Manny Pacquiao
21. Yao Ming
22. Dwayne Wade
23. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
24. Stewart Cink
25. Muhammad Ali

What is interesting about the list is to see how some athletes are embracing social media to keep their names in the conversations.  Would you normally expect to see Stewart Cink on a list next to Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Roger Federer?  Probably not, but Cink is doing an excellent job of keeping himself involved in the conversations on the web.  Same with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was a legend in his day but has slipped from the limelight for over a decade.  Kareem has done a terrific job of building a following in social media by embracing vehicles like Twitter, where he has way more followers than most active NBA stars.

The lesson to be learned if you are an athlete.  Keep your name in the conversation, by getting out there and participating.  Loads of athletes are doing that today and many of them are starting to become more of household names because of that effort.  Long-term that could pay off in more success on the field or big endorsements off the court, because they already have a big fan following.

Posted in Athletes, Golf, Internet, NBA, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Top 10 Richest Athletes in the World

Posted by ZA on July 1, 2009

The economies of the World may be slumping, but the business of sports is still booming.  The top leagues, teams and athletes will all still be pulling in plenty of money this year.  From rich team contracts, to astronomical earnings, to lucrative endorsement deals.  There will be lots of cash pouring into the bank accounts of the top athletes in sports.   But which athletes are the richest?  Which are the top earning athletes in the World today?  CNNSI has recently released their 2009 list of the Fortunate 50, which is a list of the 50 top earning athletes in the United States.  They also published their list of the top 20 earning International athletes.  Below is a compilation of the two lists, so it is a list of the top 10 earning athletes in the World today.

Top Earning Athletes in World:
1. Tiger Woods ($99MM)
2. Phil Mickelson ($52MM)
3. David Beckham ($45MM)
4. Lebron James ($42MM)
5. Kimi Raikkonen ($40.1MM)
6. Manny Pacquiao ($40MM)
7. Lionel Messi ($39.9MM)
8. Alex Rodriguez ($39MM)
9. Fernando Alonso ($35MM)
9. Valentino Rossi ($35MM)
9. Shaquille O’Neal ($35MM)
10. Kevin Garnett ($34.7MM)


Posted in Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Golf, Money, NBA, Soccer | Tagged: , , , | 29 Comments »

Will Dwight Howard be next big sports pitchman?

Posted by ZA on June 4, 2009

AdAge article on Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard says he is already a “dominant force” in the sports endorsement world.  One of the experts interviewed feels Howard’s endorsement appeal ranks just behind of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.  They cite his youth, charisma and good character as positive attributes that make him attractive to companies looking for someone to endorse their product.

I agree that Howard brings a lot to the table; his personality definitely stands out in the T-mobile commercials he is doing with Wade and Charles Barkley.  But I think some of the opinions in the article that Howard is the next big NBA endorsement star are a bit premature.  Howard needs to win a championship and become the undisputed star on his own team before I’m willing to put him in the top 3 endorsers in the league.

The NBA is full of young stars that are full of charisma (e.g.- Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose), so Howard is not unique in possessing those traits.  At one point experts were saying that Greg Oden would be the next big star endorser in the NBA, and that has not panned out.  So I’m going to take a wait and see approach with Dwight Howard.  If he steps up during the NBA Finals he has a chance to prove himself the main star on his own team and get a ring.  Both of those things happen and I’m comfortable saying that a (endorsement) star is born.  If Kobe Bryant and his Lakers take down Howard, or Howard is not the focal point of his own team’s efforts, then I think he’s not quite ready for the praise heaped on him by some in the AdAge article.

Dwight Howard endorsement deals:
* Adidas
* DC Comics
* McDonald’s
* Milk Processor Board (“Got Milk” campaign)
* T-Mobile
* Vitaminwater (Glaceau)
* Warner Brothers
* Wrigley

Posted in Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Endorsement Profile, NBA | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Michael Vick using PETA as road to NFL redemption

Posted by ZA on May 9, 2009

Is Michael Vick going to be a spokesman for PETA when he gets out prison?

It could happen according to an AdAge article on the on-going discussions between PETA and Vick’s management team. Vick’s handlers have proposed the idea and PETA is willing to consider if Vick is willing to undergo a psychological examination.  No word yet whether Vick is willing to subject to the examination, which could be the downfall of this deal.

The thought of Michael Vick becoming a spokesman for PETA probably turns the stomachs of many their supporters, but if Vick is rehabilitated then he could be an asset.  Who can better relate to the mentality within the dog fighting community than someone who’s been there?  That knowledge combined with Vick’s stature could make him someone that can positively influence kids involved in dog fighting.  Vick’s fall from grace is a story that might keep some of them from participating in dog fighting.  That opportunity is one that no one at PETA can currently offer.  It’s a chance for PETA to help curb the sport from the inside.

For Vick working for PETA could speed up his return from exile.  To get back to anywhere near what he once had will be an arduous process; Vick will have to show true remorse for his actions.  Working for PETA could give him the opportunity to learn the evils of dog fighting.  It could let him make a tangible change in the dog fighting community.  It could help make him a better person.  It might help him rehab some of his tattered image.  And it could ultimately help speed up his return to the NFL.  Which presumably is Vick’s ultimate goal.

They say politics makes strange bedfellows…maybe this situation will as well.  But the result could be positive for both PETA and Michael Vick.

Posted in Athletes, NFL, Sports Brands | Leave a Comment »

Paddy Harrington on a 900 yard Par 3

Posted by ZA on April 3, 2009

How does Padraig Harrington play a 900 yard par 3?

Driver – Sand Wedge – Putter = par.  Wow!

Posted in Athletes, Golf | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Athletes desperate for endorsement dollars

Posted by ZA on March 30, 2009

There are thousands of professional athletes around the World, very few of them will ever pull in significant endorsement dollars.  For every LeBron James and Tiger Woods there are ten thousand other athletes who combined don’t earn endorsements equal to what LeBron and Tiger earn in a single year.

So along comes French pole vaulter, Romain Mesnil, to show us just how desperate athletes are to pick an endorsement deal.  Mesnil’s contract with Nike recently expired, so Mesnil took it upon himself to try to find a new sponsor.  His plan was not to call up Adidas, Puma and Reebok.  No, instead Romain decided to use the web to go viral.  His strategy worked.  His run through the streets of Paris that was posted on Youtube has already had over 200,000 views.  Its just a matter of time until some company slaps their logo on his back…my bet is on Golden Palace.

Oh, did I mention he ran through Paris in the nude?  Yep, only carrying his pole (pun intended).  Here is the video:

Posted in Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Nike | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Using sex to sell the AVP Tour

Posted by ZA on March 17, 2009

The AVP and Crocs have designed some eye catching advertisements to promote their upcoming AVP Tour beach volleyball tournaments.  The ads feature the posterior of some of the AVP’s female players in a tight bikini bottom.  Each one includes the logos of the AVP Tour sponsors, including: Bud Light, Crocs, Gatorade, Paul Mitchell, and Wilson.


So is it wrong for the AVP Tour to use sex to sell their events? In my opinion, no.  Beach volleyball, both on the professional circuit and in the Olympics, has for a long time been great athletes playing a tough sport.  But it is also about the atmosphere at the events which often includes plenty of skimpy bikinis and tan bodies, both on the court and in the crowd.  The players are at the peak of physical fitness and do not seem to be shy about showing off their sculpted bodies.  Even in the Beijing Olympics the Nike “uniforms” (aka: small bikinis) worn by beach volleyball’s most famous duo, Misty May and Kerry Walsh, were cut to reveal a lot of flesh to the NBC audience watching at home.  And it is not just the women, the guys of the AVP are running around the beach bare chested in-front of thousands of female viewers.

The key for the AVP is to not ever objectify the ladies or men of their sport.  If one woman wants to wear a one-piece suit or a cover up, then it has to be perfectly okay for her to do that.  If a guy wants to play with a shirt on (which they often do) then that has to be absolutely okay with everyone at the league.  No dress code should be implemented that requires the players to wear revealing swimsuits.  As long as the league and their marketers steer clear of anything that makes the athletes feel they are required to dress a certain way to participate or thrive in the sport, then it is perfectly okay to promote them in a manner reflective of the sport.  In this case they are using sex appeal, showing sexy body parts, in their ads to sell beach volleyball.  Their marketers are saying that this (i.e.- sexy bodies) is part of our experience, so come watch.

That sexy image on the posters truly does represent the sport.  The woman’s butt featured on the ad above is not a model, it is one of the female athletes who compete in the AVP.  She choose to wear a bikini.  My guess is that the California beaches, where most of the AVP players live and train, has influenced what the volleyball players wear.  And if the AVP players are proud of their bodies and comfortable with what they are wearing on the court, then it is perfectly acceptable for their league to market that image.

This topic was inspired by a piece that Darren Rovell at CNBC did on the subject.

Posted in Athletes, Olympics, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

NBA player Shawn Marion is going to get his $

Posted by ZA on March 16, 2009

Great quote from Toronto Raptors forward Shawn Marion, who will be looking to sign a new contract at the end of this season.  Quote from the Globe & Mail story.

“We do talk about stuff like that (the down economy), but is the NBA going to fold? Marion said.  “You see people in baseball and football signing these big-ass contracts and I’m pretty sure their attendance went down a little bit.  Everyone is taking a hit, but at the same time it’s not stopping people spending money.”

The NBA league office might need to remind players that greed is not always good.

NBA league office memo to players: Greed is not always good.

My comments on Shawn Marion quote:
* Shawn is correct that deals are being handed out in MLB and NFL, but only some of those deals are “big-ass contracts”.  And those few huge deals also involved clubs that typically spend a lot of money; the Albert Haynesworth to the Washington Redskins and CC Sabathia to the New York Yankees deals are the minority.  Most MLB & NFL teams are spending more sensibly because they do realize that the economy is much different going forward.

* The financial shape of all of the 4 major professional sports leagues are somewhat tenuous right now.  It seems like every single day the Sports Business Daily is reporting on new cuts or job losses is from some team in one of those leagues.  But the NBA and NHL seem to be in worse shape than the NFL and MLB.  If I had to rank order the leagues, based on the financial health of their franchises, I would rank them this way:
1. NFL
2. MLB
3. NBA
4. NHL

* Shawn has every right to seek the maximum deal available to him, but running his mouth about it is not going to endear him to very many people right now.  No one wants to hear a person who just completed a 6-year, $80 million dollar contract talking about getting his money.  Mr. Marion needs to show some humility and discretion in talking about the money available to him in his next contract.  Because many of the fans that have supported him in Phoenix, Miami and Toronto are struggling financially more than they ever have.  So while they might have overlooked some comments from a seemingly self absorbed wealthy athlete when times were better, they are less likely to support that greedy athlete now.

* As the Globe points out, huge contracts are not usually paid to NBA players averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds.  Shawn Marion’s best years were with the run & gun Phoenix Suns, and those seem to be behind him now.  But good luck getting another huge contract, Shawn.

Posted in Athletes, NBA | 4 Comments »

Nike launching new LeBron themed shoe

Posted by ZA on March 13, 2009

To pay tribute to the place where it all began for basketball superstar, LeBron James, Nike is going to release a new shoe.  The shoe will represent Akron, Ohio; which is LeBron’s hometown.

Nike's Akron themed shoe for LeBron James

Nike's Akron themed shoe for LeBron James

Nike has done a lot to support LeBron, who is one of their top endorsement stars.  They already did a few LeBron themed shoes that resembled a New York taxi cab and Rubber City at the House of Hoops in NYC.   I can’t wait to see what Nike does if LeBron does wind up playing for the New York Knicks in 2010.  They will probably release a whole line of new LeBron athletic apparel to celebrate his move to the top media market.

Posted in Apparel & Shoes, Athletes, NBA, Nike, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Athletes that endorse Under Armour

Posted by ZA on February 18, 2009

Under Armour has been expanding its product line to include performance footwear and running shoes.  UA has also been signing up a slew of athletes to endorse their expanding line of products.  Below are a few of the top US pro athletes that currently have or recently have held endorsement deals with Under Armour.

Under Armour

Under Armour

MLB players that endorse Under Armour:
Jeff Francoeur – Atlanta Braves
Francisco Liriano – Minnesota Twins
Nick Markakis – Baltimore Orioles
Jose Reyes – NY Mets
Alfonso Soriano – Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzjia – Chicago Cubs
Ryan Zimmerman – Washington Nationals

NFL athletes with Under Armour endorsement deals:
Vernon Davis – San Francisco 49ers
AJ Hawk – Green Bay Packers
Devin Hester – Chicago Bears
Julius Jones – Seattle Seahawks
Patrick Kerney – Seattle Seahawks
Ray Lewis – Baltimore Ravens
Joe Thomas – Cleveland Browns
Tommy Tuberville – former Auburn Head Coach
Jonathan Vilma – NY Jets
Patrick Willis – San Francisco 49ers

Basketball players that endorse Under Armour:
Brandon Jennings – currently playing in Europe

Other athletes that endorse Under Armour:
Jeremy Bloom – skiing
Cat Osterman – softball
Kimmie Meissner – figure skating

College Sports Teams with Under Armour sponsorship deals:

Auburn Tigers
Hawaii Warriors
Maryland Terrapins
North Texas Mean Green
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Florida Bulls
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Utah Utes
Other UA college sponsorship deals on the Under Armour Wikipedia page.

Buy Under Armour products online.

Posted in Apparel & Shoes, Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Sports Brands | 16 Comments »