Sports Icons and Brands

By Desiree Asena Dundar

At another evening over drinks at friends’ place, we found ourselves talking about the inevitable “careers” topic.  How to write cover letters, what characteristics to underline, what difference a social club membership makes…

“Sports clubs have huge positive impacts on CVs!” a friend mentioned.  I started listening to him more carefully since I had no sports clubs listed under the title of “Extra Curricular Activities.” I needed to lift the curtain of mystery. “Tell me more.”

According to my friend, and the rest who agreed with him, sports clubs on CVs meant more than an athletic body. They show that you are a team-player, you are dedicated, you are hard working, organized, last but not least, consistent.   This list of “Sports men/women Characteristics” got me thinking: Who would not like to have such characteristics that can be symbolized with one word? If a person would idealize a sports player, why wouldn’t a company or a brand (endorse them)?

Since the only sport I played is tennis and the only sport game I occasionally watch is football, I never idealized any sports player, but respected them for their talents. Yet I wanted to investigate how my friends really felt about sports icons and their connections with the brands.  So I shared this case with a lawyer friend of mine, who was a professional basketball player in her teenage years.

“What good does a sports icon bring to a brand?”

In 1997 when she heard that Adidas endorsed her all time favorite basketball player, Kobe Bryant, all she could think of was buying every KB 8 product.

“I believed if I had those shoes, I could dunk like Kobe. Back then, everybody wanted to dunk like Kobe!”

Yet she mentioned that as her bonds with basketball have grown weaker, and she has grown older and endorsed sports icons did not play a distinctive role in her brand selection.

“I wanted to wear KB 8 because I played basketball and I was a Kobe Bryant fan.  Nowadays I run into ads or campaigns with Tiger Woods or David Beckham. Yet they don’t stand for anything that I’m interested in.”

She’s not alone. Many have mentioned that a celebrity or sports icon endorsement influenced them least on their purchase decision. I ran a survey to see what associations were made with the given brands, and what brand values or factors influence them most on their decision making process. Eighty-four percent of the participants said that celebrity/sports icon endorsements affect their choice least. So I can ask: “Is using sports icons as endorsers outdated? Is it worth the risk?”

Relevant like Kobe and Adidas, or irrelevant like the Williams Sisters and Oreo, endorsed sports icons are still great promoters of the brand among the sports fans and the people who idolize the sport icons. Although I don’t think a sports icon can represent the brand’s values, and while sports icons do not influence shopping habits, they still enhance brand awareness through different aspects of a society. If Dolce & Gabbana worked with usual models, would I be ever talking about their new sports underwear collection?

So it’s still worth the risk. Even on a brand’s CV, a sports icon looks good.

Next Great Posts labeled as Next Great are generally submissions by various contributors, whose information can be found within the text of the article. Next Great posts without author information are the collective effort of the editorial staff: Christine Peterson, Alex Pearlman and Edward Boches.

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