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August 19, 2008
Why Athletes Are the Perfect Team Players in Media
The perfect team players in media are athletes. Being a former professional athlete myself, I know what I want and what I like and I know that my wants and likes influence others.
So why doesn’t the marketing and advertising world tap into the realm of sports more often for creative ideas to market and promote products? I’m not quite sure, but if any agency wants to get ahead and beat the competition they must factor in athletes.
Karl Marx once said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” That might have been true then. Today I would say “sports are the opium of the people.” The fans are “the people,” it doesn’t matter what color, religion, creed, region, economics or even the sport; people have an affinity for sports and for athletes.
On a grand scale sports, and the engine that fuels the games themselves, the athletes, are utilized, maximized and monetized by the big networks and have been for some time. Heck, FOX built its initial business model on football and a cartoon. Yet it amazes me that more agencies don’t tap into this sea of influence to create more compelling campaigns that truly give a return on investment.
Professional athletes are at the top of the “Influencers Pyramid,” anything we do filters down to fans (the consumer utopia), college athletes and students (the sweet spot), on down to high school athletes and students (the gold mine). I’m amused at the different artistic and creative interpretations athletes have on fashion, music, cars and lifestyle in general. Most will agree that it’s a little out of the ordinary, and while I don’t approve or agree with all that’s been done, it is entertaining to watch.
Everyone remembers Joe Namath and the mink coat. Andre Agassi and the bandana. Michael and his Air Jordans. They are the gold standard for the success a brand can enjoy when the power of a professional athlete is applied creatively. I am encouraged by the new campaigns that utilize star athletes. Tiger Woods has his own Gatorade line. Dwayne Wade and Charles Barkley ham it up for T-Mobile. And between Labor Day and Valentine’s Day you can’t change the channel on a Sunday afternoon without seeing a Peyton Manning commercial. But it’s not enough, in my opinion.
If I sound like a pitch man for athletes, you’re right. I have been for some time and that’s because I know athletes are more than sound bites, autographs and names on jerseys.

Take a break, have a laugh

Athletes make good teammates and acclimate well to new surroundings. We work hard under pressure, we are dedicated, determined and most importantly we are disciplined. We have the ability to think on our feet, make important decisions in an instant and we are accountable and responsible. We thrive on competition and are results oriented. Doesn’t this sound like someone you want on your team, helping your brand?
So why are you still reading this article when you could be on the phone, recruiting an athlete to your team?   

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Ryan McNeil is the Founder and CEO of the Professional Business and Financial Network (PBFN) and an All-Pro NFL professional athlete. He founded PBFN as a business membership organization designed to provide professional athletes with the tools to be successful in business now and in their post-athletic careers. Ryan is a National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) Player Representative and was selected to serve on the Diversity Committee.

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