The Athlete and the Company: a third brand squared

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What do we mean by saying that the athlete and the company form a third brand squared?

And first, is an athlete a brand?

So what does it mean to be a brand?

What is a brand?

Many athletes are not aware that as athletes they represent a brand. Many are confused about it. Many think it’s the business only of a few, the really famous ones.

In generale, tutti noi pensiamo che il brand sia legato solo alle grandi aziende il cui logo e i cui prodotti sono immediatamente riconoscibili, ma in realtà anche gli individui possono avere un brand!

However, why is it important for every athlete to feel, regardless of discipline, age, level, or notoriety that they are a brand? What does it mean to be a brand?

What is the brand?

The italian dictionary Treccani says:

‹brä′nd› s. ingl. (propr. «brand, trademark»; pl. brands ‹brä′nds›), – In the language of advertising and corporate marketing, trademark.

Trademark 1. is an applied, printed, imprinted, etc. sign on things or animals to distinguish them from others or to indicate their characteristics, origin, etc, and in a concrete sense it is also the instrument for imprinting this sign (marking beasts with a m. in fire; distinguishing goods with a m.); 2. in particular, the mark is the symbol or name that distinguishes a product, a commodity from another, and in this meaning it is synonymous with trademark, brand (the great brands of fashion, furniture, design; an important brand made in Italy).

Brand is the combination of elements (such as name, slogan, logo, communication, history and reputation) that function as a distinctive and identifying mark of a company (and beyond). The name brand (or brand) encapsulates image, values, meaning, etc. that differentiate it from competitors, determining the relationship with its target audience.

According to Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong in their Principles of Marketing, the meaning of brand is “everything that a product or service represents to consumers,” adding that this is “the company’s most enduring asset, living longer than individual products and facilities.

Brand is an intangible asset and, as Kotler and Armstrong claim, is the combination of “consumers’ perceptions and feelings about a product and its performance.”

From here we can already easily guess that we are all entitled to consider ourselves a brand.

athlete and the power of a brand

However, not all of us are expected to consider ourselves a brand. So why should an athlete do so?

Because if he is not already because it is because he is still at the beginning of his career, as a professional athlete he will soon be a public figure and everything about him will be available to an audience will define who he is, the meaning and values of who he is, will define his image.

Thereby establishing the connection with his/her audience, his/her fans.

This connection, which is emotional, can be positive or negative and can also mean that we trust, care, or even love him!

What is an athlete’s brand?

It is the communication of his uniqueness: his sporting activities, his sports record, his palmarès, his performances, his history, his style, his interests and beliefs, his behaviors and values.!

Why is it important for an athlete to know and manage his or her brand?

Whether he is training with teammates, competing at a competition, giving a speech on stage, giving an interview to a reporter, or interviewing with a potential sponsoring company, he is making an impression:

he/she is communicating his/her brand.

Some athletes dream of becoming famous or winning a gold medal at the Olympics, others just dream of having a good run in a sport without competitions.

By knowing your brand and successfully conveying the impression you want, you will find that you will be able to get the opportunities you seek and have a smoother and more satisfying path in sports and life!

(If you are interested in understanding more about how the athlete-corporate relationship has evolved, be sure to read also Sponsorship vs Influencer marketing)

How does this affect the corporations?

Branding squared

Well-designed brands (= well-defined and adherent to unique identity, style, needs, desires, goals) can have an emotional impact on us as consumers and help create a kind of relationship between us and the brand (and the products or company with which it is associated).

The athlete as a brand with his own unique identity, his own meaning, values, and an emotional link with his fans, can be a perfect representative (= testimonial) of another brand and reinforce that emotional link we just talked about.

We could somewhat say that the combination of 1 brand + 1 other brand does not make 2 brands but a thirdbrand squared,” which is very powerful and a vital part of an integrated and valuable marketing and communication plan for all kinds of companies, organizations, charities.

What’s missing?

If we have already taken a step forward and understood that we are a brand, what is missing is to understand what needs to be done to design that brand so that it is perceived exactly as we desire.

For junior and emerging athletes, building a solid personal brand is the first step in creating a long and successful career.

It is one of the most powerful tools for accessing the target market. It determines how fans, sponsors, and the professional sports world perceive the athlete and how they remember and recognize him or her.

Athlete branding is a complex area especially given that competition in the sports marketing industry is high. 

It can be difficult for an up-and-coming athlete to stand out from the crowd. In addition, many parties are involved in building a solid personal brand and marketing strategy.

We need to consider all elements, from the tangible ones, such as the logo, font choice and design, to the intangible ones, such as the brand promise (and in the company-testimonial pairing of two brands) and the constantly evolving person in his or her totality-as an athlete and as a human being.

Companies that need to devote a slice ( more or less large) to sports marketing have a responsibility to help the athlete define their brand. Obviously it is a responsibility with a return and the return that makes the most sense for a company at the end of the fiscal year: the famous return on investment (ROI).

Going back to the athlete-business relationship, sports marketing and personal branding is a partnership that needs to be promoted and preserved, and to do so, many elements need to be brought to the table:

the usual long-term vision, in fact more so because it must resemble a dream, technical skills, the famous hard skills, a lot of experience in the field and a strategy that does not only consider sports marketing as an activity integrated with all the other marketing and communication activities but that starts from the investment on the brand athlete and supports him in his growth path.


It is for this reason that we at Sports&Beyond, who have always worked both alongside the athlete and the company and act as cultural mediators in the athlete-company relationship, decided to create a format dedicated to sports companies that wish to increase their ROI in sports marketing starting precisely from the investment in the human resource called the athlete.

Author Marianna Zanatta