Athletes need to begin looking beyond their careers and utilising their image while they have the chance.

Sport is big business nowadays. Competitions such as the NRL and AFL are worth over a billion dollars and that’s just in Australia. Looking overseas and each of the NFL franchises are worth over a billion dollars with athletes signing huge, long-term contracts.

Sporting careers are short. Players are lucky if they play more than two seasons in the top grade. The majority will be there for a short time and then be left to their own devices once they leave the bright lights of the big time.

It’s the reason more athletes should be using their time in the sun to position themselves for life after sport.

Plenty of the big name players already do that. They have their own clothing labels, merchandise range and are regularly seen rubbing shoulders with big business.

Those guys are set for life. They’re earning millions each year and if they’ve invested intelligently they won’t need to work again at the end of their career.

It’s those players who aren’t superstars that need to act as entrepreneurs. They have to take control of their own careers knowing that when their sporting life comes to an end they will need to find a job.

As an athlete though, they are in a better position than most to make that transition a successful one.

They already have a profile and should have some savings in the bank to put behind a business idea or build their own brand.

Last year I interviewed Isaac John on my podcast. He’s a co-founder of the YKTR clothing brand that he began alongside housemates Corey Norman and James Segeyaro.

John played rugby league in the NRL, represented his country, New Zealand and realised he needed to prepare for life after sport.

Due to injuries, John knew he was a long way from playing in the NRL and, along with Norman and Segeyaro who are both still playing, founded their own clothing brand.

John retired from rugby league in 2017 and began working on the business full time. It took them two years but YKTR is fully profitable with one of the keys to their success being their willingness to balance sport and the business.

Both Segeyaro and Norman have bigger profiles than John and by featuring them in their promotional videos they were able to entice plenty of interest in their business from rugby league fans.

Had they left this business until after they retired it may have been a lot more difficult to cut through on social media. Their business is run entirely online, without a storefront, and they rely on Facebook as well as other social media to get interest in their brand.

Not every athlete has to start their own clothing business or cafe while they’re playing. But they have to ensure their name is out there.

What are some things athletes can do to ensure they are in the market?

  • Utilise Twitter to engage with fans: This is super simple and it gives players plenty of positive coverage. Players can run Q&As, post training updates, even run giveaways. Anything that leads to positive interactions with fans will improve their brand.
  • Work with their club: Many players tend to be media shy and only end up speaking with the media due to a direct request from a journalist. Clubs and franchises often have larger followings than their players so a player could approach the club to do a weekly vlog or do quick interviews with teammates or do Facebook Live Q&As.
  • Instagram stories: Posting shots and videos from an athlete’s day into a stream of images gives the audience a quick insight into an athlete. It helps to build a connection and show an athlete as being genuine.

Athletes can utilise those points above to ensure they build an online following. Then, when it comes time for them to start their own business or build a network of contacts for later in their career to leverage, they already have a starting point to work from.