6 Reasons Why Athletes Make Great Business And Marketing Leaders

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

Their names stand alone. Tiger. MJ. Elway. Magic. Serena. Hawk. To look at the list, you’d think they have just one obvious thing in common. They’re sports superstars, of course.

What floats to the top here is that professional athletes and entrepreneurs have a lot in common. They’re competitive, they’re passionate, they don’t give up, and they do what they love—even when their first careers are closed. And they exhibit the common characteristics of top brands.

But they’ve learned lessons – often by fire – that even the savviest of entrepreneurs may overlook. Like media training, the value and power of social media branding, the importance of volunteerism and charity, that it’s okay to be vulnerable and tell people you love your mom, and that engaging with your fans is gold.

But they’re much more. As they’ve moved through the process of growth from college athletes to professional sports heavyweights to endorsement luminaries, they’ve elevated their personal brands to business brands.

Despite generational and gender difference, and no matter the sport, when it comes to athletes who’ve capitalized on themselves as brands, the path from team player to tycoon looks like a direct line. Although Ferrari race car driver Josh Cartu did it the other way and went from entrepreneur to Gumball 3000 celeb, his is not the beaten path.

1. Striving To Get To The Top

You might say these business moguls climbed to the top of the business heap the easy way because they’re already celebrities, but you might be forgetting Tiger’s slumps, MJ’s botched first retirement, Tony Hawk’s injuries, Serena’s critics, and Magic’s AIDS diagnosis.

And many have used their celebrity to expand business beyond sports. Magic Johnson Enterprises has its fingers in a lot of pies, but the company philosophy is a commitment to strengthening urban and underserved communities. Tony Hawk’s Foundation builds skate parks in low income communities.

Tiger’s still playing, but he’s dabbling as a restauranteur on the side. At 35, Serena Williams has her own clothing line and a newly minted degree in Business Administration. And Elway and MJ, well, they’re the big daddy icons.

2. Solid Media Training

Media training is now a critical component of NFL training camps. After all, a strong personal brand can lead to endorsements, and a poorly place tweet can lead other to other less attractive results. Does your business have a media training program in place?

3. Value and Power of Social Media Branding

When the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2012, there was a bit of hullabaloo that wide receiver and controversial character Chad Ochocinco wasn’t invited to the podium. His response? “I’ve got three million fans on Twitter. That’s my podium.”

Many small and medium-sized businesses are still behind the eight ball when it comes to knowing and capitalizing on the value and power of branding on social media. That’s because a strong social media presence takes time and consistency. It’s just not possible to build a social media following with ho-hum status updates or tweets every other week. What are you doing to build your businesses social media profile? Why don’t you run in as a superstar or even a presidential contender?

4. The Importance of Volunteerism and Charity

This one is simple. College and pro athletes who visit sick kids in hospitals always make the news. Let’s be frank, it’s part of the reason they do it. But they also found and fund charities, show up for wounded warrior games and more. And the boss encourages it. Does your business emphasize volunteerism and charitable giving to employees and give them opportunities to practice it?

5. Knowing It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable

Face it. When an athlete kisses his mom on TV (or Cam Newton hands a ball to a hysterical kid), his stock goes up. Athletes that are relatable, especially online and on-camera, gain followers and loyalty. They’re not afraid to tell their own stories.

Business owners, however, often are. They think, in error, that their personal story has no place in their business story. Talk about your failures (athletes’ failures are right out there front and center) and the emotion behind your business, and your customers and potential customers will value the human face you’ve placed on your business.

6. Showcasing Personality and Engaging With Fans

Athletes’ personalities set them apart and garner love. Yes, love. Like it or not, we’re now a society that’s fascinated with celebrity, and we expect our celebrities to be transparent and engaging. Why not take a look at some of your favorite athletes’ Twitter feeds and Instagram pages.

How can you use what they’re doing to learn to showcase your personality to your customers? They probably think of you one way, and showing them another side of you will engage their interest.

Article Written By: Margarita Hakobyan