How Athletes Build Brands and Grow Followings Online in 2022

January 11, 2022

Every athlete has a story, and leveraging that story is crucial to grow a following, sell merchandise, and cash-in on the biggest career moments, according to sports marketing expert Michael Naraine, who teaches in the Sport Management program at Brock University.  In an interview with MILLIONS, he says determining that story before attempting to build a following is critical, “the athlete first needs to think about what's their story, what do they represent and why would that be something that fans would want to attach themselves to follow along for a journey." Naraine adds that part of determining a brand is developing a core set of values upon which the brand can be built.  

MILLIONS can help communicate an athlete’s core values and tell their story, as well as help with designs for hats, t-shirts, hoodies and more.  It is a great vehicle to sell that merchandise and share their journey with fans.

When the story development and branding is complete, it’s time to start growing that fanbase.  Naraine says it’s important to know your audience and that will help determine which social media platforms will work best.  

According to a recent Hubspot survey of marketing professionals, short form video will be a top priority for communicating brand messaging and telling stories in 2022.  TikTok might be one of the most commonly used short form video platforms, but Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts are also gaining popularity.  Naraine says determining which platforms to use should be based on the target demographic, “if we're trying to skew younger… that's where you want to think about things like Snapchat. And then even to a lesser extent TikTok.”  He adds Facebook and Twitter typically have an older audience.

The Personal Video feature on MILLIONS is also an excellent way to engage with fans using short form ask me anything videos and can help cultivate a community of followers, and Naraine says building that community is a key to success.

“Once they think about their story, they activate and leverage on certain platforms, it's building and cultivating a brand community and making that brand community feel welcomed. And then having that brand community spread that electronic word of mouth.”

Influencer marketing is also going to be one of the top trends according to the Hubspot survey and some of the biggest influencers in the world are athletes.  So if you’re an athlete looking to build your brand and grow your following in 2022 follow these key steps:  Build your brand by determining your story and developing a core set of values.  Then grow your following by targeting your audience using the right social media tools, and lastly, team up with MILLIONS.