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From laconophilia to ‘The Sportan’: balancing athletic excellence, sponsorship, branding and career prospects

By Jonathan A.J. Wilson and Jonathan Liu


This conceptual paper presents a phenomenon, which considers how professionalism encourages athletes to associate image with performance. A by-product of this observes that athletes consider alternative careers, spearheaded by their sponsorship activities. A general assumption exists, that if offered sponsorship, athletes and agents will invariably accept. However, a pilot study conducted with elite athletes, agents, marketers and sports video games manufacturers, using the Socratic elenchus method, reveals that calculating the necessary resources for sponsorship and athlete brand-building activities still remains somewhat of a black box. Furthermore, as personal brand equity is crucial to elite athletes, this paper defines brand-conscious athletes as Sportans. Finally, the authors propose a Rubicon be drawn, in order to preserve athletes' accrued brand equity – whereby Sportans consider retirement and movement into a new career, based upon their commercial successes, rather than sporting excellence. A focus has been given to mixed martial arts (MMA) and ultimate fighting championships (UFC) fighters – due to the higher levels of risk and minimisation strategies observed, which mitigate sporting failure

Topics: HD28
Publisher: Inderscience Publishers
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