An Athletes Guide to Branding and Landing Sponsorships

With the advent of Social Media, the world has changed so drastically but one of the things that remain the same is that for an athlete’s career to flourish during and sometimes post their “run”, landing sponsorships is very crucial. An athlete securing the right deal can literally be life changing. Many athletes can attest that being a high performing athlete is not enough. Along with record-breaking performances and history making results one still needs to build a brand that will grow one’s name and pocket.

That said, it is not an easy feat to convince anyone, let alone big brands, to put thousands of Rand on your name. We’ve seen in the history of sport that a lot of factors go into building a brand that will sustain you even post-retirement.

As an athlete, chances are you already have a following and possibly have a kid or two identifying you as a role model. That’s a great start but how does one use such to align with a big brand? Below are some helpful factors to take into consideration:

Group CEO of Unorthodox PR and Media Group and finalist in the Woman in PR & Sponsorship category at the 2022 Momentum gsport Awards. Sibabalwe Sesmani shared the following tips:

  • to build a good foundation be present on social media and media platforms, this shows brands that you get coverage and therefore they will get coverage.
  • Find brands that resonate with you. Look at your day to day activities and the brands that you like. Brands want to tell a story through ambassadors so make sure your brands that you approach are authentic to you.
  • Build your own platforms around your passions and interests and invite brands to partner, that way you have ownership and you are not always chasing brands.

2019 Momentum gsport award Woman in PR and Sponsorship winner, Marisa Calvert had this to share:

  • Keep your social media professional yet authentic. It’s your billboard. It’s what everyone sees. Use it accordingly. It doesn’t have to be overly curated but it must have your brand voice and tone.
  • You know what kind of brand you’d like to partner with so research their values and what they stand for. Do they align with yours? Now create content that will get their attention. Tag them in your posts. Let them take note of you. Have LinkedIn? Connect with brand managers who work at the brands you want to partner with.
  • Network, network, network!


According to Athlete365, these five steps will help you (agent) and your athletes seal the deal:


Sponsoring athletes is a great way for organisations to demonstrate the many positive characteristics associated with athletes at the highest level. Your athletes can help organisations to change or maintain their image with consumers. When it comes to sponsorship, though, organisations have many reasons to engage in the relationship – so it’s your job to make sure that your athletes aren’t underselling themselves.


Unless they are a household name like Usain Bolt or Serena Williams, your athletes need to create a following beyond the people who may see them compete. Social media has proved an excellent platform in allowing athletes to positively showcase their story, personality, character, grit and dedication. Having thousands of followers online is a ready-made audience that will attract sponsors, so make sure that your athlete is actively engaging with fans online.


Sponsorship deals range from getting a discount on products to receiving free products, race entries and travel expenses, all the way to getting paid. Your athletes should think of a sponsorship arrangement like a relationship. In any relationship, you need to understand the investment each has in the other, the cost and benefits, and essentially the objectives of both parties.


Your athletes should be looking at what an organisation values – what it stands for, what its mission is, what the vision of the corporation is. This will help them understand where the organisation may benefit from an association with an athlete and, just as importantly, will help them to decide if this sector or business is something they feel comfortable endorsing. Alongside your athlete, you should take a look at the organisation’s corporate website to determine how it is structured, and to obtain the email address and title of the best person to approach.


Once your athletes have an audience, a goal, a company and their contact, they can begin formulating there, we spoke to leading PR and Sponsorship gurus to help us assemble a guide on how to build a personal brand and land sponsorships.

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