The rising interest in women’s football is clearly visible today and female players can contribute a lot to make the game grow further by working on their authentic and outstanding athlete branding. We analyze how to do it with Valenze
We continue analyzing the importance of having an authentic and outstanding athlete brand. Click on this link to see Part 1 of the article
Women’s Football has grown in popularity over the past few years and there is a big potential to grow even further. Clubs recorded a year-on-year commercial revenue growth of 33% in 2022, which highlights the increase in revenues from matchday, broadcasting and sponsorships. At the same time, a positive trend in transfer fees is visible, which hit a new record of USD2.1m in 2021, an increase of 73% in comparison to 2020. And with attendance records being broken almost every month, the rising interest in the game has become clearly visible.
Although the sport is moving in the right direction, there is still a lot to gain. The reality is that there are still a lot of athletes who have to have side-jobs alongside their professional career and that the women’s game is not fully accepted yet by a lot of people. Valenze is actively involved in the change and development of women’s football, but especially in the development of female players. Through offering guidance and assistance in authentic athlete branding, they help develop the much-needed additional revenue streams for the players.
Ireneo Snel is the CEO and founder of Valenze. After graduating from his Master in Football Business in partnership with FC Barcelona, he saw an opportunity to start a business in a fast-growing market and to help professional female football players with their development. Ireneo has worked with (semi-)professional athletes in sports such as football, waterpolo, athletics, tennis and windsurfing, and has the ambition to help them develop their personal and professional career.
Nikita de Haan is the general manager of Valenze, joining Ireneo only a few months after he founded the company. Having worked in events for the Dutch Football Federation, Nikita was working in online marketing before she started the same Master in Football Business that Ireneo did. With experience in and a passion for football, she is excited to work on the development of women’s football and female players on a daily basis.
The foundation of personal branding – your authentic identity
You are not the only one who wants to be seen. If you want to get the most out of your personal brand, you need to stand out from the crowd. You need to be authentic and unique. What you need is an authentic and outstanding personal brand!
Your personal brand is about who you are. That is why authenticity is so important. While defining your identity, you need to keep in mind that you always need to stay true to yourself. You just have to find out and highlight the personality traits and core values that make you unique.
“Your personal brand is about who you are; that is why authenticity is so important”
Your authentic personality
Everyone’s personality is unique. It includes the thoughts, feelings and behavior that distinguish you from others. It goes deeper than just creating an image of what you do, where you are from and what your age is.
It is important to stay true to yourself and to be authentic, because by being authentic you can connect on a deeper level with your fans and potential customers than any conventional brand.
“Authenticity is about consistently doing, saying and acting on the things you believe in”
Authenticity is about consistently doing, saying and acting on the things you believe in. If you always act the same way and according to the things you truly value and believe in, you will meet the expectations of your fans and audience. This will positively impact their trust in you and build a long-term loyal connection.
There are three dimensions to building an authentic athlete brand.
- On-field activities: Your performance and the way you act on the pitch contributes to your authentic brand and how you show your authentic self.
- Off-field activities: Football is not the only thing that is going on in your life and that describes who you are. You have more interests and by showing that to the world, you create a more authentic image of yourself.
- Marketing activities: Marketing activities are your intentional efforts to communicate your brand. Make sure you are yourself and always do things that resonate with your personality and values.
You are more than just a player on the pitch. Therefore, building an authentic athlete brand is about more than just on-pitch activities!
Your personal values
Personal values are those things that you believe are important and serve as guiding principles in your life. Defining your personal values helps to outline the direction of your personal brand and gives it power. Examples of personal values are honesty, healthy lifestyle, equality, family or respect.
Writing down your personal characteristics helps you to define who you are. Your values help you understand what you stand for. The combination of both is what makes you unique and helps you to stand out, while always staying authentic.
For example, Sadio Mané has a reputation for being so much more than just a good football player. Of course, he is a world-class player, but with his authentic personality he became a fan-favorite at Liverpool FC. Even rival fans might find it difficult to dislike him. He is caring, humble, selfless, down to earth, a real team player and loyal. He clearly values his roots, family, religion and honesty.
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Know your target audience
Before you communicate your identity, you should know who you are communicating with. You need to know your target audience to be able to achieve your personal brand goals. They could be fans, potential sponsors, agencies, clubs, etc.
“Knowing your audience will help you to create a strategy around your communication and translate your authentic identity into your messaging”
In order to know how to engage with them, you need to truly understand your audience. Where are they from? How old are they? What are their interests? And what are their needs? Knowing your audience will help you to create a strategy around your communication and translate your authentic identity into your messaging.
Communicate your authentic identity
As you know by now, you want to communicate your identity. You can do that in a lot of different ways.
- On social media: Being present on different social media platforms is an easy way to reach a lot of people. Social media offers you the opportunity to give your audience an insight into your personal and professional life. You can engage with them and build a relationship without actually seeing them in real life. And most importantly, you are fully in charge of your messaging on your channels, unlike with other media platforms.
“On social media, you are fully in charge of your messaging on your channels, unlike with other media platforms”
- Social involvement:Being socially involved positively affects your reputation. Donating to charities that fit your values, visiting hospitals, setting up a foundation or even just community work will shine a positive light on your athlete brand.
Translating the values of Sadio Mané to this aspect of social involvement, you can see that he is involved in quite a lot of social projects. He paid for a hospital to be built in his home village of Bambaly, as well as a high school, and he also donated money to a boy in the hospital where he was being treated for injuries he got during one of his games. With these actions he shows his values, that he is caring, selfless and that the people from his hometown are important to him.
- On the pitch: Your performances on the pitch are important, but that is not the only thing people respect you for. It is also about your behavior towards opponents and fans. Showing your character on the pitch, interacting with fans, and participating in social statements are all ways of communicating your personal brand to your audience.
“Showing your character on the pitch, interacting with fans, and participating in social statements are all ways of communicating your personal brand to your audience”
Mané shows his football quality on the pitch, highlighting all his good technical qualities. But his personality is also visible when he called over a ball boy after the Super Cup final in 2019 and gave him his shirt, or when he admitted committing a handball when scoring against Bochum this season.
- In interviews: How you answer interview questions contributes to your image and thereby influences your personal brand. Interviews are not always easy, especially after a lost game, but you must always remain aware that your answers and attitude should reflect your personality.
How you answer interview questions contributes to your image and thereby influences your personal brand”
- On your website: A website is a great way to show your personal brand because it is one of the few platforms where you are 100% in charge of your own image. Maybe not everyone has their own website, but all athletes should consider having one.
- Non-scripted occasions: You can’t script everything you do and that is a good thing. These non-scripted interactions are most likely even more authentic! They are little things that show who you are and what is important to you. But of course, you want to show the positive side and therefore you should stay in control of your emotions. Going back to Mané, he showed his down-to-earth attitude and the importance of his religion when he was seen helping clean toilets at his local mosque in Liverpool just a few hours after one of his games. Or when he helps members of the staff to unload items from the bus, while most other players just walk by.
- Business relationships: Your authentic and outstanding identity runs through all the relationships you have, including business ones. The businesses you choose to partner with, what they do and how they operate, can impact your personal athlete brand in both positive and negative ways. That is why it is very important to carefully reflect on your business relationships and only partner up with companies you have common interests with.
“It is very important to carefully reflect on your business relationships and only partner up with companies you have common interests with”
Creating consistency in your line of communication will distinguish you from other athletes.
Finding business opportunities
A sponsor can offer an athlete financial benefits and, thereby, the opportunity to focus more on their professional athlete career. But it can also help their personal brand grow further!
A relationship like this also has advantages for the sponsor of course. Women’s sports are very different from men’s sports—it has a different audience and a different culture. Sponsoring a female athlete gives a business the opportunity to step into a fast-growing market where it can reach a new audience, sell different products and improve their brand image.
“Sponsoring a female athlete gives a business the opportunity to step into a fast-growing market where it can reach a new audience, sell different products and improve their brand image”
But in a world full of female athletes, why would a business choose to work with you?
This can be a difficult question to answer, but hopefully you already got several useful tips above. To be noticed or considered by a business, you need to stand out from the crowd. The thing that differentiates you from the other athletes out there is your authentic personal brand.
A sponsorship is a mutually beneficial relationship. A business is therefore looking for athletes that can offer them something and match their brand. They can identify with your view on the world, your values and your personality, and use this in their communication with their audience. The stronger your personal brand, the easier it is to find and make that match, and the stronger the message to the world will be.
Sadio Mané has a sponsorship deal with New Balance. New Balance is a value-led organization which seeks to operate with integrity and is managed through teamwork. They define themselves by action and invest in diversity and inclusion. This all fits perfectly with Mané’s background, his social involvement, and his honest and selfless character. Their partnership therefore makes total sense!
Women’s football is booming and there is a lot of potential for businesses to invest. Fans engage with and are more loyal to the players themselves and are consequently more likely to become favorable towards their sponsors than in the men’s game. These characteristics make it very interesting for businesses to invest in the women’s game, and specifically in their players. Valenze encourages brands and athletes to build a mutual relationship that both parties can benefit from, and which will help grow the women’s game even further!
Creating an outstanding and authentic personal brand can help a lot of people to create life-changing opportunities—whether you want to find new sponsors during your athletic career or new clients for your own business. Your personal brand can help you to get there, as long as you stay true to your authentic self.
Do you want to know more about building your authentic and outstanding athlete brand and how Valenze can help you?
Below you can rewatch the webinar in which Ireneo and Nikita explain more about personal branding and answered interesting questions from the audience.