Media Training Tips for Independent (and other) Athletes
Updated: May 14
This article isn’t a “Master” class for athlete and influencer media training, but it will go a long way in helping you give something useful and of marketable VALUE back to your sponsor. And as part of that exchange, you increase your own personal brand, image, and money-making potential through your interactions with the public. That’s what it’s all about, right?
I was browsing the web and came across a photo of an athlete proudly showing off a product from their new sponsor. Knowing both the brand and the people behind it, I shared it with them. A few hours later, I got this poignant reply, “Nothing like an athlete holding the product upside down”.
I used to work in professional racing support for a company with a sponsorship budget equal to their name. Media training was new then, but any athlete receiving support should give back to their patron, regardless of their size. Sponsorship is a “quid pro quo”, yet many athletes, independent or not, do a poor job on their end.
I don’t believe anyone holds a product upside down intentionally, but if you are going to be lucky enough to receive support in the form of finances, goods, or services from anybody, “your” end of the deal is to raise their marketability through your interactions with the public.
It’s not enough to be a great (even a good) athlete, you must promote your sponsors, the sport and yourself too. Think of it as being an extension of their marketing team, or as someone in the advertising business. Understand how it works and take it seriously. Athletes with honed media skills make a great impression on sponsors and boost their own potential for future patrons who come searching for the same success.
What TO do:
· Be humble and professional. Remember that it isn’t about you. You are an ambassador, make your actions “help” your audience and sponsor.
· Provide feedback. Athletes can contribute valuable insight to product development through their hours of practice and competition. Communicate your observations to your sponsor regularly. (A thank-you card never hurts either).
· Be an effective and interesting communicator. Develop your tools by practicing off-camera (not in a mirror) and study your performance. Check your dictation and posture, it will make you compelling and alleviate any nervousness and the fear of bombing! Rehearse until you are pleased with the results, be your best judge.
· Tailor responses to your audience and their needs in a message they can relate to. Attention is a valuable resource, and between phone calls, texts, social media etc., the competition is stiff.
· Narrow down interview responses down to a handful and have an interesting story to support each one. This will add validity to the product and you.
· If you consider a question to be stupid, don’t get annoyed, rewrite the question to make it interesting before you reply. You aren’t being judged by the questions, but on your responses. Have a strategy as to how you can come across as your best. Bring something more than your sport and performance.
· Create your own media. If you aren’t getting interviews or photo ops at this stage of your sporting career, take advantage of social media (FB live, Instagram, You-Tube, Tik Tok, Snapchat etc.), and do personal on-site, post-race photos and videos about how you are feeling, how things went. They will be available for the professional media and promote your personal brand for the future.
· Do a check before any media opportunities. Verify that the product and logos are right-side up, clean, looking good, and entirely visible. Inspect the photo or article BEFORE publication to help you keep control of what other people write, publish, video etc., about you.
· Say no if a journalist/sponsor request or activity makes you uneasy. Sponsorship and media deals should match the beliefs, feelings and standards you live by. Staying true to yourself means that followers/readers/viewers will believe in the synergy, making you both more credible.
· Make yourself available to local shops that carry the product to help them promote it with the people that actually make the sponsorship possible, the paying public!
What NOT to do:
· Don’t just put the logo on your jersey or gear and assume it’s enough.
· Don’t expect something for nothing.
· Don’t take photos or videos of the product with another brand or product connected to it, or in direct competition with it.
· Don’t just worry about your followers (Influencers) when taking photos. Ones of poor quality do nothing to help the brand or you. Keep it pro
· Never sound defensive, critical, lie or lead people on. This protects you from personal damage and prevents any quotes, taken out of context, that could prove damaging.
· Avoid cliché responses that are boring, i.e.: “I or the team worked hard today,” or “so and so was the one to beat today.”
· Don’t change sponsors every year. When possible, consistency is the best option
· Don’t accept sponsorships from products or brands you don’t believe in or wouldn't use yourself.