Andrea from Pedaling Words
The Top 18 Media Training Tips for Cycling Athletes
Updated: May 17, 2021
I was browsing the web and came across a photo of an athlete 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 received a poignant reply, “Nothing like an athlete holding the product upside down”.
I worked in professional racing support for a company with a sponsorship budget equal to their name. Media training was new then, but athletes 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 poorly represents a product intentionally, but if you are lucky enough to receive finances, goods, or services from anybody, “your” end of the deal is to raise their marketability through 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 someone in the advertising business. Understand how it works and take it seriously. Be good at it and it will be good to you.
Athletes who hone their media skills build their personal brand, image and reputation. Making a great impression with current sponsors spells a strong return on their investment, and boosts your potential as future sponsors will come searching for you.
What TO do:
Be humble and professional. It isn’t about you. You are an ambassador; your actions should help your audience and sponsor.
Provide feedback. Athletes can contribute valuable insight to product development through hours of practice and competition. Communicate your observations to your sponsor regularly. (An occasional 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. Your dictation and posture will make you compelling and alleviate any nervousness and the fear of bombing! Be your best judge and rehearse until you are pleased with the results.
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 to a handful and have an interesting story to support each one. This adds validity to the product and you.
If you consider a question stupid, don’t get annoyed, rewrite the question and make it interesting before you reply. You aren’t judged by questions, but on your responses. Have a strategy to 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. Public material is available for the professional media and it promotes your personal brand.
Do a check before media opportunities. Verify product and logos are right-side up, clean, looking good, and visible. Inspect photos or articles BEFORE publication to control what other people write, publish, video etc., about you.
Say no if a journalist or 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.
Be available for local shops that carry the product to promote it with the people that make the sponsorship possible, the paying public.
What NOT to do:
Don’t put the logo on your jersey or gear and presume 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 pass off bad pictures. Poor quality does 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 boring cliché responses, i.e.: “I or the team worked hard today,” or “they brought their ‘A’ game,” and “so and so was the one to beat.”
Don’t change sponsors every year. Consistency is best.
Don’t accept sponsorships from products or brands you don’t believe in or wouldn’t use yourself.
This article isn’t a Master class for athlete and influencer media training, but it goes a long way in helping you give something of useful and marketable VALUE back to your sponsor.
And as part of that exchange, you increase your personal brand, image, and money-making potential through your interactions with the public. That’s what it’s all about, right?
I am a lifetime cyclist who has worn a few different hats during my professional career. I now work as a French to English cycling specific translator and a ghost/blog writer of cycling and other content in English. One passion that has remained constant is my love of cycling and everything that encompasses it.
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