Professional Athletes: The New Fashion Icons

Around the world companies have used athletes to promote their brands since the 1930s, when baseball legend Babe Ruth endorsed a soft drink brand called Red Rock Cola.  Since then, the times have changed and social media has taken over in brand marketing and brand promotion.  The key for fashion brands is choosing the right athlete to endorse your product. These athletes need to seem like they would be an authentic customer of the product, fashion line, or service that they promote.  Trustworthiness and credibility for the brand are most important.  They need to be believed in the eyes of the public.  This results in fans and consumers buying the EleVen athletic wear that Serena Williams promotes on Instagram and the striving ballers purchasing the newest LeBron James Collection basketball shoes because LeBron states he is an all-around better player while wearing them.

Brands reaching into the social communities of these athletes is the smartest thing they can do.  Even an announcement from a brand signing a celebrity or athlete will make the stock prices of the company rise.  Just one endorsement can increase sales by 4%. Brands utilizing Usain Bolts social media accounts create a personal interest in his fans and followers.  TV commercials and billboards are easy to classify as staged productions, whereas Twitter, Instagram and Facebook profiles make the promotion significant and much more attractive to viewers.

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Follow @mariasharapova on Instagram to see how she promotes Nike

Maria Sharapova partnered with Nike to promote their brand.  Not only did she build a successful tennis career, but also a large number of followers across her social media profiles.  With 1.8 million followers on Twitter, over 15 million fans on Facebook, and 164,000 on Instagram, she is one of the most desirable athletes for endorsements. 

The Nike Jordan shoe brand has become one of the most successful athlete endorsement campaigns in history. In 2009, statistics showed that Jordan continued to boost Nike’s bottom line with the Jordan Brand taking 75% of the basketball shoe market, and a 10.8% share of the overall shoe market in the United States. Brands must pay more than $10 million dollars just to use his imagery!  The Nike Jordan fashion line now boasts clothing from athletic shirts and shorts to accessories that include socks, wristbands, headbands, hats, backpacks and of course basketballs. Air Jordan shoes are still one of the mostly highly coveted and highest selling items in Nike’s existence.  The iconography of the “Jumpman” logo combined with innovative designs and Michael Jordan himself revolutionized the Air Jordan brand and the look of basketball footwear forever.

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@kingjames endorsing Nike Air Jordan’s

Professional athletes have been endorsing products for years, but in the last decade athletes have started endorsing brands that have nothing to do with the sports they play.  Professional athletes such as Tom Brady and David Beckham have moved to endorsing brands that are trendy and fashion centric on their social media accounts.

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David Beckham modeling for H&M’s ‘BODYWEAR’ collection

Tom Brady is known for endorsing UGG boots.  This eventually skyrocketed the launch of UGG for Men with the help of a giant spread of him sitting against a wall in GQ magazine wearing the furry boots.  David Beckham is a big endorser of fashion lines for H&M clothing.  Bodywear by H&M suddenly became more desiring.  Both Brady and Beckham are not representing themselves as professional football and soccer players on social media but rather presenting themselves as models of desire in the fashion world.  This contrasts with the Michael Jordan brand because as models they are relying on sex appeal to endorse these products instead of athletic talent.        

By: Shannon Quinlan

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Shannon Quinlan

JMU Class of 2018 SMAD Integrated Advertising & Corporate Communication Major Sports Communication Minor JMU Women's Lacrosse

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