Updated: Sep 19, 2018
Who gets endorsements high performing athletes, right? However, we have seen where lower-level athletes get endorsements as well, hmmm go figure. For instance, on the tennis circuit, have you ever heard of Michael Russel, yea! Well neither did I until I thought about writing this post. Russel is ranked 92nd in the world and guess what he makes a pretty good living on the tennis circuit. So, picture this according to a Forbes article, written by Miguel Morales, a Staff Writer, Russell stated “He made $210,000 in prize money over the past year, earning an additional $60,000 in sponsorship and exhibitions. Federer, the gold standard in tennis (down to the gilded accents on his Wimbledon shoes and bag), pocketed a cool $45 million in sponsorship money during the same period.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/miguelmorales/2013/08/26/aces-into-assets-how-michael-russell-has-made-a-profitable-career-in-the-demanding-world-of-pro-tennis/#40f2846c4754).
Sounds great to be ranked 92nd in the world, not so much when you include travel expenses or for that matter racket stringing these are all factors when trying to make it to the top in this field. So all things considered were all trying to make it to the top in one field or another. But what if you are the best in your field, you should be dubbed the “GOAT” of your industry, however, you still earn less in endorsements. For instance, one of my favorite athletes, Serena Williams, on paper Serena is pretty much better than everyone in her field including the highest paid male tennis athlete Rodger Federer. But that’s far from the truth so let’s examine them side by side shall we:
What am I getting at, you ask? A whole lot if you ask me! On paper, Serena is the number one candidate that should have the highest endorsement right, isn’t that how endorsements should work, especially with athletes. Well just like in the world of sports, marketability is what gets you the endorsements. So, in business it works the same way. I try to live by the mantra that a leader should “always be coaching!” Why? Because you want to be able to put your stamp on the next big thing. Look at it this way when you put your signature on a check you are endorsing the check to state that you certify this check is good, and the funds will be in the account that this check should be pulling from, right? This works the same way when your endorsing a candidate or associate to be placed on a pivotal project for the company, or for a promotion. You are pretty much telling those gatekeepers the money is in the bank for this candidate.
Let’s go back to my Serena Williams example. On paper Serena is the best thing out there- but to marketing campaigns she falls short, for many reasons that I wont address in this post, but please believe this topic will be discussed later. I digress! Serena is the prime candidate, yet she has had to fight harder than most to get her endorsements. So, let me ask you this as a leader in your corporation, company, or department you have a Serena Williams in the midst, so do you take the opportunity to endorse her/him or do pass her/him up? And if you do endorse her/him what is your strategy or tactic to ensure she stays with your company? Or do you pass her up because she/he isn’t as marketable as others. So, with just those three questions being asked I offer you some insight on this topic:
Let’s say you take the opportunity to “always be coaching” this associate, this Serena Williams, what do you do with her/him?
1. Communicate: Communicate the fact that you “see them” and you see all the skills and attributes they bring to the table. Why should you do that? Because you don’t want to let it go on too long that their efforts are unseen, when they aren’t. Communications breaks down barriers you never knew were there in the first place. This will also give your “GOAT” more fuel to keep doing what there doing and then some.
2. Develop a Career Path: Sit down with you Serena’s and let them know you support them, and then show them how your going to support them on this journey with the agency/department/company. I have found that putting it on paper shows them that you are serious. You are serious about their development, future, and essentially their career. Once that is established…
3. Brainstorm: Set up daily, weekly, quarterly meetings so that all parties involved in this marketing campaign are accountable. During these meetings address long, medium, and short-term goals that essentially map out their future within the walls of the company as well as some exit strategies if things don’t work out within the company. This is crucial that the understand just because they work for this company and things don’t work out, that you will still be there to “always be coaching” the campaign here falls through. Everyone doesn’t recognize talent when they see it, so they have realized that although they had a perfect start before they ran the 110-hurdles, one of the refs saw you flinch and now they want to disqualify you. Again, sit down with them advise them of the disqualification and that yes, it can be protested, but work with them to come back greater for the next race.
4. Provide Networking Opportunities: All high-level gathering and/or meetings shouldn’t always be closed- take your Serena with you to some of these meeting or gatherings. Put them in the right place(s) to network and build a rapport with other departments. You never know what your “Serena” can bring to the table. Again “always be coaching.”
5. Strategize: I have always stirred more towards a strategist over a tactical thinker. I say that because, a tactical person, I have found, tend to mouth the words that they are flexible when in all honesty their tactic is “their tactic” – there isn’t any room for movement in their eyes. Whereas a strategic person, ask others their opinions, therefore showing that they are flexible and willing to maneuver through the trenches with you. Why is this so important, because you are a mentor, remember “always be coaching” if you teach your mentee to maneuver in a tactical manner they will always go in with no reproach, like someone that is always defensive. However, there maybe a time where tactics will TRUMP strategy – if you get my drift. But in most cases strategy is better. Get a blueprint together and make sure that if a wrench is thrown you and your Serena are ready to dodge it. This teaches them that they have an ally, and this will also show them that your endorsement will assist them in endorsing someone later down the line. Each one, teach one. Hopefully you see where I am going with this.
6. Marketing: When endorsing your athlete(s) (associate) it is imperative that you put them in the right places for the right reason. I am truly against failing upward, however, I see it every day. Think about it a Sharapova ends up being endorsed over a Serena all because of politics, but if you market Serena right you can normally rest assured that Serena will prevail. I say normally because we all know about office politics, and how they seem to win in most cases, whereas in other words our Serena claims the Victory. Marketing is essential in this scenario, and there is no way around it. Stay focused and don’t let up continue to place your assets in the right places and situations to market them in the right limelight.
I love to endorse because that means I am doing my part in making sure those that have worked hard, and put in their time, and at the top of their game are recognized. It also shows that the career path that was established in the beginning is on course. Now, if all else fails, don’t look at your endorsement as falling through or never comes to fruition you as the mentor must be true to the situation you committed to, and focus them on looking outside of the agency, you cannot hinder them from being great; sometimes the companies that need to endorse this greatness let it slip right through their hands. So, endorse your athletes and don’t give up even when the company cant see what your seeing they will win in the end it just may mean that you have to assist them moving on to another company that will see what their marketability is.