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With a base of loyal followers that regularly engage with the content they post, influencers allow brands to access a world of marketing possibilities. The combination of word of mouth marketing and celebrity endorsement makes for a unique marketing opportunity. Influencer marketing has been a significant topic for a while now. Statistics show that 63% of marketers plan on increasing their influencer marketing budget over the next year.

Fitness influencers dominate social media; it’s no secret. Influencers offer significant value to brands with more customer engagement, sales, and return on investment. There’s much to be learned from the industry’s top fitness influencers, especially for gyms and studios. Here are four key lessons from fitness influencers that you can apply to your brand’s social media strategy, and 12 excellent example to follow for inspiration.

From Tiger Woods to Tom Brady, from Alex Rodriguez to Andy Roddick, the phenomenon of high-visibility ‘person brands’ has become common across a broad spectrum of sports. If a brand in general can be thought of as the associations that people make with the goods or services of a particular seller (Keller, 1993), then a person brand can be considered to be the set of associations identified with a particular person.

The value to an athlete of a high-visibility brand

While not every athlete has a well-established person brand with fans, or the general public, we know that athletes with powerful person brands bring considerable value to teams or tournaments (e.g., Kaynak et al., 2008). And the value to an athlete of a high-visibility brand can be remarkable: beyond remuneration for professional performance, the athlete can enjoy lucrative endorsement opportunities during his or her sporting career. Even after their careers end, athletes with potent brands can benefit by lending their names to entrepreneurial endeavours.

Surprisingly, however, relatively few researchers have systematically studied how athletes, or people in general, can build person brands that distinguish them from peers and provide such rewarding opportunities. Only a few academic papers in marketing or consumer research touch on the person-branding process. The celebrity literature sheds some light on the nature of celebrity but less on the specific processes by which an individual may develop it. Beyond the academic literature, most analyses of the phenomenon are confined to books written for a general audience, and although valuable, none of these have addressed the question of how people in a profession (such as a sport) can build person brands with high equity (cf. Keller, 1993).

Contrasting profiles as person brands

We address this gap by conducting an inductive analysis of case studies of two acclaimed athletes: David Beckham and Ryan Giggs. Although their careers have notable similarities and both are regarded as outstanding professional footballers (soccer players for North American fans; hereafter, we refer to the sport as soccer to avoid confusion with American football), they have contrasting profiles as person brands. And while soccer has some unique characteristics that are discussed below, an analysis of the on-field and off-field brand-building practices of these two soccer players can help us understand how athletes build brand equity and what factors characterise person brands that originate in a professional field. This paper begins with a review of literature relevant to the phenomenon of person brands and person-brand building.

It then briefly describes the methods used to build the Beckham and Giggs case studies. The data is analysed using methods that are typical in qualitative research, and the analysis yields novel conceptual insights into two distinguishable elements that characterise athletes’ brands: professional image and mainstream media persona. We posit that both contribute to an athlete’s person brand equity.

We develop insights about the practices that yield a better professional image and a more valuable mainstream media persona, and we posit connections between these constructs and person brand equity. Finally, we discuss implications for athletes and those managing their brands

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