A New Era of Athlete Advocacy

A New Era of Athlete Advocacy

Sport is a powerful, largely underutilised, vehicle for social change, and athletes all over the world are ready to lead the movement.

Some rally against athlete advocacy, arguing that sport and politics don't mesh. But we ask and expect athletes to be role models both on and off the field. How can we punish them for then taking a stand for something they care about? Values are ingrained in sporting culture, globally.  Naturally, athletes are keen to advocate for what they care about and stand by their values.

As long as their actions don't conflict with the code, agreement or values of the other brands they represent, using their platform for purpose is a great thing.

However, should every athlete be forced to become an advocate? No, not if it's not the right pathway for them. Sincerity is key. But we have seen more and more athletes express a desire to use their platform to aid in social impact initiatives. 

The athlete voice is a powerful tool. If they chose to use their platform, it can create big impact for causes close to their heart. Athletes are trusted leaders within our community, worldwide. When they speak up, we listen.

What advocacy can look like

Advocacy takes shape in many forms. At the end of the day, it's really about athletes using their voice to carry a message.

Some great ways for athletes to take a stand are:

  • Becoming a charity ambassador for a cause that's close to their heart
  • Sharing their personal story and experience
  • Carrying the message on social media, sharing content from experts and other advocates, and using their platform to give the topic a new audience
  • Partnering with a sponsor that also advocates for the issue and working on a creative and purposeful campaign together that aims to make a difference
  • Carrying the message in media interviews, podcasts, speaking opportunities – even writing a personal op-ed on the topic if appropriate
  • Starting their very own hashtag or awareness campaign
How can athletes use their platform?

Once an athlete knows they want to use their platform for purpose, there are some questions they should ask themselves.

  • Firstly, they need to know why they're taking a stand. Does it connect to their story? Their passions? What do they hope to achieve through speaking up? If they're clear on their purpose, it will guide them towards the right opportunities.
  • Audience. Who do they want and/or need to listen to the message and where is the best place to reach them? A great example of this is Damon Jaenke who is raising money and funds for mental health in partnership with Livin for the Push Away the Stigma challenge. Damon's going to be interviewed by ABC radio every day of the challenge and he's chosen this media partnership because he believes it's the best place to find older listeners, who he feels would really benefit from hearing his message.
  • Connection. Is there anyone they could partner with to help them make their voice louder or connect with the right audience? Charities, organisations and businesses are all a great place to start. They don't have to go it alone on this journey.
  • Education. Being informed about what they're speaking about is an essential first step. Be passionate about the cause, but also educate yourself on the facts and nuances of what you're speaking about. Consult experts, listen to people's lived experiences and find credible online resources to read up on.
  • Protecting their brand. A key step should be considering if there's anything they need to do to protect their brand or make sure they're not going against the values or policies of any brands they represent. E.g. having a chat with their sponsors or sports org to make sure they're happy for them to be more vocal about certain issues.
The benefits

Most importantly, by using their platform, athletes are helping to spread a message, make a difference and make the world a better place. While might sound light and fluffy, but it's true. Athletes are credible sources of information. We trust what they have to say and know they put more thought than your average person into the messages they share. Their ready-to-go audience makes them influential ambassadors.

However, there are some other benefits on the table. It helps athletes show the world what they stand for, which creates a more authentic image and impression in the long-term. It can help them attract fans, sponsors and charities with the same vision and values as them.

Plus it does offer some opportunities to grow their profile and network. For their sponsors and sports organisation, it helps make your athletes more visible and it also gives people more opportunities to build an authentic, meaningful connection with them.

Finally, it can provide opportunities for athletes to gain new skills that they can transfer into life after sport. Working with charities on a campaign can teach them about relationship management, marketing, networking, social media, talking to camera, working with the media, carrying a message and community engagement. 

The final word

We're seeing more and more athletes use their platform for purpose. We have entered a new era of athlete advocacy and we have to say, we're here for it. 

About The Brand Builders

We deliver Athlete Brand and Pathway Education globally, via online, in-person and hybrid delivery modes. Our key education topic areas are: Athlete Brand, Sponsorship, Social Media and Public Speaking.

When athletes are empowered with the knowledge, tools and resources they need to elevate their athlete pathway, there is no limit to what they can achieve – during and beyond sport.

While you're here, if you work with or support athletes, check out our Athlete Pathway Education Webinar series that teaches the basics of our topic areas.