This Business Called Sport

It has been a long-time since I played phone-tag with an athlete for an interview, and yet I remain tied to this business called sport.

By birth (and not through any exceptional athletic prowess of my own) I am intimately woven into the fabric of professional sport.  Not only the public performance part, but the other side – the ‘support’ network.

Over the past decade (okay nearly two) while dressing for combat in the pre-requisite corporate suit, I oscillated between managing, pitching, sponsoring and showcasing professionals (a lot of them athletes) in various marketing, communications and media roles.

But I’m not talking about the faux glitz and glamour of the mediatized version of sport.

I’m talking about the skeleton.  The place where it’s all about what’s best for the athlete to ensure s/he performs.

Don’t get me wrong…this business called sport is a multi-faceted, highly evolved beast.  So none of what I’m saying is particularly new.  Although…

Managing the brand, as well as, the person in this constantly-evolving, very public and intricately networked digital world, seems to be a topic in which very few industry experts are engaged.

Or am I simply out of the loop?

To truly understand the profession of athleticism, it takes a lot longer than an hour’s interview or a lifetime of observation.  It takes practical know-how.

Professionalism, or sometimes simply, the commercialisation of sports, adds a new dimension to an athlete’s portfolio.

So where can and do athletes go to train in the art of the integrated media network?

Depending on who you talk to, the answer will vary.  Talent managers, media managers, sports unions, lawyers, stylists, university professors, candle-stick makers – it’s really a free for all… or is it?

Speak to a veteran performer and more often than not, they’ll tell you they’ve muddled their way through, with the help of a handful of friends and trusted acquaintances with mixed results.

Then turn to a rookie and watch.  The good ones are already sizing-up every person in the room to see if they are friend or foe, helper or hanger-on.

Understanding is key.  Acquiring knowledge, an assurity of stepping closer to success as a professional; because performance isn’t all training, playing and recovery.

It’s about agility, as demanded by the 24/7 news cycle, the capabilities of new media and mobile technologies, as well as, the traditional key stakeholders: the sponsors, administrators, managers, medicos, team mates, family and supporters.

Managing the person, as well as, the brand is an integrated and highly specialised skill.  One that has evolved beyond knowing the right editor or producer at the various TV or radio stations.

So where can athletes and sports professionals go to train for the new media age?  Or rather, as they say in the corporate world ‘network’ to exchange ideas and share experiences?

I’m hoping they’ll be brave enough to play here… eventually.

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