By Guest Contributor Ferran Martínez
When you are enjoying your career as an athlete it can feel all-consuming and it’s hard to think ahead to when your sports career will end. For athletes, their passion, drive perseverance will help them succeed. To create and build a business from your sport you’ll need to use all of that passion particularly if you are injured or have to retire early for health-related reasons.
Athletes who do not plan for their career after sports often find life really tough. With careful planning, however, it is possible to build a successful business out of your sports career.
I was a professional basketball player, reaching the height of my fame during the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics when I was just 19 years old. This brought me great fame and fortune, but it wasn’t enough to set me up for life. I knew that if I was going to have a life after sports, I needed to take charge and manage my career from day one.
Let me share some tips from what I have learned from my experience of transitioning from sport to business.
1. Always keep in mind – Athletics is only part-one of your career
Becoming a professional athlete is tough. It’s hard to find the time to study, train, find sponsorship and earn money ‒ all while living life. When you finally do breakthrough, it can feel like you’ve arrived…that this is it!
But it’s incredibly important to remember that sport is only the first stage in your lifelong career. Most professional athletes retire in their thirties ‒ it’s just too physically demanding to compete professionally beyond that age. And, unlike when you’re starting out, there are very few people there to support you in your retirement. It’s all down to you.
As such, I highly recommend that you complete your school studies, even if it delays your professional sports career. Without a basic education, it is hard to gain a toehold in society after you retire from sports. A good education will also help you navigate the world of sports better, helping you avoid bad contracts and deals, for example.
It’s also important to watch your finances. A lot of athletes start earning good money and blow it all on fast cars and holidays. These expenses may be fun, but they won’t help when your sports career is over. Cars devalue rapidly and holidays become distant memories. So, make sure you put some of your money to good use.
2. Invest your new income with care
Rather than buying a fancy new Ferrari, a yacht or some other flashy item with your big paycheck, consider what to invest your money in. Property is a good example as it’s likely to retain or grow in value over your career.
You could also think about investing your disposable income in businesses. I love technology, for example, so I invested regularly in exciting new technology companies. Not every investment will be a winner, but with some careful financial planning (and probably some expert advice) you can put your money to good use and gain a return on your investment later in life.
3. Engage your fans early on
Fans are an essential source of support throughout your sports career and afterwards. They will come and see your matches, buy your merchandise, and even provide financial support. For example, GlobaTalent allows athletes to raise money directly from their fans in order to fund those difficult early days without selling out to a bank or big investor.
By engaging your fans at an early stage in your career, you help to build and establish a strong fan base. Not only does this feel amazing but it can seriously help kickstart your career after sports. They will be your first customers, your social media advocates, and your brand ambassadors. Treat them well now and they will return the favour later.
4. Use your image positively
If you are particularly successful in your sports career, it will be extra hard to hold a normal job when you retire. I haven’t played professional basketball in many years, yet I am still stopped and asked for photographs and signatures, especially in my native Spain.
As a sports star, it’s important for you to represent the sport in a good way, inspiring the next generation to become athletes and demonstrating what good sportsmanship looks like.
However, while this recognition may make it difficult to hold a normal job, it does open-up new avenues for making money, especially in our world of social media. Popularity gives you influence and influence can be commoditised. You can endorse products or services, promote them to your fans, or even use it to set up your own business. How many people have watched George Foreman box compared to the number who own a George Foreman grill?
To make this work, you need to look after your image. Think of your public persona as your business ‒ it needs to have a good reputation and a good standing in order to sell. One way to maintain your image is by engaging your fans on a regular basis and giving back. If fans feel part of your journey, they will come to regard you positively and support every stage of your career ‒ professional or otherwise.
5. Use your influence to improve the world
As well as using your image and influence to make money, you can also use it to improve the world around you. Say you have 10 million fans. If each contributed just £1 you could build a new mental health unit in a hospital, or pay tuition fees for 33,000 university students.
Whatever philanthropic activity you decide to support, do it with a smile. Magic Johnson hasn’t played professional basketball since 1996, yet he is often in the news supporting philanthropic endeavours with a big smile on his face. This positive attitude has endeared him to existing fans as well as making him many new fans, keeping him relevant even after his retirement.
Being a great athlete is an excellent start. However, you need to recognise that your sports career has a limited life. It is the first phase of a lifelong career. This means that you need to plan from the beginning and make sure you save your earnings for what comes next.
A sports career is an excellent stepping stone – one that can lead you to new successes with a growing following of devoted fans. Good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ferran Martínez is one of the co-founders of GlobaTalent. He is a former pro basketball player for FC Barcelona and Spanish National Team, a Laureus member, led sports entertainment at several private banks and is now a successful entrepreneur. He also has experience in advising in terms of investment and has done so for FC Barcelona players.
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