After firing off an email in the middle of class, Alec Palmer quickly found himself shooting a video for an athlete who would soon become the most outspoken voice in baseball. Countless shoots and strategy sessions later, Palmer is now Director of Marketing for Watch-Momentum, an athlete-driven media company co-founder by 2020 Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer.
With diverse experience in content creation, partnerships, marketing, managing merchandise, and academia, Palmer has seen many sides of the endorsement industry, all while working with some of the biggest names in baseball. We caught up with him to learn his approach to athlete brand building and marketing in 2020.
Prepare for Post-Playing Days
An athlete’s career can set them up for a successful future. Palmer’s experience as a collegiate athlete helped him understand the importance of taking advantage of your playing opportunity.
“As an athlete, you’re preparing for the big moment. And if the big moment never comes, you’ve created somewhat of a fallback plan for something to do after the game.”
“Your 15 minutes of fame is at its peak when you’re performing at the highest level. You need to take advantage of that. It’s much harder to take advantage of when it’s done. The traditional thinking is: ‘let’s focus on playing and then try to use my name after the fact.’ In this new age of media and content creation, you’re able to take advantage of that now while you’re playing.”
There’s a variety of ways an athlete can get involved in content creation to build their brand, Trevor Bauer being a prime example. Bauer diversifies the types of content he posts to different platforms. He actively uses Twitter for quick-hitting thoughts and ideas. He uses Youtube to publish his vlog and other long-form media. For Trevor, content creation comes naturally a hobby, but for many other athletes, it may be difficult to determine how to get started.
Palmer points out, “It’s never been easier. But at the same time, it’s never been harder because of all the competition. The barriers to entry are very, very low, but the competition once you get in is extremely high. It’s an interesting dilemma you get into.”
Bauer is one of the best players in baseball, winning the 2020 Cy Young Award, but that wasn’t always the case. He’s been building his personal brand long before his time in the spotlight.
“Before that, it’s been a long play. Over the past one or two years he’s been trying to be the head of content creation. At the time, he wasn’t considered the best pitcher, but he worked on his off-the-field and on-the-field commitment and he became a Cy Young winner. As an athlete, you’re preparing for the big moment. And if the big moment never comes, you’ve created somewhat of a fallback plan for something to do after the game.” says Palmer.
An athlete has to commit to the process of content creation, understanding how it can bring value to themselves and their fans. They naturally have large, accessible audiences, because their audience is naturally a fan of a team and the city they play for.
“Capitalize on the audience of your team, who you’re playing for. That’s the easiest one. You’re able to take that and capitalize on those smaller and local businesses and become a pillar of that community.”
Last night Trevor Bauer won the NL Cy Young Award.— Blake Lawrence ???? (@Blake_Lawrence) November 13, 2020
Back in March, we chatted athlete marketing in the MLB.
This is my favorite clip from that conversation. pic.twitter.com/Eh7vDBTezg
Get Personal About Branding
Every individual has a unique brand and story. Both the athlete and their team need to understand the values, interests, and goals of the individual to help grow their personal brand and connect with an audience.
“You have to understand the athlete, what their goals are, and who they are. When you’re creating good content it has to be something the athlete is already bought into.”
Palmer’s steadfast position to help athletes share their personal stories and experience is clear:
“By taking content creation into your own hands, you’re able to write the narrative that you want to write. Nobody knows you better than yourself.”
People trust people. Athletes’ natural connection to fans allows them to be more relatable compared to a team or a media outlet. It’s important for teams and brands to help athletes feel confident about sharing content.
“We need to get the content into their hands and get them to post it. Opendorse makes that incredibly easy.”
“Players will always outperform networks and teams on social. The same video we post, they’re going to post it and it’s probably going to do way better. We need to get the content into their hands and get them to post it. Opendorse makes that incredibly easy.”
According to Palmer, an athlete’s goals and values don’t only relate to the content they created — it also connects to partnerships that are being created.
“Whenever you’re a partner, brand, or athlete, you need to understand that partnering needs to fit. Not every partner fits whatever you’re looking for no matter the price tag. It needs to fit foremost for the athlete and the brand.”
After finding companies who would be a good fit, athletes seeking partnerships and endorsement deals need to advertise and sell themselves during negotiation conversations. Partners aren’t always going to come to the athlete. Instead, athletes should proactively reach out to potential partners, too.
“Here’s who I am, here’s what I stand for, and here’s how I can benefit you.”
Palmer states, “you need to go into every single partnership conversation with a plan: here’s who I am, here’s what I stand for, and here’s how I can benefit you.”
By having a plan in place, athletes can save time and energy by avoiding small talk and lengthy negotiation processes all while having the confidence that the partnership is the right fit and both sides match each other’s goals and values.
Today, athletes have a very real opportunity to market themselves. There is real value to be had simply by making yourself active and available to potential partners. By creating content — either alone or alongside a team — athletes who invest in quality content can create new revenue streams during their playing days and well beyond.