We look at how some of the world's most famous athletes are using their personal websites strategically...
The ubiquity of social media provides athletes with an increasingly large number of channels through which to communicate to their fans but a relatively small level of customisation of these channels through which to convey their brands - the dominant branding on Twitter or Facebook is still that of Twitter or Facebook. While some have seen the rise of social media as reducing the importance of websites, other athletes have still realised their potential to communicate their brand personality in a more unique way. This article looks at some prime examples of using athlete’s using websites for clear strategic purposes -
In 2009, LeBron’s image took a serious dent after The PR gaffe that was “The Decision” - an hour-long ESPN special where LeBron announced he would be leaving for Miami. Since that incident there has been a consistent effort to portray this considerable talent in a more balanced light. To that end, LeBron’s website firmly puts the emphasis on his philanthropic work with the website split between - The Man - The Philanthropist - The Businessman - The Athlete. The message is clear and simple, LeBron is a very talented athlete who is doing a lot of work in his home community to improve the plight of ordinary people.
Key Takeaway: A website can be a bespoke solution to a specific problem.
Andy Murray’s site was recently updated from a swirling 100% flash-based, tennis court morphing maze into a sleek contemporary minimalist design featuring the essential details and little else. The site is simply designed and highly functional, in the best sense.
Key Takeaway: Design should remain contemporary and be somewhat future-proofed or else a site risks looking very dated very fast.
The golden girl of the London 2012 games and Adidas sponsored athlete, Ennis’ website is particularly clean and lean [much like those abs]. Without the same level of resources as other athletes on this list, it’s key for the heptathlete to communicate a polished yet approachable media presence which she carries off very well in reality and through her website. The aspect which sets this site apart is the added touch of responding on her blog to children’s fan-mail, this adds a real human touch rather than some of the over inflated egos found elsewhere in sport.
Key Takeaway: There is still room to reach out to fans in a way that is far more meaningful than a retweet or a 160 character reply
The landing page of the Russian tennis star is a slick amalgamation of her social media in combination with a space to push her brand extensions. Her own brand of sweets Sugarpova’s feature prominently on the top line of the landing page which is all in keeping with the consummately cultivated image which the tennis star presents throughout. Whereas some athletes are beginning to abandon official websites for communicating solely through Facebook and Twitter, Sharipova’s site is an excellent example of how a website can still provide an excellent customised shop-window for an athlete’s brand and deliver a more unique experience than the one-size-fits-all approach of social media. Whereas tweeting ‘Buy my sweets’ might look crass, everything on this site is carefully manicured so as not to look out of place.
Key Takeaway: If an athlete is particularly active across social media a website can provide a good collation point for all those activities.
Although it might be a bit too much for the casual admirer of CR7, it’s a site which certainly knows its audience - fans who are obsessed with Cristiano Ronaldo - and delivers full value in that department. The website is the heart of a burgeoning merchandising and endorsement empire.
Key Takeaway: Whereas a shameless plug of a sponsor can seem off or soulless through social media merchandising can be done more explicitly through websites since its target is truly hardcore fans.
At Atomic Sport we have our own strong beliefs on how best an athlete can present themselves and their brand online. The examples in the article above are snapshots of what to do and what not to do, if you want to discuss an athlete or sports web project, email@example.com is your guy.