Why work in this field?
The three white stripes on David Beckham’s Adidas boots, the tick on Tiger Woods’ Nike golf caps, Bjorn Borg winning Wimbledon with his Fila-branded headband, Pele promoting Viagra… some of the world’s most famous sport stars are epitomised by the brands they wear and support. You can’t imagine them without their trademark clothing or equipment.
Sporting goods and equipment companies play such a key role in the sporting world. Their innovations can make athletes quicker, stronger and more effective than ever before. It’s a multi-billion pound industry and that’s before we even get into the merchandise side of things.
What roles does this industry need?
You could pick up graduate jobs in a few different areas of the sporting brand world, including design, innovation, production, manufacturing, marketing and promotion.
One of the most exciting positions associated with sports brands is in the design and innovation behind every single product. The helmet that provides Jenson Button with extra breathability, the dimples on a golf ball that help Ian Poulter hit it further and even those ridiculous snoods which apparently prevent footballers from getting neck injuries – they’ve all been designed by sports inventors to make the world of sport as cutting edge and advanced as it can be.
Everything that we see our sporting heroes (and villains) wear has gone through hours of brainstorming, designing, redesigning and development to get to where it is. Sports inventors are responsible for testing current equipment and thinking of ways to make it better.
These ideas get developed, pitched to brand management departments, made into prototypes, tried, tested and redeveloped until the idea is complete and ready to be made.
The brand management department has the final say on whether a product gets made or not. They need to consider not only whether it works, but whether it is marketable. Once this is decided, it goes into production.
Once it’s made, the marketing guys have their time to shine. There is a whole world of sports marketing and politics – who wears what, what they can and can’t wear, what boots they wear, when they wear it and so on and so on.
Wayne Rooney is sponsored by Nike, so if he’s seen sauntering around Manchester wearing an Adidas tracksuit, all hell will break loose and the whole world will come to a grinding halt. Seriously, it’s that big a deal.
Sports brand marketing executives also need to make sure that the brand is seen at the right time to increase consumer sales. If Roger Federer uses a limited edition tennis racquet in the final of Wimbledon, the whole world will be watching and sales will go through the roof.
Any marketing role requires employees to have a great sense of the sports market, the sporting brand’s target audience and its competitors. It helps to have a good interest in sport to perfect this side of your role.
Sponsorship also plays a huge role in the world of sporting brands, goods and equipment. Where the sponsor is seen is essential. You see the likes of Nike and Adidas getting involved in youth soccer. It’s superb that brands do this. They are pumping funds in to the grass rooms game, but at the same time it’s great advertising and PR for them, so it works both ways. Everyone’s happy!
Finally, you have the sporting stores that help sell the product. It’s not as simple as standing behind the till and exchanging cash for the product. These days, you have to really know about what you’re selling. If you go to Nike Town on Oxford Street looking for a pair of running trainers, the assistant will get you on the treadmill, record your movements, monitor your running style and suggest a running shoe based on their findings.
How do I get started?
Depending on which area of the sporting brands world you want to get into, the level of knowledge and qualifications you’ll need will vary massively.
For sporting equipment design and innovation roles, most employees have a degree or background in design. You might need experience in developing prototypes or using computer aided design (CAD) methods to develop products on the computer.
Marketing executives aren’t usually required to have a degree, but obviously it can help because of the competitive nature of the sports industry. What’s more important here is that you display a genuine passion for the sport you’re interested in. Playing it from an early age, watching it on TV, attending live events – it all helps you to build up the relevant knowledge and information that you need to make it.
If you’re mad about the world of sport, there’s a massive array of opportunities available: you could be optimising the performance of your favourite sports stars, pushing your brand through product endorsements, or helping people to become as fit as possible. If any of that appeals to you, this is probably a pretty solid career path for you to follow.