It’s been more than 10 years since the legend Michael Jordan played professional basketball. And yet his brand today is even stronger than it was then – if brand is measured by revenue generated. His brand partnership with Nike netted him $90 million in 2013, $10 million more than he earned in his last year with the Bulls.
Athletes are always only one goal or shot away from an injury that can end their career. This is why their salaries are so much higher than the rest of ours. What they earn in a season might be what they have for the rest of their lives. And within 5 years of retirement 60% of NBA players are broke. It’s even worse for American football players – 2 years after retirement, 78% of players are broke or in financial distress.
But Michael Jordan is the gift that just keeps giving. His adoring fans are willing to go to any length to bask in his glory. Shoe sales for the Jordan brand grew to $2.7 billion!
There are very few artists, athletes or celebrities that have the staying power of Jordan. Mere mortals grovel at his feet. Who else could shoot a basket with his eyes closed? But his relationship with his fans and his relationship with brands should be a lesson for anyone with star power. The more loyal your fans, the greater value you have to brands. If you are an athlete you should be worried about your future earnings. Your ability to earn once you’re off the court or field will be based on your ability to stay connected with your fans.
If you own your fan data then you can reach them when you are no longer in the stadium or in games broadcast on TV. Fans will become your loyal friends who want to stay in touch as you move into new careers, launch clothing lines or restaurant chains. If you can reach your fans you can get them to come out to see you in your new gig. If you had your own mobile fan club app, where you have direct access to your fans (not through some third party like Facebook or Twitter) then you’d be able to secure your financial future.
There are 90 million reasons to get closer to your fans.