I have done numerous influencer marketing campaigns with pretty high level athletes and musicians. Those of you who know me on a personal level know that I am training to become a high level athlete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). Because of my background buying sponsorships I like to think I have a pretty unique perspective on how a person can go about becoming a professional athlete.
This is the way I look at it.
Athletes can make money one of three basic ways (usually).
- “Prize” money (paid to play).
- Sponsorships/influencer marketing.
- Selling branded merchandise.
Let’s define being a professional athlete as you make money by playing your sport, whatever it is. Personally I think #1, getting paid to play your sport, is probably the worse path to becoming a professional athlete.
First of all, because only a select few sports even have decent enough prize/payments to play. Basketball, football, MMA, golf, baseball, and the list starts to dry up very quickly. BJJ for example has basically no money in it. Nobody makes their living off tournaments.
Now this leads me to #2 & #3.
A professional athlete, is an influencer.
Even if you ARE paid to play, the only reason there’s money in the first place is because somebody is selling advertising space and/or merchandise.
This means that if you want to be paid to play your sport, one of the most significant factors is going to be the size of your influence/audience. You are inherently in the business of influencer marketing.
Now let me ask you, what is easier?
A) Becoming one of the top 10 athletes in your sport out of the whole world.
B) Building 1,000,000 – 10,000,000 followers.
The answer is B, ALL day long. I can build followers at about a $0.05-$0.10 CPL extremely easy. That means if I want a following of 1 million people who watch me do BJJ, it’s going to cost me $50k-$100k. I’m a pretty good athlete, my body is very flexible and extremely strong per pound. I’m an intelligent hard working person who picks up on technique very quickly.
But I haven’t been training since I was 5 years old, I started at 24. One day I’m going to be very very good at my sport. But will I ever be a world champion? Probably not.
But I am 100x more likely to be able to make my living than the hundreds of nameless world champions, because while their focus is on becoming the best, mine is on building my brand. With the “current” level of my social channel I get more engagement, reach, and recognition than 90% of BJJ black belt world champions.
Focus on building your audience.
You don’t need to quit your job & dedicate yourself to your sport to become a professional athlete. In fact most of the time you need to do the exact opposite.
Yes, train hard at your sport. But work your butt off, save money, and build a following. If you want to be a professional athlete you are in the business of becoming an influencer. You don’t just wake up one day with 1,000,000 followers. It takes time, money, and dedication, even MORE than what you put into your sport.
I see so many extremely talented athletes struggling to get by. I watch them pour their whole life into their sport, without realizing that taking a day job to earn money will get them to their goal 100x faster.
Take it from a guy who has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on high level athletes and musicians. I didn’t pay them because they could shoot a ball or choke someone out.
They got paid because they sold my product.