The Ultimate Guide to Athlete Branding on Social Media

The Ultimate Guide to Athlete Branding on Social Media

Athlete branding has become an integral part of how to monetize their name, image, and likeness. Social media platforms have proven to be crucial while developing and maintaining personal brands. All athletes’ personal brands fall under established categories and sub-categories.

Categories of Athlete Branding

The first category is athletic performance which includes branding elements such as athletic expertise, competition style, sportspersonship, and rivalry. The next athlete branding category is attractive appearance. Attractive appearance branding includes physical attractiveness, body fitness, or fashion symbols. The third category of athlete branding is marketable life. Athletes who incorporate their marketable life into their personal brand will share life story, act as a role model, put forth relationship effort, charity, character, and family. The final category of athlete branding is sports attributes, which includes the athletes’ sport, league, team, school, position, and number. Find out what category you fall into and how to enforce that brand image.



We use this athlete brand model (from Kunkel, Doyle & Na, 2020) and have compiled examples from each category along with recommendations to help up your social media game. 

Athletic Performance

Athletic performance relates to what an athlete shows the field of play that is unique to them. This could be their skill set, style of competing, sportspersonship, or even utilizing a personal or team rivalry. 

Athletic Expertise

Professional skateboarder Lizzie Armanto shares high-level stunts and tricks with her followers. She has mastered street skating and has accumulated a massive following in doing so. 

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Post your most engaging highlights from your career, footage of yourself practicing or in the gym, and uploading mastered skills that are difficult to replicate.


Competition Style

Israel Adesanya has become well known due to his unique fighting style. Adesayna incorporated his background in dance and his passion for anime into his walkout routines. His love for anime and unique fighting style landed him the nickname “The Last Stylebender”. This is a reference to the anime show ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Reinforce your unique playing style via highlights, offer instructions on a mastered technique, and let your most-talked about trait or action become your brand. 


Chloe Kim took the extreme sports world by storm as a snowboarding phenom. Since she has been winning medals for the United States around the world. Kim demonstrates her sportspersonship by frequently posting her support for her peers. By doing so she also showcases that there is camaraderie among the world’s elite snowboarders. 

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Give opponents kudos after a win, compliment the effort or skill of an opponent, and public communication between non-teammates via social media.



Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady’s rivalry has helped build the brands of both athletes. Tom Brady acknowledged his rivalry with Peyton Manning when he posted a picture to his Instagram captioned, “Spoiler alert… we were friends the whole time. Always great to see you Peyton!” Both athletes acknowledged the significance of the other while building their own personal brands. The two shared mutual respect throughout their careers and now into Manning’s retirement.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Promote your rivalries by engaging fans to turn out and get excited for a rivalry match, participating in healthy trash talk, and posting about an upcoming derby game.


Attractive Appearance

An athlete’s appearance holds significant weight in their athlete brand. An athlete can utilize either their own physical attractiveness, body fitness, or by becoming more of a symbol by incorporating a unique fashion sense.

Physical Attractiveness

Serena Williams may be the most dominant tennis player to walk onto a court, but off the court she has developed an entirely different brand for herself. Serena frequently posts selfies or behind the scenes of her latest magazine cover photo shoot. 

How to Enforce this Brand Image

You can do this by posting content highlighting how you maintain your clear skin, inspiration for your fashion sense, and hair style.


Body Fitness

There is no greater example of body fitness than Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has amassed the largest Instagram following in the world largely due to a combination of his success on the field but also due to his unbelievable physique. He often posts content from his workout sessions and training on the pitch to showcase just how unbelievable of an athlete he is.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Post your own fitness / dietary plans, highlighting the lengths you go to maintain your body, and your own workout/gym content.



The athlete appearance can be characterized by athletes becoming a symbol, most often seen as a fashion symbol. Megan Rapinoe has made herself instantly recognizable with her now iconic hairstyles. Rapinoe has broadened her brand to exist outside of soccer by embodying herself as a fashion symbol.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Post your favorite places to find unique clothing, partnering with brands to reinforce your own ‘symbol’, and predicting trends to stay a step ahead of what other athletes and influencers are wearing.


Marketable Life

An athlete’s marketable life can stem from obstacles the athlete needed to overcome to get to where they are and who they are as a person. Their actions both on and off the field of play, and even familial relationships. The elements of a marketable life that contribute to an athlete’s branding are life story, role model, relationship effort, charity, character, and family. 

Life Story

One’s life story can be leveraged to be incorporated into their personal brand. We have all overcome obstacles that others relate to. Such is the case of Shaquem Griffin. Griffin has been without his left hand since he was four years old and has managed to make the Seattle Seahawks starting roster. Griffin differentiates himself with life story.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

You can share your life story by highlighting obstacles you have overcome, a unique experience that shaped your values, and being open to sharing your past with the world.


Role Model

The Belgian soccer star Tessa Wullaert has recognized that she is in a unique position to inspire girls across the globe. In order to inspire positive change, Wullaert behaves as a role model. She believes that no dream is too big and that you should always believe in yourself. She shares these beliefs on her social media and through her organization ‘#GRLPWR’.  

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Be cognizant of anyone who may look up to you, be available to those who support you, and continue to engage in open communication. Platforms such as the SPRTER app provide athletes with a “My Causes” tab on your profile that showcases your philanthropic and charitable efforts.


Relationship Effort

Candace Parker continues to diversify her brand as a top WNBA Star, media analyst and still takes time to engage with her followers on social media. Her effort to open a two-way line of communication with her fans makes Parker more relatable. This creates a connection deeper than just an athlete-fan relationship.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Actively participate on social media, and make an effort to constantly connect online by responding to comments and posts. A simple response to a comment can lead to a lifelong fan.



NFL superstar JJ Watt has leveraged his charitable efforts to expand his personal brand. The charity work Watt has done has greatly increased the value of his athlete brand as he is known as one of the most influential philanthropists in sports today. This was never more evident than when he helped raise over $41 million to help those most affected by hurricane Harvey in Houston.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Establish core values as an athlete and actively seek an organization that matches your values. Regardless of your passion, a charity will meet that niche. Having an athlete on board helps to boost the cache of the organization while simultaneously helping improve the brand image of the athlete. There is no limit to how many charities an athlete commits to, as long as you manage their involvement accordingly. Platforms such as the SPRTER app provide athletes with a “My Causes” tab on their profile that showcases their philanthropic and charitable efforts.



Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s motivational and inspirational spirit and training grit. He regularly posts motivational videos on social media to push others.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Appear on podcasts, short form video content, and other forms of digital media are easy and effective formats to convey your character to the masses. Especially if an athlete has a natural platform as a member of a recognizable team/league there is a significant opportunity to build a platform even while away from the field.



San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach Becky Hammon is most well known for breaking the NBA’s glass ceiling for females. She became the first woman to serve the role of Head Coach in an NBA game. Hammon builds her off-court brand by showcasing the importance of family and welcomes her followers into her personal life.  

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Post photos and videos about your family and friends. Answer the question, “who are you off the field?”. Showcase your family and friend’s unique traits and personalities, fans will also return to your profile to see them as well. 


Sports Attributes

The sport attribute segment of athlete branding examines the associations between athletes and the environment they compete. Sports attributes relate to the sport or league athletes play in, the team or school they are a part of, or something as simple as the position they play or the number they wear.

Sport / League

Paul Rabil is considered by many to be the greatest lacrosse player of all time. Lacrosse is not widely played outside of the United States and Canada. With this knowledge, Paul has leveraged his brand to help build awareness and participation levels in lacrosse across the world. In doing this Paul has recognized a mutually beneficial relationship where he has become the face of lacrosse. He has also launched his own team, the Atlas Lacrosse Club of the PLL in which he competes.

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Take part in the governing body or other organizational involvement with whatever league you are affiliated with.


Team / School

Sabrina Ionescu played four years of Division 1 College Basketball as an Oregon Duck. She leveraged the University of Oregon’s branding and connections alongside her outstanding talent to elevate herself as one of the faces of Women’s Basketball; all while still in college. In her time at the University of Oregon Ionescu often came to mind when the public thought about Oregon basketball, a welcome change from the norm. 

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Select the school that will grant you the most exposure and participates in a number of school-related events. 


Position / Number

The role of positions or numbers for athlete brands provides an opportunity to create a moniker or a nonverbal cue to showcase their value. Prime examples of this are Chris Paul’s “CP3” or Cristiano Ronaldo’s “CR7.”

How to Enforce this Brand Image

Find a natural nickname that is often crowdsourced by fans and the community. Lean into the nickname the fans have given to you. If it is positive, maybe it will stick. If it is negative, maybe poke fun at yourself by acknowledging it.

Athlete Branding Overview

Overall, there are many different avenues of personal branding, which may lead to difficulty determining the best social media strategy. This blog provides a simple guide for Sporters to follow. Choose the branding category and sub-category you want to enforce, and focus on bringing that into your social media profiles. Given the importance of branding in the sports landscape today, an established personal brand is invaluable.

The SPRTER app provides a platform for Sporters to control the narrative of their brand effectively. The profile layout on the app makes it easy for Sporters to highlight everything that they would want their supporters and potential sponsors to know about them; accomplishments, favorite moments, existing sponsors, their most meaningful charitable causes, and everything else going on in their lives. Lastly, with the newly released Experience Store and SPRTER Gold personal assistant service, Sporters can connect with their supporters easier than ever before while also monetizing their brand.