With the growth of social media and the explosion of “influencers” as a core marketing model it is easier than ever for individual athletes at all levels to develop and exploit a personal brand. A global athlete such as LeBron, who operates in a heavily marketing focused environment known for its sophisticated and fast-paced endorsement industry, is likely to be cognisant of the relevant risks and limitations; he may also have more bargaining power than his club, given his personal value!
Less experienced athletes however, who are benefiting from endorsement opportunities for the first time will be less familiar with the complexities of individual versus team sponsorship arrangements.
For clubs and teams the expanded opportunities for individuals to obtain endorsement deals can be an opportunity for further marketing, but the exploitation of individual brands may expose clubs and teams to additional risk.
These risks include breaches of club sponsorship arrangements, brand damage resulting from individual marketing campaigns or individual use of social media, inconsistent consumer messaging about what the club represents and, importantly, loss of revenue if marketers choose to invest in athletes (over whom they may expect to have more control) instead of organisations.