" />
Athletes Turned Broadcast Personalities: Extending their Brand Appeal

Athletes Turned Broadcast Personalities: Extending their Brand Appeal

6 minute read

  • It is common for television networks to secure former athletes as on-air personalities, and this second career can help extend the sponsorship appeal of the former athlete.
  • Athletes turned broadcasters can showcase their personality, secure consistent exposure, and introduce themselves to a new audience, all of which are appealing to potential sponsors
  • As a result of increased air-time, athlete broadcasters run the risk of saying something controversial or not aligned with a sponsor’s values; a key consideration for investing brand

When an athlete retires, they leave behind not only their lucrative playing contracts but in many cases, their appeal to sponsors. However, some athletes are fortunate enough to transition their career away from the playing field towards a career in television as a broadcaster. The majority of sports television networks look to employ former athletes as broadcasters in order to provide viewers with unique insights. This career path can also help athletes extend their brand appeal, reaching new audiences and adding value to their corporate sponsors. 

How Broadcasting Can Help Analysts Appeal to Sponsors

Working as a television broadcaster can provide former athletes with a number of advantages when positioning their brand appeal to potential sponsors.

Showcase Personality – Aside from post-game interviews, athletes have a limited engagement window to showcase their personality to the traditional media. This can create a situation where players are known primarily to fans for their on-field performance. However, as a broadcaster, an athlete will receive the opportunity to showcase their personality and insights in a way that was not available to them as a player. Hockey players are frequently noted for their reserved behaviour and tendency to show little personality. However, former hockey players turned broadcasters PJ Stock and Kevin Weekes have both appeared in commercials since becoming analysts on Hockey Night in Canada. Broadcasting can help athletes connect with a wider audience, and allow brands to leverage them in new ways that can play to their strengths as a broadcaster.

Consistent Public Exposure - How familiar the public is with an athlete contributes to that athlete’s effectiveness as an endorser. Familiarity can be attributed to a number of things, such as how often an athlete plays, or how well they perform. However, when an athlete retires, this is no longer the case. As a broadcaster, athletes are able to remain relevant by remaining in the spotlight. Toronto Blue Jays announcer and former player Buck Martinez is consistently on television throughout the Blue Jays season as he is their play-by-play announcer. This has made him very familiar to Blue Jays fans across the country. Due to his appeal as a broadcaster and public exposure, Martinez has appeared in a spot for beer brand Shock Top.

Exposure to a New Audience - A select number of athletes turned broadcasters have been able to transition their career away from sports and venture into other areas of broadcasting such as entertainment. This shift can introduce them to a new audience that was not previously familiar with them and allows brands to leverage them for a wider range of products or services. Additionally, a number of today’s athlete broadcasters could have played at a time when younger fans were not alive. Their transition into broadcasting introduces them to a younger audience who recognizes them for their broadcasting work. Former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw is now a Fox analyst who has been introduced a younger generation of football fans thanks to his television work. He has also been able to transition into acting where he has become a recognizable name to even non-football fans. 

Notable Athletes Turned Broadcasters

Kenny Smith (Inside the NBA Analyst)

Despite ten years in the NBA, Smith never made an All-Star team in his career. It was after his playing career, when he joined the television network TNT and became part of the Inside the NBA panel with Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson, when Smith became a more recognized figure. Inside the NBA has become one of the most prominent NBA broadcasts, with many attributing their success to the chemistry the analysts have with each other. The show has provided Kenny Smith with the ability to showcase his personality through interactions with the other members of the panel. As an endorser, Smith has worked with State Farm Insurance and Hyundai. Both spots play to Smith’s comedic ability and personality which is apparent on Inside the NBA. 

Jon Montgomery (Host of Amazing Race Canada)  

Canadian skeleton racer Jon Montgomery made the most of his peak awareness moment at the 2010 Olympics by not only winning the Gold Medal on home soil, but also when his post-race celebration became a defining moment of the games. After Montgomery won the gold medal, he celebrated by walking through the Whistler Village celebrating with fans and drinking a pitcher of beer. Montgomery became one of the most recognizable athletes to emerge from the Games, which in turn opened up the door to many interviews from media outlets. Thanks in part to his increased profile, and level of comfort in front of the camera, Montgomery was named the host of Amazing Race Canada in 2013. Since hosting the Amazing Race Canada, Montgomery has been featured in P&G’s “Proud Sponsor of Moms” Olympic campaign and has also appeared in a spot for Campbell’s Soup. 

Michael Strahan (Good Morning America Contributor)

Michael Strahan was a standout NFL defensive-end who played for the New York Giants from 1993-2007, breaking the NFL single-season record for most sacks by a defensive-end. When Strahan retired in 2008, he joined the Fox NFL broadcast as an analyst. After growing his career as a broadcaster, Strahan was announced as Regis Philbin’s replacement on the morning talk show Live with Kelly and Michael. The new show introduced Strahan to a brand new audience and provided an opportunity to showcase his personality away from the gridiron. Strahan has worked with multiple brands since entering into broadcasting, including campaigns with Snickers, Subway, Vaseline Men, and in 2015 when he started his own clothing line at J.C. Penny. Strahan has since become the host of Good Morning America, and as part of that deal, Strahan has agreed to no longer participate in paid endorsement deals. 

Potential Sponsor Risk- Increased Chance of an On-Air Mistake

When partnering with a celebrity endorser, there is always a risk they could provide outspoken views that are not aligned with that of the brand they paid to represent. Given the demand for their unfiltered insights, and the frequency at which they are required to comment on games and current events, there is an increased risk of associating with a broadcaster. NBA analyst Charles Barkley is particularly known for his outspoken nature, and that outspokenness is part of what makes him a captivating broadcaster. However, sometimes Barkley’s outspoken nature can go too far, including past on-air incidents where he received backlash for criticizing fans of Oakland and San Antonio. This has also occurred with other athlete’s turned broadcasters, such as former New England Patriot Rodney Harrison, who apologized earlier this year for comments he made in reference to San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his recent protest of the national anthem. Harrison made the comments while on a radio show, and shortly afterward expressed his apology on Twitter. Sponsors must understand risk of associating with a former athlete turned broadcaster, and ensure that they are prepared to react to similar situations.

Athlete broadcasters have become commonplace due to their unique insights into their respective sport. A select number of athletes are able to find careers following retirement, and introduce themselves to an entirely new audience. A transition into broadcasting not only gives athletes a new career after their playing days, but gives them an opportunity to extend their sponsorship appeal.


Beats by Dre & Their Athlete Endorsers

Pepsi & Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl Halftime Show