This session was hosted by David Dinsmore (Sun Editor) and featured Rio Ferdinand, Lawrence Dallaglio, Rebecca Adlington and Simon Oliveria (MD Doyen Global and key strategist for David Beckham).
Rebecca has a swim programme called Becky Adlington's swim stars but doesn't feel like she is a brand. Lawrence says how most people on the panel start out loving sport and not knowing anything about brands. Because you retire young, you have to think about what you will do later. Rio had to focus on the game preparation, and only once he felt confident, he would do work with brands and his foundation (and was even asked why he has a restaurant at the time when he was playing). He didn't want to get into depression, boredom or gambling in retirement.
Simon, when do you want to get a hold of someone?
Most agents start early with their talent. Every great athlete can't become a great ambassador. The brand needs to be refreshed and developed after playing, like David Beckham has done because he had a vision beyond his sports career.
How do you cope?
Wayne Rooney had a punch up and it was captured on social media and spread. Rio said it was good that he laughed at himself by knocking himself out on the pitch. Rio went to the World Cup at 19 years and sat on the bench whereas Michael Owen became a global superstar. Rio said "we didn't even win it and he got loads of deals on his doorstep". Takes a special upbringing to be able to deal with it, you get invited to every restaurant opening etc. Rebecca had no preparation not even media training. Whole team had no clue what was going on. Took her 12-18 months to figure out how to cope.
What about the fit between a brand and an athlete?
Premier league and sport has the ability to draw large audiences which is why the broadcast channels are willing to pay so much. Rebecca liked working with Speedo and the ability to customise the swimwear for ultimate performance but it is hard to fit in the expectations and obligations. Lawrence says the best scenario is when there is a good fit and good creative ideas in the partnership. Rio says that the fit is essential e.g. he was once in a meeting where the creatives which were developed showed they don't know him at all and thus his input and performance in the photos etc. is not what it could be. For David, Adidas has always followed him but now that he has transitioned he works with Belstaff and Diageo for HAIG .
How do you use social media?
Rio says it gives you a platform, so after the World Cup South Africa injury, he went into social media and started interacting with online. This is something he realised you can take with you after your career is over. This key insight is a perfect example of the understanding of the power and value of audience.
Despite the abuse, Becky says the good outweighs the bad. It's so much better to be able to wish a little girl good luck then hear how she's done whereas it only takes a few seconds to block someone saying something nasty.
Who are the up and coming stars?
Rugby: brands still go for Wilkinson's but there are talented young kids coming through though brands want consistent success
Swimming: Allen Peety
Football: Paul Pogba has the personality that brands will want to be with.
Simon says some brands willing to be more ballsy in campaigns.
The session ended on the comment that brands have and will always continue to flirt with sports people.