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Updated: 26 October 2020

Empowering brands: How athletes serving as brand ambassadors can make an impact beyond sports

5 min. read

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Empowering brands: How athletes serving as brand ambassadors can make an impact beyond sports

5 min. read

On paper, sports marketing is characterised as a set of strategies to promote sporting events, athletic products, teams, athletes, sporting equipment, and services, but athletes and brands are now proving it can mean so much more than that. Sports go much deeper than the physical manifestation of balls bouncing, sweat perspiring, and competition brewing, as they can serve as a source of inspiration, an escape from the doldrums and stresses of life, and a means to overcome adversity. The Sports marketing industry is similar in that it is not just advertising products and services related to sports, but experiences that can impact and touch a community. We at Sport Endorse are proud to continuously support athletes as ambassadors for charitable organisations and social causes. Below are some of the partnerships athletes and brands have participated in to foster substantial change and growth in communities. 

Lee Keegan opening up about his personal struggles with Movember Ireland

Source: The connaught telegraph; Mayo GAA stars team up with Movember to encourage men to walk and talk | Connaught Telegraph (con-telegraph.ie)

One may think a professional athlete would not have to deal with common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, but the truth is, these athletes are human too and can also deal with issues of motivation, stress, self-satisfaction, and more. Gaelic footballer Lee Keegan proved this by opening up to the public about his personal experience of how anxiety had him feeling overwhelmed and lost at times. 

A luscious forest in Drumwood, Ireland, surrounded by blooming trees and verdant grass was the scene of a YouTube video Keegan and his county teammate, at the time, Padraig O’Hora starred in for the campaign. They took a leisurely walk through a dirt-paved path while picking up stones along the way that posed questions about their mental states. They aimed to inspire those watching to talk with a friend about any problems they are internally dealing with. 

Keegan opened up about how the anxiety he felt in college left him scared and overwhelmed about his future. He talked about how he struggled to be a proficient test-taker in college, failing more exams than he passed, and how that deficiency left him with a puzzled, anxious feeling about whether he would be successful in his future. He related his experience back to his current state of mind, saying how he now tries not to worry about planning for the long-term future and rather focuses on living in the moment.

“I try not to get consumed by what 5 (to) 10 years looks like because I feel like I’m just going to miss out on enjoying myself in the present,” Keegan said. 

The candid YouTube video garnered 26,000 views, showing all viewers a side of their favourite athletes not many see. The Movember Ireland campaign has raised over €5 million since 2022, according to Movember spokesperson Aisling Quigley.

Irish Rugby Players Hannah Tyrrell and James Lowe lead ‘Tackle Your Feelings’ Campaign

Source: Irish Examiner/ TackleYourFeelings; Headstart: Irish sports stars lead the way on mental health awareness (irishexaminer.com)

In 2023, Rugby Players Ireland (RPI), alongside Zurich Ireland and the Z Zurich Foundation, promoted their Tackle Your Feelings (TYF) marketing campaign to provide resources to help people proactively look after their mental health and promote happiness, optimism, and resilience. Hannah Tyrrell and James Lowe, who play Gaelic football and rugby, respectively, served as spokespersons for the campaign and delved into some hurdles relating to mental health they’ve had to overcome. 

Tyrrell, 33, has been a part of this campaign since 2015 when she revealed some heart-wrenching battles she’s had related to her body image. In a Facebook video published by RPI four years later, Tyrrell went into detail about how she felt a very low sense of confidence and self-esteem since she was a child, and how that eventually culminated in her developing Bulimia, an eating disorder and mental health condition. It wasn’t until she was admitted to a mental health hospital that she realized she needed to reach out for help.

“The biggest thing for me was that I had to realize that I wanted to get better for myself,” Tyrrell said. “As soon as I reached out, my family and friends were there for me. And it didn’t happen overnight. It happened over a long period of time, but I learned to love myself.” 

Source: TackleYourFeelings; Tackle Your Feelings

Lowe, the 31-year-old New Zealander who plays for Leinster as well as the Ireland national team, has also stepped up when it comes to promoting beneficial mental health practices in the TYF campaign since 2019. Lowe presents himself with a bubbly personality, but he too has had mental struggles throughout his life, dealing with arthritis from a young age and moving across the world to pursue playing rugby. He encourages people to talk to a friend whenever they’re struggling rather than trying to go through it alone.

“Don’t let things bottle up,” Lowe said in another Facebook video. “It’s easy to get them off your chest early instead of watching them explode later in. If things are getting you down, if there’s things that have such a negative impact on you, it’s about learning how to control those feelings.”

Content from the TYF campaign has been viewed 23 million times since its debut in 2015, according to the campaign’s website, and its ambassadors have shown no signs of slowing down. 

Brands and athletes partnering to help raise money for the right causes

Source: paralimpicos.es; Procter & Gamble apoyará con 8.500 € las causas benéficas de los deportistas a través de su ‘Athletes for Good Fund’ | Paralímpicos (paralimpicos.es)

Many athletes are also tackling social issues by becoming brand ambassadors. For instance, Proctor & Gamble (P&G), an American multinational consumer goods corporation, has chosen to honour 20 athletes who will participate in the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympics Games with its Athletes for Good Program. The competitors chosen will receive a grant equivalent to upwards of €22,000 to be donated to a charitable organization of their choice. 

The recipients include players originating from 12 different nationalities and participating in 11 different sports, including both former medallists as well as athletes aspiring to earn their first. 

The chosen recipients are using their grants to facilitate growth and change in many pressing areas, such as mental health, education, homelessness, natural disasters, disabilities, and more. 

American surfer Griffin Colapinto is donating his share to the To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) nonprofit, which is dedicated to helping those wade through the struggles of depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. The grant will allow TWLOHA to provide a week-long mental health curriculum for 96 high schools. 

Jamie Farndale, a Scottish rugby player for Edinburgh Rugby, will be teaming up with the Athletes of the World charity, to further support the organization’s health and climate campaign, which focuses on spreading awareness on climate change and protecting nature. A full list of each athlete and their charity of choice can be found on the Athelte365 website. 

Peter Ryan’s partnership to bring attention to sight loss with Vision Ireland

Source: Independent Westmeath; New Vision Ireland charity shop opens in Ballinasloe | Westmeath Independent 

On a more current note, Peter Ryan, an Irish Paralympian and public speaker, is working with Vision Ireland to promote its upcoming Dip at Dawn event on June 21. Vision Ireland aims to help those who are blind and vision impaired to overcome the challenges that prevent their autonomy and full participation in society.

The nationwide event will occur on the day of this year’s summer solstice, and all are encouraged to take part in a sunrise swim that morning to spread awareness to Vision Ireland’s dedication to helping those hindered by sight issues. The event is also being supported by former English footballer Michael Owen, who has a son with visual impairment.

Donations dedicated to help Vision Ireland empower the blind and visually impaired can be contributed until the end of June here.

How Sport Endorse can help these partnerships come to life

Athletes who want a seamless route to finding a partnership or brand ambassadorship to extend their influence beyond their sport can join the Sport Endorse platform for free and gain direct access to tons of curated opportunities. Brands who want a quick way to find the perfect influencers for their sponsorships can join the platform on a subscription tiered by three months, six months, annually. The Olympics are just around the corner and now is a better time than ever to get the right partnership to evolve one’s persona or brand. 

Discover how Olympians like Cath Bishop, Novak Djokovic, Shaun White, and more prepare mentally for the Olympics with expert advice on mindfulness, perspective, control, connection, and storytelling.
Explore how athletes as brand ambassadors can transcend their roles, impacting communities through partnerships beyond sports. Learn about inspiring campaigns led by athletes like Lee Keegan, Hannah Tyrrell, and James Lowe, and how brands collaborate with them for social causes. Discover Sport Endorse, a platform facilitating seamless partnerships between athletes and brands, just in time for the upcoming Olympics.
Discover powerful strategies to leverage the Six Nations 2024 for your brand's visibility. Sport Endorse, your ally in influencer marketing, shares insights on social media dominance, athlete collaborations, authentic connections, experiential marketing, and immersive fan experiences.