Tuesday 26 August 2008

Careers of top sporters - the next step

Being a top sporter is a career. But unlike people in the business world, a top sporters career maybe quite short in comparison. There is only a certain window for top sporters to hold a top position during their career where they can actually earn a living as a top sporter. A humans body can only sustain a certain amount of physical stress before it starts to object.

This window of time as a top sporter could be as little as a few years or a decade depending on the sport and the amount of injuries a top sporter has sustained over that period. But just because a top sporters career in the top maybe coming to a close, it does not mean that their career in sport is over. In fact governments should focus on ensuring that they capitalize on the experience of these top sporters to create the heros of tomorrow.

A top sporters career in top sport maybe coming to a close in their thirties or earlier. Whereas in the business world, at thirty your career is just beginning. Some top sporters see this moment as the abiss and don't know what to do next. Once their sporting career is over, a minority of top sporters decide to get out of sports completely and jump into something removed from the sports world, but the majority want to stay in the sports world as that is where their passion lies.

Top sporters then need to make the leap from training, competing, track suits, fans and mendals, to suits, decision making, deadlines, meetings and company politics. There are many opportunties for education in the sports field, ie. sports management, physical education, sports physics etc etc. but at the end of the day, regardless of the type of business, it boils down to having a network, even above experience and certainly above education. Sporters need to be business like about the networking they do during their career.

This is one of the many reasons I created http://www.e-sporters.com/, to help top sporters create and maintain a network during their sports career and beyond, and to help them keep their roots in the sports world. Sporters and anyone associated with sports, ie. sponsors, trainers, gyms, sports companies can register for free on http://www.e-sporters.com/ and promote themselves and create and maintain a network in the sports world. On the site, they can enter their sporting achievements, their team experience, the roles they hold in the sports world, their promo video of their achievements, links to their own site, logo of their company. On the site there are over 300 sports listed and 100 different sporting roles and the search mechanism allows exact searches by sporting level and experience, height etc. It is effectively the Linkedin.com for the sports world.

By being business-like about their networking, sporters can ensure they have the necessary support network during their career and the contacts to continue their career after leaving the competive arena.

Earning money to pay for www.e-sporters.com

I don't have any VC backing, or an angel invester for http://www.e-sporters.com/ and I don't want annoying banner advertising or Google AdWords on my site and I already sold my house to pay for the site developments. I may in the future have sponsors of the site, but no annoying banner advertising which distracts people from their online goals.

So since May I have needed to go out and earn money to pay to keep my site live and to keep me alive! I decided to use my other passion and talent to good effect. Hence I set up Measurable Marketing Projects, and I do interim marketing management and international marketing projects for various organisations, where a measurable result is required in a short space of time. These projects are varied, but can be summarized by the fact that I am being bought in to solve issues that seem to have no resolution internally or where the client wants a fresh set of unbiased eyes on an issue.

I come in and generate measurable results for the organisation in a short period of time. The projects also fall into the following categories: international marketing, event/festival marketing, customer relationship marketing, performance based marketing, internet / social network marketing and direct marketing.

So my latest client/project is keeping me sooooo busy, I have hardly been able to spend any time on promoting http://www.e-sporters.com/, as I would have wanted, gggrrrrrr. And I am quite aware that a site doesn't sell/market itself!!!

Preventing the online pests

It seems that social networking sites are not being very responsible by not trying to protect minors from online pests. So it is no wonder they are getting negative publicity. Before I started promoting www.e-sporters.com I contacts the British police force (online fraud department) to ensure I was doing everything I could possibly do to protect the privacy and security of all members and particularly minors (under 18 years).

The site is professional in its design and content and as such does not encourage members to post unsuitable content. It is not meant to replace Facebook or YouTube or Hyes and the like, as this site is focused on sport as a business. It is very focused on privacy and security with the following unique privacy and security features:

SPAM/ABUSE functionality: In one click you can flag users as creating abusive content or contacting you with irrelevant information or Spam. Their id is temporarily blocked, immediately checked and if necessary indefinitely blocked by the administrator.
DOUBLE OPT-IN: Before your registration is activated on the site, you will need to confirm your registration by clicking on a link in an email. If you are under 18 your registration has default settings for contacting ie. The minors default setting will be set to "Can only be contacted via my direct contacts" - they would need to go and change these this default settings.
MESSAGING: There is no public chat functionality on the site, but instead a secure messaging functionality which you can decide to turn on or off. Your email is only visible if you make it so to your contacts and when you receive a message from someone you will see their photo as well as their id and name.
PRIVACY SETTINGS: Your profile is not automatically created and you do not fill in your profile until you have seen the privacy message, which encourages you to double check your privacy settings.
BLOCKING YOUR PROFILE: Not only can you decide who sees your personal details, and who can message you, but you can also block your id completely from the site -- this does not need to be done by an administrator.

If I have missed any other issue please contact me asap and I will look into it and aim to resolve it asap.

Smart ways for sports associations to regain members

Sports associations throughout Europe have been loosing members for the last 10 years, as people turn to individual sports and are at a lose to reverse this downward trend. Although in The Netherlands the percentage of people participating in sport has been increasing recently, the percentage of people joining sports associations has been declining. In fact the NOC NSF http://www.sport.nl/ (Dutch Olympic committee) are devising strategies and creating expensive marketing plans to revitalize the interest in membership of football clubs, membership of badminton clubs. Despite

The situation is a little puzzling, because on the one hand more and more people are becoming consious about their bodies and general health and are turning to sport or doing some activity to keep fit, but at the same time less and less people are interested in joining sports clubs. I am assuming this is why gyms are shooting up like mushrooms all over cities and gym membership is rising and finally the price of a monthly gym membership is on the decline.

With the current phenomen of more choice/decisions and less available time, the easy option is to become a member of a gym. Due to its flexibility of working out when you want, as opposed to having to do sport every wednesday evening and Saturday morning as part of a football club match schedule. The gym option is nice and flexible, but it takes a disciplined person to make the most out of it.

But as most people know working out at the gym is a solitary exercise, unless the gym encourages it, generally it lacks the social element of a sports club. The gym to some, may feel like punishment as opposed to fun. On the contary at the sports club you have the support, friendship and motivation from other members to keep you entertained/interested and on track if you have personal sports goals. But despite this, people are still turning away from the sports association /club membership and signing up to expensive gyms.

Why is sport seem by so many as a "necessary evil" that can be tackled by promising yourself to attend the gym 2 times per week and make the most of the gym membership, as opposed to sport being seen as a pleasurable experience, a hobby or past time? The difference is people, relationships and connections. This is what sports associations and sports clubs need to focus on in their marketing campaigns and strategies, promoting the social element of sports, as this is what makes sport enjoyable for most (non-fanatical) people.
Sports associations should take advantage of the groundswell of people on social networking websites to recruit new members. Social media like networking sites is all about connections and relationships, so combining an online community and and offline sports club is an ideal combination.

This is one of the many reasons I created http://www.e-sporters.com/ (ESPORTERS Ltd) to help sports clubs and sports associations form their own online communities, which help them recruit members to their clubs, promote their events, and help them to communicate with their members more effectively than they do currently. Sports clubs and sports associations can register for free on the site.

A new way of getting sponsorship money

With the 2008 Beijing Olympics now over and all the top sporters home, it is a good time to reflect on the hot issue of funding and money for top sporters.

Is it enough? Are governments doing enough to support their sporting talent? Why do sporters doing individual sports generally have a harder time finding sponsors than team sporters or clubs?

Being a top sporter is a career, in fact it is more than a 5 day a week job, it is a 7 day a week profession. In order to compete at the level that is needed to win a medal in the Olympics, a top sporter is required to work at their sport constantly. This requires funds otherwise a top sporter is forced to go out to work in order to earn a living and then consequently can't focus on their sport anymore.

Funding can come from different sources, the government supports a certain percentage of its top sporters, by offering sports grants. "A-status" is granted by the Olympic committees to certain sporters who are in the top 20 world rankings, but this is dependent upon those sporters attaining and maintaining certain goals in their sport and delivering top results on a continual basis.

What happens when they are injured or having an off month? They loose the funding, so they have to go out to work, hence they can't train as much and as a result they slip even further down the rankings, standing no chance of regaining their status and funding.

When it is available, this funding is hardly sufficient to support the top sporter, beyond expenses to take part in a few top international events, but more often than not the top sporter needs to supplement their income with a part-time job or coaching, which takes them away from the training field.

Government are leaning more and more on business and industry to cover the gap in funding which is required to produce Olympic champions. But business has an agenda, they want to be associated with a winning team/icon/brand, someone who will give them a short term lift in brand awareness and sales, they are driven by short term gains. However top sporters and sponsorship deals should be seen as a long term investment but businesses need short term gain.

Teams have an easier time of it than individual sporters. Companies and brands are far more likely to sponsor a team. They view their investment as spread over perhaps 11 to 30 players as opposed to being reliant on one sporter performing well on the day. In a team perhaps you may have a few players having an off day, but the team may still win on the day. A marathon runner or singles squash player is not allowed by the sponsor to have an off day.

There are exceptions to this rule of course, Tiger Woods may get help from his caddy but otherwise he is delivering the results all by himself. David Beckham has had many an off day but still makes millions from sponsorship deals, but these are exceptions not the norm and these people are brands in their own right.

So what if you are an upcoming singles badminton player, or marathon runner or a team/club with no manager or marketing help to source a sponsor and arrange a sponsorship deal, how can you get the sponsorship money you so despirately need to keep training and keep competing to reach your potential?

This is one of the reasons I created http://www.e-sporters.com/ to try and help solving this issue by making sure sporters can find what they need and be found if they are looking for something. Sporters and sponsors can, at no cost find each other through this professional sports community site.

By registering on the site, sporters and their team and clubs can promote themselves, their level, their achievements, their photos and YouTube video promotion about themselves, job vacancies, their events or match schedules AND indicate that they are looking for sponsors.

More importantly, individual sporters who are looking for sponsorship can find each other through the site and create a "multi-disciplinary virtual team" that the sponsors can invest in, ie. a team could consist of a marathon runner, a rower, a badminton player and a free style skier but all with a connection ie. the same gym or living in the same town or having the same condition trainer - sponsors can then choose from teams, clubs or multi-disciplinary teams to sponsor based on their profile information and promotion videos. There is no cost to find each other via the site, but in order to connect the sponsor will have to pay for advanced membership.

Register on http://www.e-sporters.com/ and find and be found and create a support network that helps you achieve your sporting goals.

Note: ESPORTERS Ltd also awards 10% of its earnings to grass roots sports charities.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Top sporters start promoting themselves on www.e-sporters.com

Top sporters in Holland, Spain and the UK have started to register on http://www.e-sporters.com/ and promote themselves, their companies and their achievements, and link with other sporters, trainers, sponsors and sports companies.

For privacy reasons we will not reveal the names of these top sporters, but they include top sporters in badminton, martial arts, squash and frisbee in Europe.

These top sporters will be able to communicate with their fans in a secure way through the site's messaging capabilities. They will also be able to promote their achievements and events they are taking part in and find vacancies in international teams. In the next blog I will also cover the issue of sporters funding and how this site can help with finding sponsors.

The site which is still in BETA version is currently only available in English, it will shortly be available in Dutch.

Join top sporters and amateur sporters on http://www.e-sporters.com and start networking in the global sports community.

Saturday 2 August 2008

Mountain biking in Le Lot in France

July was an amazing month. 3 weeks mountainbiking in the Lot in France and the last week of July I saw my nephew for the first time since February.
It was ultra relaxing yet active holiday. It started out in Freesland, on the farm of a friend, where I got back to nature, feeding the cows and moving them to a new piece of ground to graze on. Which sounds easy, but they weigh a tonne, they don't like to be moved, and look quite menacing when they are racing towards you at 10km p/h!
After an amazing weekend, we headed off to France, in the rental car with our bikes on the back. Only to turn back 4 minutes down the road, as the bike rack had falled off, dented the hire car and damaged our bikes in the process. But rather than give up on the mountainbiking holiday, we decided to just hire bikes down there, as we did not trust bike racks anymore after our scare. Hiring bikes is definately not the best solution, as we spent the first 3 days in agony, swearing and cursing the bike rack and shitty bikes, but that did not take away from the fun of the mountainbiking.
The Lot in France is next to the Dordogne, it is lushous green and undulating, with gorgeous little hamlets nestled among the hills. It is absolutely brilliant for mountainbiking, as the uphills are not too challenging and the downhills just go on forever through the woodland. The weather was on our side too, only 5 days of rain out of 18, which isn't bad for that area of France, quite a pain when you are putting up the tent, but once it is up, you don't mind the rain so much.
We had the trails pretty much to ourselves, and when we did come across people they were hiking and moved out the way pretty quickly especially in the downhill sections. We had so much fun that we are considering going back next year as there are literally hundreds of routes you can do. BTW we did relax too and see some gorgeous nearby towns and villages, it was not all racing down hills.

Of course coming back to real life was a little difficult, but the holiday blues quickly passed as I got to see my nephew Naseem again. I had not seen him since February when I was in Brasil. He was adorable, and this time, he was more than happy to spend time with his aunty, running me ragged round the garden, soaking me with the water hose and then quietly listening to stories I read him or playing concentration games I made up. I think he really did enjoy my company and maybe he will remember me next time we see each other. I hope that won't be too long.

Friday 1 August 2008

The sporters/athlete's "support network" explained

In order for a sporter to achieve their sporting goals that they set themselves they need a support network. It is very difficult and lonely to achieve greatness on your own.
Most sporters rely on at least 1 or possibly many of the people and organisations listed on this diagram, the better their support network the better their chances of success.
To achieve greatness in business, people rely on their network, including their team, technology specialists, coaches, outside agencies, the media, government bodies, the work space, the equipment they work with, the influencers in the market place, partners etc.
Achieving sporting greatness requires a network too. Most NOC's will tell their leading athletes, that the best way to find sponsors is to network, it still boils down to "who you know". This is one of the many reasons I decided to create http://www.e-sporters.com/ ESPORTERS Ltd.
Via the site sporters can professionally (like in business through linkedin.com) build a support network around them which they can rely on to help them achieve their sporting goals during their sporting life and also when they retire from top sports.