Sports publicist Tanya Lee says there is not enough appreciation for the importance of marketability among athletes. Lee was speaking with The Gleaner about sporting teams building better partnerships with their sponsors and the importance of player endorsements in strengthening such relationships. She said that creating the right image in the media is just as vital as winning is to that athlete in his or her respective sport. “I am still surprised at how many of our sportsmen and women lack the requisite media training and, or appreciation of how much more bankable they can be by building their brands and their media and social media presence,” Lee said. “More of our athletes need to consider brand building a part of their job. Where they may not be savvy, they need to hire social media managers and publicists to enhance their brands and marketability.” However, she said that winning is also important because it increases an athlete’s popularity and fan base. From there, sponsors have a better platform to work with the athlete to promote their goods and services. “A strong social media following and social relevance is also key, as that creates significant brand value whereby an athlete can influence followers to support any brands they are aligned to,” Lee explained. “Being personable and media savvy is also a huge benefit as brands like to associate with athletes who relate well to the public and their customer base.” Some of the biggest sporting stars who have gone on to have lucrative endorsement deals such as Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jamaica’s own Usain Bolt are seen as charismatic figures. Lee said that while charisma is an important factor, athletes who lack this value can still be successful endorsers because of how relevant their athletic prowess and success is to specific brands. “Charisma is an asset to any athlete,” she shared. “Think of Usain Bolt or LeBron James – athletes who endorse some of the world’s biggest brands. But some athletes are less charismatic and still bank heavily for brands based on their skills and wins. Lionel Messi is a good example of the latter.” The discussion regarding athletes’ marketability comes at a time when many of Jamaica’s largest brands have urged sporting teams and associations to not just reach out to them seeking sponsorship without offering anything in return. One notable example is senior vice president of operations and marketing at GraceKennedy Money Services, Noel Greenland, who said last year that brands and athletes who endorse them should put more focus on selling their products in a unique way.