Written by: Shelley Tilbrook, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
If the Olympics has shown us anything over the past two weeks, it’s that athletes have the ability to inspire the world. There have been so many resilient performances, acts of courage, and demonstrations of leadership that rival and arguably surpass most commercial organizations and leaders.
Memorable moments like:
Australian Kayaker Jessica Fox refocusing with determination, poise, and skill to claim gold in the C1 Canoe Slalom.
USA Gymnast Simone Biles withdrawing from competition to focus on her mental health, sending a message to the world, ‘It’s OK, to not be OK’.
At his eighth Olympics, aged 62, Andrew Hoy secured a team silver and individual bronze in the equestrian eventing, proving you’re never too old to follow your dream.
World-class swimmer Cate Campbell’s stunning come-from-behind victory in the 4x100 Medley Relay with an anchor leg that showed grit and determination to perform under pressure for her team.
And the unwavering support of Australian decathlete Cedric Dubler to training partner and teammate Ash Moloney to help him through the final decathlon event to hold out bronze.
The Olympics is not just about winning. It’s the demonstration of teamwork, leadership, and overcoming obstacles to achieve your best. And there is so much to be admired about it.
The emerging new faces and stories of resilience are great for their sport but even better for the positive social impact in their community. It was also refreshing to hear real and raw interviews rather than the standard sporting cliches.
But what’s next for these athletes?
For many, a short break and back into training. For a lucky few, lucrative sponsorship deals with setting up their future. And for some, retirement. But for most of them, a lull, a post-Olympics blues, and a rhetorical question of “what’s next?”.
Not all sporting stars are as fortunate as golfers, tennis players, or basketballers who have seven and eight-figure salaries. Having worked with elite athletes and sporting organizations over the past decade, I have developed a passion for helping them translate their sporting prowess into the commercial return. Remembering many are training and competing for the love of it and living below minimum wage.
This has involved strategic storytelling, building their personal brand, raising their media profile, developing commercial-driven events and ambassador sponsorship deals. At the core of these commercial deals is having a clear, consistent personal brand that attracts the ideal partnerships and opportunities. The athlete brand represents what the commercial brand wants.
Nowadays, athletes can also easily raise their profile organically with a sound social media strategy. But to monetize their following, it certainly helps to have a personal branding website to direct fans and followers to revenue-generating, commercial properties.
Take Michael Phelps as a case in point, his website showcases his swimwear, swimming equipment, and training videos. He has also recently launched a subscription-based app to further monetize his swimming expertise.
Athletes who discover and develop something that is on-purpose, on-passion, and uses their ‘super’ power will be far more satisfied than one who tries to start a new career at 25 with no experience and no passion for the new direction.
More recently, I became involved with the opposite side of sports commercialization, sports philanthropy. To support community causes, I became involved with not-for-profit, Athletes For Hope Australia, which helps athletes identify their passions and purpose beyond the sporting field and connect them with causes that are personally meaningful to them. The charity - originally founded in the USA by high-profile elite athletes including Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Alonzo Mourning, and others - is all about making a positive impact and leaving a lasting legacy in your community.
Australian sport integrity leaders, Iain Roy and Laura Johnston, recognized the strength of this program and decided to co-found it in Australia. They are passionate about getting funding to cover the costs of workshops to inspire and support Australians to give back to the community.
An investment in Athletes For Hope Australia has a ripple effect. Develop the athletes, support many causes, impact thousands in the community.
The contribution of athletes to social causes allows their impact to be felt exponentially due to their high profile and is part of the formula behind the program’s success.
Another is the Athletes For Hope Australia personal development Workshops that help athletes transition skills they have learned on the field, as well as learn new skills to take them beyond their sporting careers, to support worthwhile causes.
Firstly, identifying what they want to stand for and which causes align with their values and life purpose. This is as much about developing their own personal brand as it is clear on what you want to achieve in life.
The second part is developing the athlete and enhancing their skills like leadership, storytelling, social media, empathy, connection, and resilience.
The program is designed to bring athletes together, to educate, inspire and empower them to channel their energy for a common goal: to make a difference in the world through sports philanthropy.
Shelley Tilbrook, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Shelley Tilbrook is a leader in building brands, presenting persuasive pitches, and using storytelling to captivate, connect and convert audiences. After a corporate career in sports and events as a senior marketing executive, she launched her own digital marketing and branding agency, Fruitful Group. She combined her mission 'to engage, educate and empower entrepreneurs to scale sustainable brands' with her expertise around strategic marketing, digital transformations, and brand storytelling. She developed the fruitful foundations for building blooming brands, the pitch-perfect program, and the fruitful formula of content marketing to help start-ups and scale-ups succeed. She founded the Fruitful Faculty, an online school for entrepreneurs and consults across sport-tech, ed-tech, med-tech, and eCommerce with clients including; Athletics Australia, Athletes for Hope Australia, Kidney Health, Political Racquet, and many startups. Her purpose: To positively impact lives with fruitful brand solutions.