Steve Mesler lived on a serious budget back when we’d see each other on a daily basis (2008). Back then, the U.S. Bobsled Team won nothing on the Olympic stage. But there he was, like a robot, training six hours per day for the 2010 Olympics. He’d live on supplements and the very sporadic, great meal. In my mind, there was no way that the guy could achieve what he had on his heart — a U.S. Bobsled 4-Man gold medal. It just didn’t seem like he had the resources to make it this way for years.
Of what I remember, one of his primary sponsors was Lululemon, where he served as an “elite ambassador” - a classification given to Olympians and others at the highest level of performance. This product only sponsorship also allowed for services like free massages, yoga, and other holistic bonuses. All in all, Lululemon actually helped him; they gave him more than gear, they gave him value that actually offset his costs.
His gold model and his increase in notoriety meant that he should have had more than a product only deal. He helped raise the Lululemon profile at one of the greatest national stages. But how do “small revenue” athletes properly communicate their value, relative to a realistic standard?
It got me thinking of ways to prove your value to a brand. A great way is to think of yourself as an employee and then compare your market value to other members of that team. Keep in mind that this is simple math designed to express value in one of the most meaningful ways, the bi-weekly paycheck.
The typical junior level marketing employee at your favorite brand makes $1,458.33 per pay period, before taxes ($34,999/year). An old mentor once said to me, “If you aren’t making us 5X what we’re paying you, you’re out.” That junior marketer, earning a smooth $35k, is responsible for $174,995. Is the company’s investment into you lesser or greater? And where does that leave your minimum intended ROI?
Marketing value differential:
[(Total sponsorship $$ - (Hourly x brand travel hours))/ 24] - 1,458.33
Total sponsorship $$ = guaranteed pay + accumulated cash bonuses
Hourly = total sponsorship $$ / 2,088 (i.e. the # of work hours / year)
Brand Travel = 15 days of appearances last year? Multiply by 24 hours. That time reduced your training, practice, and recovery. It cost you money.
1,458.33 = a good enough benchmark
You will arrive at a number that is to the left or the right of “0.” That is the difference in your bi-weekly paycheck in relation to junior marketers whose purpose is also to move the needle for the brand.
What does this begin to illustrate? Your value to a company’s marketing force. Most sponsored athletes operate, in many ways, like 1099’d contract employees. They spend time at the HQ, give feedback on future initiatives, and help build a presence within the market that the brand wants to capture.
An athlete should focus on finding ways to prove themselves valuable to an organization. But first, they have to believe in and state their own value. Thinking about your sponsorship dollars in the form of an hourly rate or biweekly paycheck format will begin to help you clarify.
Steve Mesler shouldn’t have had to worry about money. He deserved a life focused on training, recovery, friends, and family. And that life was deserved before his gold medal.