The ‘modern athlete’ — what is that?
I like to think that it is ever-changing and with the advents of social media, a lot of attention is now placed on what it means to be a ‘modern athlete.’ Athletes in our society, even those yet to reach the professional level, are willing participants in the forum that exists when everyone has social media channels for the general public to follow. Someone’s twitter feed can be vanilla, and hardly used, or studied. But the moment they gain attention via their performance, or by publishing a controversial image or thought, they’re open to all the scrutiny and criticism in the world. So yes, the ‘modern athlete’ is also an athlete that is evaluated moment by moment, or tweet by tweet or IG post by IG post.
The ‘modern athlete’ is also one who can represent themselves accurately and wholesomely, both with their actions on the field or the court and with their online presence. Being an adept storyteller, or an entertaining personality can have a real, and often calculable impact on an athlete’s career – take for instance Kevin Durant. After catching criticism for joining the Warriors, he launched a YouTube channel to offer fans access to his life off the court, so that it became easier to dispel the villainous view many had taken of him. A main section of his website is even titled “The Real KD.” There’s no doubt, with close to 700k YouTube subscribers, that his decision to create and publish his own YouTube channel has changed the way he’s perceived by fans, other NBA stars, and potentially even General Managers who may be next in line to offer him a contract.
This past week while moderating a panel at the Athlete X Brand conference, I had the chance to hear from Durant’s partner Sarah Flynn, who occupies the role of General Manager of the Durant Company & Thirty-Five Media. Alongside her were Molly Carter, CMO of Kobe Bryant, Inc. and Rudy Cline-Thomas, Andre Iguodala’s investment partner. They’re each on the forefront of a new wave in the sports industry; helping modern athletes take control of their brands and diversify their earnings through new ventures. What was most interesting was how the mindset of an athlete is not necessarily geared to have success as an entrepreneur and a storyteller.