Brands working with sports athletes: How it's changing in 2019

It doesn’t matter if you’re one of the world’s biggest brands or a high-flying marketing agency, finding and engaging sports stars for marketing, influencer, and ambassador deals is still complex, time-consuming, and costly.

But with innovation, new technology, and data-driven insights, the process is becoming simpler, efficient, and effective.

Here’s how the sports talent landscape is shifting.

The problem

At Pickstar, we work with brands and agencies every day who want to work with sports stars. Through the process, marketers ask us a number of common questions:

“The campaign isn’t signed off yet, we need information to help us develop our ideas”

“Who is the best-fit sports talent for our campaign, and how do we find them?”

“How much does the talent cost?”

“How do I find out if the talent is interested and available for my campaign?”

“How can I be sure that the talent will deliver on the brief?”

“How do I measure the success of my sports talent deal?”

The solution

To get the best possible result for the brand, agency and talent, we’ve learned that there are key elements that need to come together:


It seems obvious but isn’t always a given - the brand or agency needs to have clarity on the strategy for the campaign and how they will use the talent effectively. They also needs to have a strategy for the execution of the talent campaign, which includes clear timelines and a production process.

Technology and systems

We’re coming out of an era where the process of finding and booking talent has been ad hoc, manual, unscalable and based on ‘gut feel’ instead of insights and data. Pickstar’s platform now enables marketers to access Australia’s biggest network of sports talent and use technology to efficiently find, shortlist and book the best fit sports talent for the brand based on the brief and budget.


Gone are the days when brands and agencies would simply look for the biggest star they could afford. Savvy marketers are now looking for specific talent with shared vision, values and ideals. Requests are becoming increasingly niche - Pickstar’s platform uncovers the unique passions, experiences, skills and backgrounds that connect directly with the campaign purpose and the brand’s audience.


The success of a talent and brand deal relies on a clear and detailed brief. Much of the early work that we do at Pickstar is helping marketers refine their brief so that everyone involved understands the expectations.

Marketers must understand that when a talent agrees to work with them, they are agreeing to the deliverables and budget outlined in the brief. Likewise, talent are aware that when they accept a booking request, they are agreeing to the deliverables in the brief.

Of course, campaigns evolve throughout the process and things change. This is where communication is key. Ideally, all parties agree to keep each other updated every step of the way - for marketers, this means talking through any proposed brief changes, understanding that it may mean that extra budget is required or the talent has the right to opt out.

It also needs to be recognised that sports stars are full-time, professional athletes first, above all else. They have a responsibility to train, play and fulfill all of the requirements of their team, club and league. The reality is brands and agencies will need to work around what can be complex schedules, and these schedules are sometimes not known much further than a couple of months in advance.

The typical sports talent booking process for a brand or agency

To understand this in more detail, let’s look at a typical process for brands and agencies to find and book talent.

1. What is the status of the sports talent request?

When a brand or agency submits a sports talent request with Pickstar, we need to find if the request is:

  • In idea stage, or
  • Signed off by the brand

If the request is in idea stage, the marketer will use the Pickstar platform to research talent, using the filters to refine their shortlist of talent options and identify any potential sponsor conflicts. The Pickstar team also provides advice for marketers on defining the brief/request, budget estimates and talent recommendations based on our data and insights. This information is then provided to the marketer who will seek approval from decision makers.

If the request is signed off by decision makers, we proceed to the next step.

2. What are the core details of the campaign?

This part of the process is crucial. While we understand that not all information is available from the outset, for talent to make a “yes” or “no” decision core information is required:

  • Campaign purpose and talent strategy overview
  • Deliverables (ideally, specifically how many social posts, appearances (and for how long), where the content/athlete’s brand will be used and for how long etc.)
  • Timelines and key dates

With this information, the talent should be in a position to make a decision. We can gather more specific information on the deliverables, such as the specifics of the content, after the booking has been made.

Pickstar’s team will provide advice and feedback through the vetting process (if we haven’t already), providing recommendations to help you connect with the best fit talent for your needs.

For more information about booking request requirements, check out Pickstar’s booking request form.

3. Talent requirements and preference

At this point, the brand or agency may be clear on their preferred talent and any preferences. But again, it is important to be specific.

At Pickstar you can shortlist preferred talent or submit your request to the talent marketplace allowing sports stars to express interest, or do both. So it is recommended to include details of your talent preferences in your request, such as the bracket of talent social following you need and any sport categories/interests/skills/experiences required of the talent.

4. Talent respond

After you’ve submitted your request with the brief and any shortlisted talent, and it has been vetted by our team, your request is sent directly to shortlisted talent who review the opportunity via their Pickstar app. Your request may also be made available to other talent in Pickstar’s network via the talent marketplace (if applicable).

Talent will then apply for the opportunity, if they are interested and available. Marketers are instantly notified in real-time as talent apply.

Typically, responses from talent start coming in within minutes of the request being approved.

5. Decision making

As talent apply, marketers can login to their dashboard, view all applicants and book preferred talent. A PDF can be exported to make it easy to gain approval from decision makers.

Making a decision as quickly as possible is crucial. Talent availability can change quickly and even when a sports star applies, there is no guarantee they will continue to be available until the brand or agency makes the booking. For context, 60 percent of all bookings on Pickstar are completed within three days.

6. Connection to the talent

Pickstar will soon be releasing a messaging feature enabling the brand, agency and talent (and agent, if applicable) to communicate about deliverables throughout the execution process. In the meantime, PickStar facilitates communication between all parties to ensure expectations are met.

Pickstar’s system provides automated reminders for any event based deliverables and manages payments.

7. Execution of the campaign

The campaign is then successfully launched! Pickstar releases full payment to the talent within a week of completion of their activities.

How it works in practice

'Life in the Cold': Uniqlo, Dentsu X & Players Voice

Dentsu X contacted PickStar wondering if a sports star could help their client, apparel brand Uniqlo, connect with ‘the everyday man’.

PickStar’s team recommended AFL legend and media personality Matthew Richardson and Essendon captain Dyson Heppell. Both athletes are absolute stars, but also known for their humble and relatable approach to life.

With the next question being about the campaign and distribution, PickStar introduced PlayersVoice, Australia’s leading athlete media company and a partner of PickStar. PlayersVoice developed a branded content campaign that told engaging athlete stories while integrating Uniqlo’s brand and message.

After thorough development of the campaign, the Uniqlo and Dentsu X team agreed on the talent recommendations and strategy. The content was produced and went live in June 2019. Check it out now:

Matthew Richardson’s content

Dyson Heppell’s content

Want to know more?

At Mumbrella360 2019, Australia’s largest media and marketing event, PickStar put together a session on ‘sports stars and brands: the good, the bad and the ugly’. Hear insights from swimming champion James Magnussen, AFLW/W-League star Ellie Brush, Kellogg’s marketing manager Dan Bitti and Iris head of planning Peter Wilson. Listen now.

Learn how to build a plan for your brand ambassador. Read more.

Contact us

Pickstar is Australia’s largest sports talent marketplace, connecting brands and agencies with more than 1300 sports stars across all categories and regions, for any campaign large or small.

Call 1300 657 601 to arrange a call with our athlete marketing team or submit your request here.

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