Most people understand what a brand is:  a company associated with the manufacture of certain products – right?
Well, only in a general sense.  Branding is far more than just your product, it can also be your identity. At least that’s what the team here at REDTORCH believe. In the minds of customers, a brand has a unique set of associations that represent your core principles and personality.
Branding is everything you do to create or influence. It’s how you can inspire and transform audience perceptions.
Rights holders such as International Federations (IFs) are in fact brands with their own sub-brands (athletes, events). Without a cohesive brand identity, many IFs will stagnate.
With the enormous diversification of the entertainment sector over the last decade, and a growing number of platforms out there competing for audiences, IFs are under increasing pressure to deliver exceptional content. No longer can they rely on traditional media outlets; they need to grow alongside their audience requirements. A closer relationship between brands and athletes/events is fundamental to future success.
IFs have a fantastic potential that is frequently neglected – unprecedented and direct access to athletes from a young age and the potential to develop them through well-established brands both nationally and on a global scale.
By supporting these athletes, not only is a strong brand identity (they are your Unique Selling Point) made, but it also helps them develop their own brand as their careers evolve.
Athletes can provide content (e.g. videos, images) for use on IF platforms.  Social media takeovers, whatever the platform, emphasise the human aspects and perspectives of athletes, diminishing the gap between them and the audience. Fans can build on and engage with this precious relationship.
So athletes become a fundamental component of creating brand identity, pushing them to the forefront of events and competition. This increases rivalries, creates a model for storytelling, and provides a place where they are able to tackle social or ethical controversies within sport and beyond.
Sports which do not engage with their stakeholders are in danger of losing sponsors, audiences and fans.
It is interesting to witness the significant shift in power from IFs who have previously controlled all communication channels to athletes who are building their own channels. (See Are Athletes Their Own Media Companies? 
The time has come for IFs to take the initiative and work alongside athletes to build a brand. Perhaps they could take a similar approach to the one Dana White used for his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) social media empire?
By working together, IFs and athletes can drive interest in their ‘brand’ and thus fulfil the ultimate goal of growing the sport.