In order to pave the way for athletes in companies that value their backgrounds, permanent employment in predefined positions is not always the most promising first step. Especially for professional athletes who are still active or in transition from sports to life after sports, it could make sense to find or create roles and projects in the corporate (or startup) world that allow athletes to contribute their expertise and experience to companies on the one hand, and give them the opportunity to gain new experience in the business world on the other.

For me, the goal of collaboration between athletes and companies is always to create added value for both athletes and companies. In doing so, it is important to involve athletes in roles and projects in companies that value their experience, deploy them according to their skills, talents and personalities, and give them the opportunity to become part of the company.

It’s not always primarily about having a permanent job in mind right away. Rather, it’s about involving athletes in projects, investing in them by giving them access to knowledge, allowing them to gain experiences in the business world, giving them a behind-the-scenes look, and placing them in functions and roles that benefit the company — and give athletes the opportunity to learn and understand the dos and don’ts of the business world.

Here are two examples of collaborations between companies and athletes that implement just that:

  • At STRAFFR, national basketball player Niels Giffey brings his practical knowledge of functional training and especially his experience in the field of regenerative training and supports the STRAFFR team in the further development of existing products and the launch of new products. As a professional athlete, Niels has a special view on training equipment and can thus contribute valuable input to product improvements and new product developments. In addition, Niels can add basketball-specific exercises to the training database, for example, to help basketball players develop a greater stability by performing the exercises with the smart fitness band.
  • At Evocell, Enosch Wolf, another pro basketball player, supports the Evocell team primarily in sales and marketing of the product. As an athlete, Enosch has naturally had a lot of experience with equipment used in regeneration and rehabilitation. For this reason, Enosch can be a very valuable contact and reference for potential customers to share his experience with Evocell. He can also support the Evocell team by providing feedback on the use of the mechnotransduction couch during intense periods of play, but equally provide valuable input to Evocell via feedback on his experiences when it comes to regenerating.

Both Enosch and Niels are also given insight into the development of the companies in order to be able to develop a greater understanding of what forms the basis for entrepreneurial success. Companies also benefit from having an inspiring personality on board who is extremely goal and success oriented and therefore often raises questions that are uncomfortable but always extremely clear and focused on achieving the goal.

Pic Niels Giffey Interview

Niels Giffey at Interview with Stefan Weiss @STRAFFR

In general, professional athletes have a high awareness of their body in the most positive sense. They have to take good care of it, listen to it and learn to understand what it needs. Thus, they develop an excellent sense of changes due to training, nutrition, regeneration, social issues or the general environment. That is why working with athletes is for sports and health tech companies extremely valuable.

Athletes have a mindset of entrepreneurs and join companies as entrepreneurs with the intention of helping to shape the brand and the company. In other words, from the start, it’s not a relationship like brands and athletes usually have. Instead, it’s a collaboration in which shared business goals are pursued to achieve success as a joint venture, so to speak.

In sports, athletes work closely with their teams. They can further cultivate this team spirit in business. They can bring their experience to processes while learning from the team within the company. And when the passion for performance is shared within the team and the company, extraordinary collaborations can emerge that extend far beyond sports.

Pic Enosch Wolf

Enosch Wolf with Dr. Thore Haag @evocell

In these collaborations, it is important to work with the company’s executives on the basis of a common understanding. This understanding must be such that the athletes take on specific roles that are often different (especially at the beginning) from the roles of regular employees. Together with Stefan Weiss (STRAFFR) and Dr. Thore Haag (Evocell), it was possible to define roles and projects based on this common understanding, which now enable both Niels and Enosch to develop beyond sports and also offer STRAFFR and Evocell exciting development opportunities.

For me, an athlete is always #MoreThanAnAthlete, more than a testimonial or brand face. Athletes have acquired outstanding skills and experience — also in an entrepreneurial context — and have often built up additional know-how through supplementary studies and training, which can be extremely valuable for companies — in addition to their personal brand.

For established companies, this kind of engagement with professional athletes is an opportunity to attract and retain exciting talent in the same way that it is an opportunity for startups to recruit great (future) employees and use the standing of athletes to build their brand.