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Have you ever stopped to think about the brands that athletes support, promote or collaborate with and the relationship between these brands, the athlete’s real personal values and the essence of their sport? Is an athlete’s integrity compromised when these elements aren’t in alignment?

As endurance athletes we largely train and compete outdoors. Without clean air, clean water (rivers, lakes and seas) and nature/land to enjoy, our sports are simply nonviable or at least pretty unattractive. But how often, as consumers and ambassadors, do we consider the need to protect this environment that we so enjoy? Are we being conscious consumers or buying and participating in the commercial world without much thought? How often do we really stop to feel gratitude and privilege and consider the part we can play in minimising our environmental impact and of the brands we collaborate with and use?

As consumers, we vote with our money and as social influencers we shape the behaviours of others. Through our own choices in what we buy day to day in utilities, vehicles/transport/travel, food, clothing, training gear and sports nutrition, household items and entertainment we can choose to get behind brands that support, or harm, the very environment that facilitates our sporting passions, health and well being. By making the connection between our sports, the world that plays host to these, and our own choices, we can align our values and actions into firm and powerful authenticity and integrity. Surely the best advocate or ambassador is a person who lives with consciousness and responsibility, and in whom others can truly believe.

If we’ve been approached by a brand, or are working with them, then we have considerable power of choice and influence in our interactions with them. Remember that they come to us because we have something they want – the strength of our own personal brand and influence. Whilst offers of sponsorship or ambassadorships are flattering, we should do our own research into the history and truth behind brands and if their operations and values don’t align with ours, we should be strong enough to walk away and preserve our integrity. Alternatively we can take this as an opportunity to start a dialogue with the brand about our concerns and how their actions/values/messages may not even be in their OWN best interests in attracting others like us as their target market. By raising their awareness we may even help them to improve both their social and environmental impact and their bottom line – so it could be a win/win/win. If they are rude or negative towards our feedback then they probably aren’t a brand we should be aligning ourselves with anyway. A poor choice of brand alignment can damage or destroy a reputation and a good name is a hard thing to rebuild.

Whether we’re amateur or professional athletes we all have our own personal brand, ethics, values and integrity to consider, and every athlete that plays, trains and competes outdoors must surely value the health of our environment. Let’s think about how the things we buy and support can be improved and let’s speak up for innovation and change? By consciously living and acting in alignment we can use our collective, significant influence as a force for good.