[Skip to content]

Search our Site
  • Instagram Icon
  • RSS Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Facebook Icon
  • YouTube Icon
UK Athletics
In this section

The New Breed of Champion

Share this

Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Tell friends via WhatsApp Email us
UKA 2009 Logo



07 December 2008


Column by David Burdus as featured in Athletics Weekly Magazine


They hit our screens in Beijing 2008:  thrilling and inspiring us; turning the traditional stereotype of sporting perfection well and truly on its head.  I, of course, refer to the new breed of champion, GB’s Paralympians, who next do battle on our behalf in London 2012’s great sporting arenas.


Now, the corporate responsibility ‘cogs’ are shifting into image and marketing overdrive for the successful ‘disabled’ athlete with the promise of endorsements, personal appearances and financial security.


Dame Tanni Grey Thompson is a pudding already proven - the ‘mother’’ of all Paralympians; she epitomises her ‘pure gold’ brand in every dimension whether sporting, social or economic.  Her winning formula was simple...  succeed in your sport; get multiple gold medals and world records; capture the public’s imagination; become a media darling.


How does a new kid in the blocks follow her tracks?  Mickey Bushell, 18 year’s young, Birchfield Harrier, stormed to Silver in the Beijing T53 100m.  Suddenly, he could be the new ‘T53’ messiah, turning sweat into gold in London.


Mickey now balances a 6-day week training regime; a Telford College of Arts and Technology course and a celebrity diary.  Last month he met Princess Anne, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, SSAFA, and The Lord’s Taverners, gave two school talks, attended one awards ceremony, a photo shoot and made three guest appearances.


Lucky Mickey!  Not a bit of it.  More like seven years hard work; dedication; family, funders and governing body support and a one year promotional campaign.


A good promoter mentors the athlete in public relations and develops raw qualities into a brand winner for the marketplace.  Reward is inevitably linked to success but a successful promotion gives the athlete competitive edge, bringing reward earlier.  Handy hints from Mickey’s promotion plan include:


·         Website and information up to date

·         Current and edgy photographic portfolio

·         Branded business cards and race suits

·         Regular publicity opportunities, press releases & interviews

·         Maximise home region relationships

·         Develop national relationships

·         Establish long term partnerships

·         Building athlete media skills

·         Speculate to accumulate

·         Never give up

·         Don’t be a Prima Donna

·         Clear communications with UK Athletics (UKA)


Why UKA communications?  Simple - firstly, promotion must not conflict with Mickey’s UKA performance development plan - if performance goes down, we are all undone.  Secondly, Mickey’s activities must mesh with UKAs’ publicity strategy for influencing the ‘perception of disability’ and using sport as a driver for change.


And we do need change.  Take the Evening Standard’s sensational 88 athlete photo feature, “Britain’s Olympic Heroes 2008”.  How many British Paralympians featured... what a surprise, absolutely none!  So a bit of awareness needed here guys which would encourage the funding really needed for a successful London 2012 Paralymic Games.... roll on F1 Team GB race wheelchairs, eh Mickey?


Many people were surprised to see Mickey ‘silver’ in Beijing and raise an eyebrow at his powerful photographic portfolio.  Why not, then, give him the last word.  Mickey says, “On or off the track, I have a one track mind, don’t be surprised that I achieve in my sport or that I influence people’s perception of disability.  I am preparing my Paralympic performance and promotion for the ‘Big 2012’ opportunity - my advice to you all is, do the same”.