Forbes published its Billionaires List last week. This drew much attention, not least for Kylie Jenner joining its ranks at the tender age of 21 and Jeff Bezos (he of the marital woes and Amazon) retaining his top spot on the list.
Interestingly, despite this being the era of global sports and ultra-rich sports stars, you don’t find Mayweather, Messi or Federer on the list.
This got me thinking about Gaius Appuleius Diocles. He was a Roman Charioteer who lived in the second century. He was so good at what he did, and his reputation spread so far and wide, that during his career he amassed 35.8m sesterces in prize money. A classics professor has calculated that in today’s money that would equate to £9.6 billion.
That’s an eye watering amount – and let’s not forget Gaius didn’t have sponsorship income, advertising deals, fashion brands or the sale of global TV rights to fuel his wealth!
He just had three things:
- He was superb at what he did
- He had a fan-base
- He had a reputation/image which he took the time and trouble to build
It was the powerful combination of these 3 things which made him the most commercially successful sportsman of all time.
Most companies have two of these three ingredients – they are good at what they do, and they have fans (i.e. customers and people or organisations who like them). The bit they are missing is the image building!
The fact companies may neglect this seems madness to me. Companies with the best profiles win more customers and can charge more for their products or services. They attract investors, good staff and commercial partners and their owners find it easier to sell the business when the time is right.
After all, it was his reputation that enabled Gaius to charge a premium for races. Indeed it MADE Gaius so rich that some 1,900 years later people like me are still talking about him! So if you’re pondering about how much you should invest in PR, think of Gaius. He wasn’t the only good Charioteer around; indeed he had lots of competition. However way back in the second century he grasped the absolute truth, that someone with a good reputation can earn way more than someone no one has heard of.