Caroline Buchanan is a x5 World BMX Champion and x5 World Mountain Bike Champion at the pinnacle of two sports. I have known Caroline for a couple of years now and she has featured in the magazine before. What stood out for me then and it is something that I have observed over the last couple of years,
is how in a world where getting hold of money for women’s sports is tough, Caroline has worked relentlessly to build a business model that is finally
working for her. It shows that it can happen and that there are models other than the obvious out there that can allow female athletes to live their
dream without living in debt.
The stories of athletes struggling are as old as time. What I like about Caroline is her perspective of sport and business and that she at no point is
hard done by. This is an athlete who has found a way that works - but what I like is Caroline’s perspective on all the tough years and getting where
she is now. “For five years I said yes to everything, over-giving to huge brands all to earn my spot. I see it as an apprenticeship,” Caroline says
of her five years creating a business and a model that is paying off. This is a great way of looking at the early years - and actually a very positive
way for the next generation of athletes as they look to fund themselves and progress in their sports.
To provide some perspective, Caroline says that even as a multiple world champion, x16 Australian champion representing her nation, she entered the 2012
Olympics with Aus. $50,000 debt; with her biggest sponsor providing only $7,000 per year and others providing product only. In 2014 Caroline finally
made a profit, having started competing at the age of nine. This outlook provides an alternative view to the glamorous one people so often see from
Caroline’s desire and determination to ensure that the next generation of BMX riders have a better start than she did and that they don’t have all of the
challenges she faced, saw her set up Buchanan Next Gen (featured in issue 8). She explains that she didn’t want the girls to face the same challenges
that she had faced. With three riders on the team now aged 8, 12 and 14, Caroline says that they are on a better sponsorship deal than she was in the
Not only has Caroline created a business model for herself that works, she also wants to give back and is creating an environment where the young girls
can aspire and achieve whilst being supported financially. This is a huge credit to Caroline in what she has achieved here. These things don’t happen
overnight, so when you are watching the 2024 Olympics look out for the Next Gen girls riding in Australian colours.
The one thing that Caroline repeats throughout our conversation is “be true to yourself, staying true to yourself, staying true to me”. Part of her success
is that people are believing in Caroline because she is real, she doesn’t compromise because of a lucrative off that doesn’t fit with who she is, she
does it it because it fits with her. Caroline may be a businesses woman but it’s secondary to having values and being an athlete - and it seems like
this in part is the secret of her success. As Caroline says, “it’s about cementing your brand.”
The cornerstone of Caroline’s success is summed up in her comment about “being super proactive and not waiting for opportunities to come to me. I made
the opportunities”. She explains how she learnt to do Photoshop and design packages as well as video editing - all so that she could send content
to people and media outlets. She would (and still does) send postrace reports and content as well as as well as create video to sponsors and media
around the world. Caroline explains, “I am literally handing content to sponsors, saying ‘look at all this stuff I am providing you’ “. This ‘stuff’
provides value for sponsors over and above the obvious TV coverage and brand placement: it allows them to use the content and redistribute it.
The wonderful thing about this is that because multiple media outlets and sponsors suddenly have content, they use it and talk about it - and what
this does is bring Caroline’s name to the fore. It’s a very clever and simple way of doing things, but a very effective one. As Caroline says,
“...it’s the 1 percenters that all add up”. I met Caroline a couple of years ago when she contacted me - and this is her point, that she has contacted
media all around the world as has expanded her reach, pushing herself and her brand and making it as easy as possible for media and sponsors to
work with and promote her, her brand and Buchanan Next Gen - genius.
As a media person wanting to promote female athletes and women’s sport you would be shocked to learn how much I struggle at times to get anything out
of athletes. If more athletes took Caroline’s model and pushed content, how much more would we see in the media, how many more people would talk
about women’s sport and how many more sponsors would participate?
We can talk for hours about pay equality but Caroline is doing something about it and it’s about being pro-active, but it’s also about more than that:
it’s about ensuring that the next generation have a better foundation.