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Thabiso Moloi
Thabiso Moloi 4 November 2016
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When Sports and Influencer Marketing Come Together, Magic Happens

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been an avid sports fanatic. For true followers, the passion for it is unrivalled and hard to replicate with the popular notion of “it’s not just a sport, it’s personal” holding true in most cases.

With the passion and emotional investment I currently have in it, combined with my day to day involvement in the influencer marketing space, I decided to do some research to see if there is a relationship between the two. Luckily, as it turns out, there is indeed a strong correlation between the two and in most cases when they do combine, magic usually happens.

Global sports brand Puma has recently put most of their efforts towards the Asian market. With the continued as a global financial powerhouse, it’s understandable why more brands, like Puma, are investing more time and efforts in that region. A recent article states that Puma started adopting different strategies with social, content and influencer marketing forming a large part of that. The brand has since benefited largely with an improved performance in the Asia-Pacific regions:

“The shift in strategy had a lot to do with the dilution of the brand in lifestyle versus a brand rooted in sports. The brand launched a global brand platform called 'Forever faster', using its top sports assets like Usain Bolt, Arsenal Football Club, Italy’s national team and its football players.” - Adrian Toy, Regional Marketing Director at Puma

The National Football League (NFL) is another perfect example of the trust that’s continually being established between sports and influencer marketing. According to an article I recently came across;  “after successfully building a core audience for the NFL in the UK, the sports commercial chiefs are turning to influencers as well as celebrities and athletes to win over enough new fans to secure momentum behind its expansion.” The article further goes on to explain that a partnership between the NFL’s commercial team and sport and entertainment agency Clifford French has been struck with the aim of tapping into influencers to provide education and establish the sport in the UK:

“It’s a unique and fantastic sport so we’re looking to partner with different influencers from various sectors like sports, music and gaming to take them on the journey of an emerging fan. This will happen over the course of the season and we want to provide them with unique access and content opportunities that will really help them get under the skin of the game."-  James Clifford, co-founder at Clifford French.

Saving the best for last, in respect to this post at least, is a slightly different and unconventional option that combines both sport and gaming. eSports is a new trend that has recently exploded onto the scene and gained massive popularity globally. With millions of dollars being pumped into it, eSports competitions are said to be:

bagging more viewers than many major sporting events, including the NBA, with 100,000 people arriving to watch Intel’s Extreme Masters gaming tournament that was hosted in Poland”.

But how do influencers come into the fold? According to Samantha Wright, Business Relationship Manager at Webfluential, one of the best ways to reach out to fans of the sport (who usually consist of individuals ranging between the ages of 18 and 34, and have access to higher amounts of disposable income) is through the professional players of the game/sport itself:

“Professional eSports players have followers in the hundreds of thousands across their social platforms. Their fans will log in to Twitch (an online streaming platform) to watch them practice and will frequent their Facebook for content that they can engage with. Gamers and eSports fans have an extreme sense of community and studies have demonstrated that they’d be far more inclined to support a brand that supports their favourite player (the crux of influencer marketing only amplified)” - Samantha Wright

If I were to navigate the web a bit more, I’m confident that I could find more plans as well as (both) current and post campaign examples of the two industries combining to produce magic. Anything is possible these days and with many industries (including the two mentioned above) continuing to evolve and technology doing likewise, I cannot help but be intrigued and excited to see what lies ahead.  

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