Article

William Soulier
William Soulier 15 August 2019

Seven Things Brands Need to Know about Working with Athletes to Front an Influencer Marketing Campaign

We're a nation of sports lovers. That much is undeniable. From Wimbledon, to the Grand Prix, to the Women’s Football World Cup and perhaps most exciting of all, the recent men’s cricket World Cup win, our eyes have been glued to our screens and don’t seem to be switching off anytime soon. But what do brands need to consider when working with athletes to front their influencer marketing campaigns? Read on to find out.

Britain is a nation of sports lovers. That much is undeniable. From Wimbledon, to the Grand Prix, to the Women’s Football World Cup and perhaps most exciting of all, the recent men’s cricket World Cup win, our eyes have been glued to our screens and don’t seem to be switching off anytime soon.

As a result, our interest and anticipation has naturally encouraged a continuum of curiosity in the daily lives of the athletes who achieve these unforgettable moments and make it all happen. Their ambition, grit and determination has fuelled a generation of influence as these talented athletes inspire their audience both on and off the pitch, so they can also achieve similar success and live corresponding lifestyles.

So, with this in mind, here are seven points that brands need to consider when working with athletes in their next influencer marketing campaign.  

  1. Athletes may be limited in who they can work with: In general, athletes have a sponsor, which restricts the brands they can work with who align with the same vertical. However, whilst this can be limiting on occasion, for the brands who achieve these partnerships, they can build long-term relationships with these athletes and grow organic engagement throughout their careers to really capitalise on their target market.
     
  2. Pick the right talent for the right brand: Athletes are a great match for brands who are looking for credible talent in that vertical because they align with their audience requirements. For example, Moet & Chandon worked with Roger Federer and optimised his influence as a successful professional who appreciates the finer things in life, especially when celebrating the end of a tournament. So, whilst he is far from your every ambassador, Moet & Chandon targeted his audience, consisting of people who also want to enjoy luxury moments, attracting the interest of his 6.7Million followers. However, brands still need to be cautious when working with athletes, as with any talent. Take Israel Folau, who worked with Qantas when he made homophobic remarks on Twitter. Not only was this damaging for the brand’s representation, it certainly didn’t sit well with the CEO of Qantas who is openly gay.
     
  3. Be mindful of an athlete’s cautious approach: Athletes will tend to be prudent when working with new prospects, as partnering with the wrong brand can backfire on them. For example, if they work with a fast food brand that goes against their healthy way of life, they will likely come across backlash, as discovered during the Subway reaction after the 2012 Olympics. Likewise, liquor, vaping or fast track weight loss brands may well be wasting their time targeting sporting talent. Remember though, this cautious approach extends to both parties.
     
  4. Be sure to support, guide and train: Athletes are often less prone to be native content creators, so they may need some more support and or training on social media when working with a brand. They may also need to develop their presence in the early stages of working with them. Remember, first and foremost, their sporting talent is their primary industry trade, social media and influencer marketing is not.
     
  5. Authenticity is key: Whenever working with athletes, brands need to ensure that their message fits with their identity. Anything that feels false, or too sales focused, will be picked up very quickly and called out by their followers. In general sporting talent are often seen as more authentic by their audience and they will be keen to keep it that way.
     
  6. Their audience is diverse: On scale an athlete is going to have a range of followers across multiple generations, this requires they appeal to a wider demographic across their content. Take, Serena Williams who has over 11.3M followers and inspires young girls who look up to her as a role model, new mums and a steadfast of tennis fans, she needs to relay with each market when working with new brands to ensure she correctly positions herself amongst their values and interests in order to best resonate with them.
     
  7. They can assume celeb status: Some athletes can elevate their status well above and beyond their sport, and as such take on a celebrity status. This can be both a blessing, and a curse for the brands they work with. For some professionals their increase celeb status may lose a degree of authenticity and relevance to their audience, not to mention their expensive fees.

Ultimately, whether a brand is working with an athlete or any talent vertical, three elements will remain essential for a strong and successful influencer marketing campaign; authenticity, relevance and credibility. Correspondingly, brands need to ensure they work with agency-signed talent only; talent who have real credibility and authentic value in their space and can align with a brand’s audience in a way like no other can. However, it is essential to ensure their interests align with the brand’s ethos and vice versa, to ensure the messaging feels meaningful, authentic and real. This will ensure that the brand’s customers are compelled to take-action, and in, time become its brand advocates.

Words by William Soulier, CEO and co-founder of Talent Village

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