Sponsored social media activations have become a key component to any athlete endorsement campaign. This strategy has proven to be effective in reaching and engaging highly passionate, attentive audiences. But campaign success entails more than just paying an athlete, producing the content, and watching the engagements pile up.
When properly executed, athlete social media endorsements will impact a massive, trusting audience. After all, the users who follow these athletes are more than just that — they’re fans. The right activation can drive genuine word-of-mouth marketing, impact purchase decisions, and add reach and credibility for a brand or campaign.
However, if the sponsored social campaign lacks execution, the endorsement will fail to reach its potential. Athlete social media endorsements are not an exact science. There is no black and white right, but there are a few wrongs that strategists should avoid when creating an athlete influencer campaign.
1. Working With the Wrong Athletes
Finding the right athlete goes deeper than touchdowns and follower counts. It’s about brand-fit, authenticity, how their audience matches your target, and campaign details including your timeline, investment, and goals. Be sure to check out their previous social media history, off-field behavior, and make sure their personality aligns with what you hope to accomplish.
Once you find effective options, it’s time to get the most bang for your buck. Figure out which athletes have the most influence, not necessarily overall, but within your specific target market. “Big win” athlete influencers may have a ton of followers, but a lesser-known athlete may have a more engaged audience in the area you plan to impact.
2. Not Authentic = Not Working
Every athlete has their own personality and way of communicating on social media. Go away from this and deliver a “canned” sales statement that screams, “AD!” and you may as well just tell your audience to go away. Consumers are savvy in 2015. They understand that athletes endorse brands, but still expect authenticity from sponsored social campaigns. Let the athlete’s personal voice shine through in the message and you’re bound to earn a good reaction from your audience.
How To Be Authentic
- Get Personal
Understand the athlete’s backstory, personality, and what they’re known for. In general, the audience cares about the athlete — not your brand. Finding athletes who share similar values and characteristics to your brand is a great first step to an authentic brand-athlete relationship.
For example, Under Armour has thrived in its role as an underdog to sportswear giants like Nike and Adidas. Understanding this, they have pursued endorsements from athletes with a similar underdog backstory. From Steph Curry’s lack of size, to Tom Brady’s sixth-round draft selection, many of Under Armour’s athlete endorsers embody the company’s struggle for success.
- Engage the Audience
Social media is for talking with the audience, not at them. Understanding this, make it easy for your audience to engage with the endorsement message. Ask them questions, use phrases like “you” or “you guys,” and never be afraid to ask for engagement. Tweets that ask for a retweet receive 12 times higher engagement than those that do not.
- If You Must Sell, Entertain
Sure, you want to sell your product, and that may be a goal of your sponsored social campaign. That’s fine. Just don’t try to fit your brand-speak sales copy into the athlete’s message. Instead, try to include humor or personal anecdotes within the message. BluMoo, a home entertainment solution, executed this strategy to perfection in a recent campaign:
— Jeremy Guthrie (@TheRealJGuts) October 15, 2015
— Chase Daniel (@ChaseDaniel) October 18, 2015
3. Ignoring Strategy & Goals
You wouldn’t launch an advertising campaign without understanding the campaign goals, budget, or audience, so don’t do it here. Your strategy should be the base in which all other decisions are made. Without an identified strategy, you are at risk to choose the wrong influencers with the wrong content.
Once a campaign is launched, organization remains important. Track and analyze the campaign’s performance. Look past the raw numbers to understand why the campaign performed as it did. This will not only help you with reporting, but can also to ensure the effectiveness of future campaigns.
Athlete influencer marketing is an inexact science. There’s no black and white rulebook, rather, it relies on pairing campaign goals with effective messaging and brand-athlete authenticity. Navigating these pitfalls can save strategists time and money. By avoiding these mistakes, your campaigns can benefit from the massive influence of professional athletes.