Sports fans have enjoyed non-stop sports action this summer with major league seasons finding their rhythm.
The NWSL was the first league to start a bubble season in June, kicking off the sports restart and leading the WNBA and PLL to start their bubble seasons in July.
The NBA and NHL followed suit with their respective bubbles when they restarted seasons in August. The MLB season also started in July, with no bubble, but excluding fan attendance. Without fans in the stands, consumers were at home with their eyes on TV and social media to take in all the in-game action happening around the world of sports.
Prior to and during the restart, many athletes leveraged the increased isolation and breaks in competition associated with the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to grow their personal brands. Consciously or not, they filled a need in sports media by feeding fanbases that were starving for content. They stepped their game up on social to connect with fans to keep them engaged from afar.
Matisse Thybulle, Damian Lillard, Trevor Bauer, and Te’a Cooper are among the many individuals that have seen growth during this period. They’ve used social media to take fans into the behind the scenes of their daily lives, and are each more marketable for their efforts.
As seasons have now ended and the constant stream of sports content is slowing, fans are again turning their attention to social media. For brands and sponsors, now is the time to partner with athletes.
Fans are still hungry for content, they want to know how and what their favorite athletes are engaged in during the offseason.
And while the lack of live action may shift perceived attention elsewhere, athletes out-engage their peers with social media promotions year-round.
Specific to branded content on Instagram, we found that athletes drive twice the engagement compared to both influencers, team, and league accounts. Just like consumers, athletes use products and brands in their everyday life. Brands can gain recognition, enhance community engagement, and even drive revenue by building endorsement partnerships that naturally fit into an athlete’s lifestyle.
Here are examples of successful athlete endorsement campaigns and ideas on how brands can capitalize on the offseason.
Kingsford - Pellet Grilling with Pros
Just like millions of fans around the country, many NFL athletes love summer grilling and BBQs. Kingsford showcased the relatable hobby, working in tandem with the several NFL players to produce athlete-generated content for a summer campaign.
The posts from players including Justin Tuck, Kerryon Johnson, and Justin Tucker, featured during-and-after shots of each of the players’ work on Kingsford’s new pellet smoker.
Tropicana #MadeToGo Moment
Tropicana launched its #MadeToGo Moment endorsement campaign with branded Instagram posts featuring Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin, Justin Tucker, and Sam Ponder.
The endorsement campaign encouraged conversation by allowing the ambassadors to tell their audience how the “made to go” drink is incorporated into their daily lives alongside family and loved ones.
View this post on Instagram
l grew up drinking @Tropicana_Juices as a kid at home and now Tropicana single serves keep me going between workouts and meetings while I’m hustling every day to make my dreams come true. My #MadeToGo Moment? Meetings + Workout + Bro Time with @shaquem_griffin = #MadeToGo with @Tropicana_Juices #TrustTheProcess
Garmin Vivoactive 3 with USWNT
Athletes are on the go and the on the grind, so who better to promote a fitness watch that plays music, enables payments, and powers workouts? Garmin understood this in promoting its Vivoactive 3 watch prior to the Women’s World Cup.
The posts from athletes including Julie Ertz, Kelley O’Hara, and Lindsey Horan reached millions and used smart copy to show off the various features of the new Garmin wearable.