Sports Creators and Brands (1/3) : why sports creators are great brand ambassadors

This is a series of articles focusing on how trust between sports creators and brands can be improved for greater collaboration.

December 17, 2021

This is a series of articles focusing on how trust between sports creators and brands can be improved for greater collaboration. In this first article, we go through a few thoughts as of why sports creators are relevant as brand ambassadors.

Here are the ideas that we'll develop in this article:

  1. Influence marketing is going mainstream
  2. Sports creators have a unique relationship with their audience, making them relevant for brands
  3. The sports-creators-as-ambassadors model is still nascent and needs structuring

Influence marketing is going mainstream

Ad-blockers have become common practice within the web browser experience. Apple has made it impossible to track consumers across apps unless they’ve expressly agreed to it. Google has planned to completely prevent third-party cookies in its Chrome navigator by 2023. Major internet companies are now forcing change to integrate more privacy within their products.

Tracking and following consumers around their web navigation won’t be the same, for the better. Effectively targeting new potential customers will become increasingly hard for brands. Relying on creators to carry or contribute to the brand message is becoming a best practice for forward-thinking companies.

As the online advertising landscape is changing, brands are adapting their digital marketing mix.

Influencer marketing is becoming mainstream in the digital marketing mix of brands, with internal resources becoming aware and trained to deal with influencers and external talents. According to Hubspot:

  • The ROI of influencer marketing campaigns is 11x the ROI of ad-based campaigns
  • 87% of online buyer decisions have been triggered by an influencer
  • 72% of brands say customers coming from influencer marketing campaigns are more valuable
  • 59% of responders have a dedicated budget for influencer marketing and 62% intend to increase this budget in the future

Sports creators have a unique relationship with their audience

Many brands, including lots of brands that have initially nothing to do with sports, invests money into sports as a marketing & communication platform. That's sports sponsorship and this is a +$60bn market.

In the era of influencer marketing, lots of brands will invest in sports creators (and not just superstar athletes) to get closer to audiences online.

No matter the platform or the size of their community, sports creators systematically achieve engagement rates significantly higher than average. For example, lots of YouTube sports creators have engagement rates in the likes of 6 to 10%.

The passionate nature of sports makes them more valuable and trusted by their community than other influencers. Sports creators are fans that decided to share their passion through social media, producing differentiated content; they have this unique relationship and insights into their audience. This is critical, especially when negotiating activations for a marketing campaign.

Adidas, one of best sports brands that successfully works with sports "influencers" for quite some time now, has been incredibly great at listening to the influencers and aligning creators' concepts with the brand vision. Check out this great collab. of Today It's Football with Adidas, aligning creators' identity with their own marketing setting.

If you thought that you don't need sports creators because you invested in mass-market, high-visibility deals, think again ! Having creators work hand-in-hand with one of your asset can be a smart, authentic way to bring life to your sponsorship deal.

Working with sports creators will become easier (we promise)

With no real industry standards to refer to, the sports-creators-as-ambassadors model is still in its early days. After speaking with +100 sports creators and +20 brands, here's a short overview of what it looks like for sports creators/brands:

  • On matching: "I decline most brand offers because they don't align with my content, or I don't like the activation" (C) // "Finding, evaluating & contacting new sports creators is MTCI: manual, time-consuming and inefficient" (B)
  • On pricing: "I don't know how much I should ask for this" (C) // "There's no real price, it depends on X Y Z" (B)
  • On recurring collaborations: "Most of my brand deals are one-offs, I don't have any viable, replicable business model" (C) // "the collaborations where our ROI is the best is when we find true alignment between the creator's DNA and our vision" (B)
If this is something that resonates with you as a influencer marketing manager / brand manager / social media pro, we want to hear from you on LinkedIn

When asked about the problems they encountered when dealing with influencers, pros responded (Hubspot 2021)

  1. finding the right influencer
  2. aligning on price, activation, messaging, values, etc.
  3. fraud

Many horizontal influencer marketing tools are emerging to help brands de-risk working with influencers, from the identification, the evaluation, the negotiation, the reporting as well as the general educate-the-market documentation that is flourishing online.

Considering all this, we believe that transparency and creating a framework for collaboration is essential to build trust between sports creators and brands.

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