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The increase in influencer marketing budgets shows that this is becoming a rapidly increasing marketing strategy for brands trying to find novel ways to attract consumers. Influencers are genuine authority figures within the lives of their fans – this includes bloggers, industry experts, lifestyle gurus, online entertainment celebrities and many more.
These influencers have a sizeable audience on social media and other digital platforms. They’re often seen by their fans as a trustworthy and authentic source of information. How does this marketing trend fit in with the sports industry? Sports is an integral part of the lives of billions around the world. Most people identify themselves as the fan of a particular sports team and a specific group of players that they support and look up to.
Traditionally most sports athletes have been offline or in-person celebrities – you meet them at games and events and that’s about it. With the advent of social media, as these sports and influencers jump online and so does their offline audience, it becomes a novel online channel for companies to promote their products and services. With this in mind, here are 10 tips for using influencers to promote your sports brand.
1. Reach Your Audience Through The Right Channels
The key to using influencer marketing to promote your sports brand is to make sure they use the right channels to reach their audience. You wouldn’t necessarily promote your cake company on LinkedIn; the same goes for your sports company. You need to work with an influencer who’s present and close to your target market.
In recent times, there has been a surge of fitness and sports-related mobile applications entering the market, allowing sports fans to stay in touch and learn from their favourite sports idols. An example of this is Tribe. Tribe allows influencers to create “hyper-engaged” fan groups where their followers get to chat directly with their favorite athletes, win exclusive merchandise and meet their favorite athletes in person. Athletes can share their nutrition and fitness related expertise and grow their existing fan base.
Tribe CEO Gaurav Mathur said “Tribe offers a unique experience for everyone involved. Fans learn more about their favourite athletes and get to engage with them personally. Athletes grow their fans and improve loyalty to themselves personally. And the brands that engage the consumer in this environment get a prolonged multi-day exposure from the influencer that tremendously boosts brand recall and loyalty.”
2. Consider Your User’s Experience
Once you’ve chosen the right channel, you need to take your consumer’s experience into consideration. Influencer marketing isn’t about making hard sales; it’s about creating a long-lasting and authentic relationship with your audience. You want your influencer to portray your brand in a way that increases awareness and engagement.
3. Choose The Right Influencer
While many still believe that choosing the right influencer is about the number of followers they have, research proves that influencers with smaller followings have higher engagement rates. If you choose a celebrity to represent your brand, you may find that that person takes the attention away from the product or service you are promoting in the first place.
It’s worth mentioning that likes, shares, and followers can be bought, so numbers aren’t everything. Your influencer should target a specific niche, building a trusting network of loyal followers that will have a more intimate relationship with them and your brand.
4. Follow Your Influencer’s Guidance
The fact of the matter is, if an influencer doesn’t like your product or doesn’t agree with your marketing strategy, they won’t work with you because they may lose credibility with their fanbase. That said, many are willing to offer guidance that can help you in the long run.
People don’t become influencers from simply posting the odd message on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. They have a specific area of expertise and a knowledge of marketing that makes them the best. While you should review the guidance they give you, you should listen to them, consider them, and respect them in order to reach your marketing goals.
5. Give Your Influencer Freedom
As mentioned above, your influencer most likely knows best. With that in mind, offer your influencer some level of creative control. Influencers know what their audiences want, and the sports industry is no different. Your influencer will have a specific strategy in place for reaching and engaging with their audience authentically, so allow them to go by their regime in order to make your strategy a success.
6. Make Your Brand An Experience
Influencer marketing is about much more than promoting a specific product or service. Your influencer marketing campaign should create an experience around your brand. Your goal for your influencer marketing campaign should be to make your brand come to life. Your influencer’s followers will associate a positive experience with your brand, thus boosting engagement and sales.
7. Ensure Your Influencer Is Also A Brand Ambassador
People trust influencers because they don’t usually represent brands in which they don’t believe. Using a well-established influencer as a brand ambassador for your sports company will help build your credibility. In order to make your influencer a brand ambassador, you could ask them to:
• Attend your sponsored events
• Act as reporters for your campaign
• Spread the word on social media regarding your brand, products, and services
8. Create Original Products With Your Influencer
It’s one thing to use an influencer to grow your brand, and another to seek their expertise to create unique and original products for your company. Involving an influencer in product development gives you insight into what your target audience truly wants and allows you to create products that appeal to both your authority figure and their following.
9. Sponsor Contests Run By Your Influencer
Another way to gather more engagement from your audience is to encourage your influencer to run award-winning contests and promoting them through their social media channels. The best part about influencer-led contests is that everyone gains something from the experience: You get more exposure, they get in the good books with their followers, and a member of your target audience wins a prize. Work together on a calendar to ensure you are on the same page for timing of each contest.
10. Create An Influencer Network
Partnering with one influencer will help promote your sports company; however, creating a network of influencers will allow you to reach a much larger and broader audience. You won’t be limited by a specific niche of consumers, and you’ll create awareness with a variety of audience groups. Through a network of influencers, you can:
• Increase brand visibility
• Achieve your desired marketing results
• Drive conversions
• Promote the launch of your products and services
Influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways of reaching and engaging your audience, especially in the sports industry, where being a fan of a specific team or athlete becomes part of your audience’s overall identity. By following the tips outlined above, you’ll gain access to a once inaccessible audience in an authentic way.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.