If there is any endeavor whose fruits are ripening, that endeavor is surely the new brand and athlete relationship in the digital age. Statistically, according to Julie Frank of Navigation Research, sports fans that see a brand message on social media are 78% more likely to have a positive perception of them. So brands are experimenting with the best approach to reach them through social channels.
Still, some barriers are slowing them down, so I asked 8 sports marketing experts about the state of social media and the brand / athlete relationship. Here’s what they told me:
“Social media has given athletes a very public and direct line of communication to their fans, so the brands endorsing
these athletes want to tap into that conversation more and more. The size of an athlete’s social following is incredibly valuable, and their marketing representatives know this, which impacts the interest level from more socially-engaged brands and the value of the endorsement itself.”
“We don’t directly deal with pro athletes but more on the amateur side. However, we do know that Brands do value the large followings that athletes possess but are also wary about the potential “PR disaster” of a high-profile athlete tweeting an unpopular thought/opinion or being shown in a picture that is not desirable for the Brands philosophy. It’s a double-edged sword where they understand the value of the partnership but need to be prepared to distance themselves if something less desirable comes about.”
“Brands are looking at social media differently as it relates to using athletes as spokespeople. If messaging isn’t authentic and relevant to an athlete’s existing social voice, it damages the integrity of the athlete’s communication with his or her fans. Knowing that, the smartest brands are looking for ways to support and be part of the conversation, rather than trying to drive it.
“Because of this, the guarantees that might have once been mandatory as part of a partnership look much different. In some cases they’ve fallen out completely. When done right, partnerships create mutual value for the brand and the athlete with each contributing to the power, reach and strength of the other,” Wagner said.
4. Julie Frank, Manager, Marketing and Public Relations at Navigate Research
“Fans are 164 percent more likely to be influenced to purchase a sponsor brand if recalled through social media. This is a great opportunity for brands to leverage their athletes as opinion leaders in order to create a purchase lift effect through social media recall.
“So smart brands can associate with their portfolio of popular athletes in order to make the recall of their brand that much more likely and positive,” Frank told me.
“Brands are continuing to take greater advantage of athletes’ social and digital followings. In fact, an athlete’s social and digital following has become one of the more important points of criteria for brands when considering potential endorsers. Partnering with a socially influential athlete allows brands to ride the wave of influence that an endorser already has over their following, create more meaningful engagements with consumers and reach a broader audience altogether.