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Oct 18, 2019

How to use influencer marketing to grow your sport and fitness brand

Tom Inskip, Head of Sport and Fitness at leading UK PR Agency The PHA Group, discusses the best approach to ensuring Influencer Marketing can impact your own sport or fitness brand positively

The concept of a brand hiring a social media influencer to promote a product, service, event or wider campaign isn’t new.

With many brands reporting that traditional advertising are becoming less effective, it is no surprise that more and more brands are including permanent influencer marketing spend in their budgets. No longer can we afford to think of influencer marketing as a novel strategy, when by the year 2020 influencer marketing global spend is set to become a billiondollar industry.

Brands like Reebok and adidas have led the charge when it comes to influencer marketing. Reebok’s #PerfectNever campaign, which aimed to empower women by celebrating their imperfections, combined influential power houses such as Gigi Hadid and Ariana Grande with more niche, country specific influencers such as athletes, actors and musicians to reach the right audience. The campaign is widely regarded as one of the best influencer marketing campaigns created and, last year, the sportswear giant went a step further by announcing it was building an in-house influencer team, with the intention of bridging the gap between its marketing team and digital influencers.

Meanwhile, adidas has used the innovative tactic of creating its own bespoke content that features influencers within it. As an influencer, this content is something you want to be involved in and want to share across your social channels because it’s different, exciting and more often than not, something you wouldn’t be able to produce yourself. As a result, adidas, ends up with engaging content for use on their own channels and a group of top fitness influencers sharing the same content with their thousands of followers. This is a tactic that works incredibly well when spreading campaign messaging or supporting kit launches.

The Influencers

Fitness influencers impact consumer behaviour significantly and there are plenty of fitness influencers you can utilise in the UK to help grow your brand. The likes of Chessie King, Alice Liveing, Ryan Libbey, Alex Crockford, Zanna Van Dijk and Bradley Simmonds are all hugely influential individuals who have grown their own channels significantly in the past few years.

Their power is now so great that they’re growing into far more than just the social media influencer they set out to be. Alice Liveing, who has an Instagram follower count of more than 600k, has recently launched her own podcast which has featured celebs such as Gabby Logan and Kelly Holmes. Meanwhile, Bradley Simmonds, who carved a career out of training footballers, is now a GQ fitness trainer and has numerous commercial deals, including with Marks & Spencer. This proves that influencers are becoming celebrities in their own right through their social media careers.

While these influencers will help you reach a wide audience, most if not all will charge a fee for promoting your client. For larger brands with bigger marketing budgets this may not cause too many issues, but for smaller brands who are looking to get in on the influencer marketing action it can create a barrier.

However, there are many ‘microinfluencers’ (commonly regarded as a social media influencers with approximately 2,000 – 20,000 followers) who may not charge brands to publish posts, depending on what is offered to them.

How to secure high profile influencers without paying them

If you’re serious about recruiting social media influencers but don’t necessarily have the budget to put behind paying them, the best way to try and recruit them is to create experiences that are unique and special. Asking an influencer to promote your sports event by offering them a free ticket won’t get you very far. You need to offer them more than this, grant them access to sporting talent, arrange a press day where they get access that other people wouldn’t, and give them the VIP treatment during the event.

This is something England Hockey did incredibly well last year. The organisation wanted to enhance the perception of hockey amongst 8-13 year olds. To do this, they set up a YouTube influencer campaign to challenge the perception of hockey being ‘uncool’.

England Hockey identified five influencers and offered them oncein- a-lifetime experiences with the England Hockey team so that they could create their own content and tell a young audience how great and cool hockey is.

They worked with a range of influencers including YouTube megastar Amazing Arabella down to micro influencers such Liv Rook to produce highly engaging content that challenged the perception of hockey and created advocates of the sport.

The six videos created by the influencers reached more than 122k views across their YouTube channels, a number that was significantly higher than any previous England Hockey YouTube content. This content directly challenged the negative perception of the sport and positioned it as a sport for everyone.

Gifting Influencers Another way of securing influencer content is to gift your products to them, so they can experience your product first-hand and form a relationship with the brand. When gifting products to influencers, don’t just package it up and send it in the post, think of unique ways to interest them. An engaging way to deliver a product could be to hand deliver the item to them and educate them exactly on how to use the product correctly.

If perhaps you can’t hand deliver the product, or if it’s not something that requires a firsthand walkthrough, package up the content in a bespoke gift set, accompanied by other products and goodies that could help strengthen a relationship between the brand and the influencer. You should be aware though that any subsequent social posts that result from product gifting could – and should – have the #Gifted hashtag included as part of the caption.

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