Three Powerful Ways Brands Can Benefit By Working With Athletes.
Updated: Dec 17, 2018
Brands are increasingly discovering the positive results of working with professional athletes, as athletes maintain high trust levels with their fan base of followers and are in a position to put content in front of highly engaged audiences. Athletes who have strong personal brands are sought after by brands to be ambassadors, endorsers, influencers and affiliate partners, due to the significant long-term benefits and profits these relationships can generate.
The significance and impact of social media has provided brands with powerful and direct channels to market, which can be expanded further by utilising an athletes social profile to engage with their audiences. There are plenty of examples of athletes being the face of brands, and selling products by creating strong connections between customers and brands. Including, the iconic Michael Jordan Jumpman partnership with Nike continues to make the brand millions every year despite Jordan retiring in 2003. Similarly, Allen Iverson who retired in 2013, still reportedly earns $800,000 a year from Reebok because the brand’s CEO, Matt O’Toole thinks he is “worth it.”
Professional athletes have risen to become significant voices and authorities across the globe for a variety of brands and causes. In October 2018, this was proven when Portuguese footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo became the most followed person on Instagram with nearly 150 million followers.
Traditionally in Australia it has mostly been clothing, athletic and sporting brands which have engaged athletes to collaborate on marketing campaigns, recently though we have seen NAB show their support of the A-League utilising Honda and Stephanie Catley for their marketing campaign, and a number of athletes have been used for different prepared food providers such as Youfoodz and Hello Fresh.
There are many ways that brands are profiting by incorporating professional athletes into their marketing plans.
Below are three powerful and effective ways brands can collaborate with athletes:
1. Develop Co-Branded Products With Athletes
As the growing impact of athletes continues, more brands are realising the financial profits of co-branding products with athletes. Richard Mille created the world’s most lightweight mechanical watch for their ten-year brand ambassador, Rafael Nadal. Not only did the brand create a one of its kind watch, it also developed a product that Nadal could wear during his tournaments, soliciting exposure to millions of potential customers all over the world. Only 50 of Mr Nadal’s $775,000 watch, the RM 27-02, were made and they instantly sold out. This is a great example of a brand ambassador role that has accelerated past an athlete just stating they “loved the product”, as it gave fans the opportunity to watch him actually use it and aspire to purchase a Richard Mille watch.
In Australia, Powerade launched a campaign to coincide with the 2016 Rio Olympics that featured Australian basketball player, Andrew Bogut, for their national campaign. The campaign featured a limited edition new flavour, Mandarin, with packaging that showcased Bogut as the campaign hero. The campaign execution included promotion by Bogut across his social media channels and a hashtag to coincide with the Olympics, #HydratingOurOlympians. This was a multi-million dollar campaign that saw huge fan engagement across multiple touchpoints. Fans could purchase the limited edition drink, post a picture with it and then use the hashtag. The campaign almost completely revolved around the athlete, generating significant exposure across the Rio Olympics audience and driving sales for Powerade over this period.
2. Use Athletes As Brand Ambassadors
Due to the high engagement levels from fans of athletes, research has shown that they are significantly more likely to purchase a product endorsed by an athlete they follow, which is why many brands spend millions of dollars on athlete brand ambassadors.
An example is Neymar Jnr, a Brazilian footballer who plays for PSG recently joined electronics company, TCL as their brand ambassador. TCL said in a statement that this move was “part of their global brand strategy and will help TCL embrace a wide audience of young sports fans worldwide and raise TCL’s global brand visibility.” Neymar reportedly is partnered with 27 other brands due to his strong personal brand and cult following of 107 million people on Instagram.
Another example is when Tommy Hilfiger signed Rafael Nadal as an ambassador, according to their Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, sales of their underwear doubled year-over-year that month, and their online sales of men’s accessories rose by 50% during the same period. Tommy Hilfiger credited this massive increase in sales directly to Nadal's involvement.
Brands can use brand ambassadors in a variety of ways either with short-term social posts, or longer-term relationships including rewarding the athlete with percentages of sales through affiliate marketing agreements or by implementing bonus sales incentives, which allows the athlete to be proactive in developing their content and fan engagement to reach further financial rewards.
3. Access their Fans to Build Your Database & Followers
It can be hard for marketers to continuously build their databases and social following, often eventually reaching a plateau. By accessing an athletes fan base, brands can access a new audience of customers, including customers who may have purchased before, are likely to purchase in the future, or who may never purchase.
As long as there is a strong values connection between the athletes brand and your brand, it’s important for a brand to speak to all of these audiences and to build direct access to them. A simple way that this can be done is by running promotions and competitions on the athletes platforms including social and personal website (if available). Everyone benefits from these types of activations, as brands are able to either build their databases or increase their followers dependent upon the promotional mechanics. The athlete benefits by providing an incentive and benefit for their followers to keep following and the opportunity to win a brand that their favourite athlete endorses.
Many of the big brands recognise that athlete fans will often without question support a product which their favourite athlete is a part of, whether this is a co-branded product or as a brand ambassador. Running competitions utilising athletes can be an effective way for smaller businesses to still access the power of an athletes brand often at a lower cost.
Brands have significant opportunity to work with and leverage professional athletes for their sales and marketing campaigns. An athlete's significant following, high level of engagement, and exposure create a powerful content distribution mix and revenue-driving opportunity for brands.
If you’re looking for unique and talented athletes to engage new audiences and grow your brand awareness, visit Agency X Talent to discover Australia’s most engaging athletes.