Athletes have long been a major influence to thousands of people across the world. Fans follow every aspect of the journey their favorite athlete takes, often beginning as early as high school. This affinity has made athletes a major part of society and culture as a whole. This has also led brands to pay athletes millions of dollars to endorse their product or service. In an age where fans are fed thousands of pieces of content every day, brands must be diligent, thorough, and creative to create a partnership that fans will remember and cherish. As a start, here are some of the ways successful brands have approached a new athlete partnership:
Once a brand and an athlete enter into a partnership, the brand must begin a deep dive into the life of the athlete. A deep dive into the athlete’s social media followers/content, media stories, and public perception is key for a brand to move forward with a plan to activate an athlete. An in-depth understanding of the athlete’s voice on social media and how he interacts with his fans/followers can give great insight to a brand. Brands must make an effort to understand the athlete’s fan base like they understand their own consumer. This level of intricacy and detail can put a partnership over the top. This step sets the foundation for everything that follows.
With the addition of Instagram’s “Paid-Partnership” tag, followers are more aware than ever about brand partnerships with an athlete. These posts are often the least “liked” or “commented” on an athlete’s feed and there are several reasons for this. Followers and fans don’t want to be sold to. Fans can tell when content is not original to their favorite athlete. Therefore brands and athletes (managers and agents) must be open and honest with each other on what each party stands for to get to the root of their true identity. Finding the “union” and “sweet spot” where the identities of the brand and athlete overlap can create endless possibilities for how to activate this partnership. Once this overlap is found, brands can start working with their internal and external creative teams to brainstorm ways to activate the specific athlete.
Brands have often followed a very traditional path in activating an athlete, a path that fans and followers have gotten used to. Now as fans are bored with the status quo, brands must find ways to create something unique with their athletes, something that pushes the envelope. Delivering something that cuts through the clutter of someone’s Instagram feed or someone’s Twitter timeline is difficult but would be achievable if you create content that is unusual but connects to your brand and the athlete’s personal brand. This is a difficult balance to achieve, but we are starting to see brands deliver this and make an imprint on fans and consumers.
At Troika, we’ve gone so far as performing our own proprietary research on “Fandom”, taking a deep dive into fan motivations and preferences to provide superior branding, marketing, and design services for our clients. Brands have an opportunity to create partnerships that people can cherish and remember for a long time. Thinking differently and diligently can shift the athlete brand partnership into a new era beyond simple product integration. Understanding the athlete’s fans/followers as if they are your own consumers, finding where both parties’ identities overlap, and creating something unique from that can be the beginning of a successful and long-lasting partnership.