BLOG POST BY: The Goat Agency
June 14, 2024

Change the Game: How brands can build a winning influencer strategy for the summer of sport

Sports fans are in for an action-packed summer with the Euros, Olympics, Wimbledon, and more just around the corner.

The summer of sport is fast approaching… So how can brands make noise and create meaningful engagement with fans through social and influencer marketing?

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Changing the game through social and influencers

3 billion people tuned in to watch the Tokyo Olympics, whilst a cumulative 5.2 billion tuned into the Euros. And whilst this time around, many of us will be soaking up the excitement in person at games, events, pubs, bars and BBQs, so much of the conversation will take place, not on the field, but on social media. 

And with influencers championing the connection between brands and their fans, the question for brands is how to work with creators ahead of the summer of sport (and beyond). 

In our recent virtual event, four Goat influencer experts discussed the evolving role of influencers in sport, and what brands can do to build a winning strategy this summer.

We heard from Jack Edwards, Account Director (Goat UK), Piet Dayney, Social Media Manager (Goat US), Tom Bore, Senior Campaign Director (Goat UK) and Dom Hyams, Global Client Director at inclusive marketing agency, Purple Goat.

Change the Game – Top 5 Takeouts

(1/5) Influencer is revolutionizing sports advertising

The influencer scene has changed drastically over the last decade, particularly within sports.

10 years ago influencer content was merely an add-on to traditional marketing strategies, but as the market matured, brands started to piece together the true potential of influencers.

Now, you’ll see influencers on the ground at events, popping up in TV ads, spearheading campaigns, and generally being much more central to a marketing strategy.

So, the role of creators within sports is evolving rapidly. “We’ve seen creators move away from one and done campaigns, where we activate them for one piece of content to sit on social. The professionalism of creators transcends the social campaign.” said Dom Hyams

This summer, you’ll see brands taking influencers to the Olympics to create content series that sit across different platforms, which sits closely to the production standard, and skillset, you expect from TV advertising.” 

The beauty of influencer is that brands can curate, and deliver their messaging much more effectively. “Quite often you’ll see headlines sponsors of an event, where you’ll remember their jingle come the end of an event because you see it every ad break,  but sometimes the messaging gets lost because the ad is so generic, and the audience so broad, that it leaves people trying understand why the brand and the sport go hand in hand.” Added Tom Bore. 

Why is influencer so impactful when communicating brand messaging?

With influencers, brands have access to a much more targeted audience. Where a TV ad could be shown to anyone, influencers can delve into their audience to find out exactly who is following them. This means brands can tailor their messaging to meet the preferences of that audience. In the eyes of their audience, influencers are persuasive, trusted figures that give brands credibility when partnering with them. Not only are influencers a gateway to enhanced visibility and impact on social platforms, they provide brands with opportunities to better curate and deliver their messaging. Influencer has improved the relationship between brands and sports-savvy consumers, bringing them closer than they’ve ever been before. 

(2/5) Gen Z doesn’t attend sporting events… social and influencers can help you reach them

Almost half of Gen Z audiences have never attended a live professional sporting event, and only 53% counted themselves as actual sports fans. There’s an alarming gap between one of the internet’s biggest cohorts and sports, so what can be done to bridge the gap?

Traditionally, sporting events sit on a broadcasting platform, which means the energy and the creativity has been focused towards linear television. The reality is that Gen Z does not watch linear television. But, where they do spend time is on social media. 

For many brands TV is still the main priority when it comes to sports, but to reach Gen Z that focus needs to swing toward social. It’s vital for brands and agencies alike to focus on really driving that conversation on social. “Imagine an iceberg, the TV output is the tip, and then underneath you’ve got the iceberg itself. We should be driving that 90% through social, and making sure the content has a second life.” Dom said. 

There’s no replacing TV’s role within the sports landscape, yet. But, for brands looking to tap into Gen Z audiences this summer, social media and influencers is where you’ll bridge the gap. Look to partner with creators whose audience aligns with your goals, be reactive to sporting moments on social, and invest in influencer-led paid. 

The beauty of integrating influencers with paid is that you’re leveraging the power of influencer content and delivering that to a much wider pool of people across social, outside of just that creator’s audience. 

(3/5) Be reactive during the key moments

The Olympics, Euros, and Wimbledon are all huge events, but where brands can go wrong is failing to be present at the core moments that drive conversation on social. During these sporting events, reactivity can be your best friend. 

Brands often don’t effectively utilize the power of organic social. Organic social enables brands to be reactive to key events, tap into their community, and ride the wave of different trends within sports. “This could be as small as a brand posting a meme in relation to a viral moment or tapping into community management, which a lot of brands fall asleep on.” said Piet. 

Set the time aside to interact with other brands, your fans, athletes, and content. Cultivate an audience away from sporting events so that when there’s a stoppage time goal, or world record-breaking triumph, you’ve got a community to celebrate with. 

This is especially true for brands who aren’t the headline sponsors at major sporting events. “You can still have a voice, you just need to keep a pulse on what people are talking about, especially your key demographics. If they’re into a certain moment at an event, make sure you’re talking about that as early as possible.” said Piet. 

(4/5) Creating a new gold standard for inclusion

The Paralympics sparks a huge opportunity for brands to redefine their standards for inclusivity and representation.  “We [Purple Goat] often are engaged for the Paralympics, which is understandable, but at the same time that shouldn’t just be for a disabled audience,” said Dom. 

“We want to see a disabled audience, and a non-disabled audience engaging in that. Similarly, the Olympics, we don’t want to just have non-disabled people in and around that, we want to see the disabled community there as well.” He added. 

While the professional sporting angle is there, the Paralympic Games opens the door to much more meaningful conversations by addressing the issues associated with sporting events. For brands, the Paralympics becomes a great opportunity to progress the conversation around disability. “It’s also an opportunity for brands to get the house in order when it comes to inclusion,” said Dom. 

Partnering with creators from the disabled community this summer, and looking to develop more longer term relationships with them, should be among brands top priorities when looking at inclusion. With these creators, brands can explore true experiences and progress their understanding of the community, activating disabled creators for Euros and Olympics activations, and similarly bringing in non-disabled influencers to feature at the Paralympics. Brands must show that these events aren’t exclusive to certain communities, but are in fact made for everyone – creators can help bridge that gap. 

As the influencer space moves further away from “one and done” campaigns, this year’s Paralympics is a great opportunity for brands to create a new gold standard for inclusion going forward. 

(5/5) Olympic audiences are as niche as they come

The Goat Agency has built on the foundations of delivering niche content to niche audiences, at scale. So with sports like fencing, equestrian, pistol shooting, pole vaulting, and more, the communities following these sports are as niche as they come. 

There’s a massive opportunity for brands to use the Olympics as a platform to connect with new audiences. “There are all these different niche sports and niche communities that grant brands the ability to really tap into verticals you probably would never even think about.” said Jack Edwards. 

Brands must consider how they can bridge the gap, as a community following the javelin throwing may have little interest in what your brand stands for. This is where influencers, particularly more micro creators that specialize within those niche fields, come in. Partnering with these specialized creators can help brands connect with these new audiences and develop relationships that last long after the medal ceremony. 

The summer of sport promises action like no other, and we hope these learnings have provided you with inspiration to develop a winning brand activation. 

Email if you’d like to watch the full virtual event.

Interested in hearing more about influencer partnerships, and the best ways to work with them? Check out our blog!

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Written by: The Goat Agency