Why Athletic Brands Should Be Paying More Attention to the Pro Blogger

January 22, 2013
Brand Ambassador

Mikeal Ball, ICEdot Brand Ambassador

UPDATE: I wrote this in 2013. It essentially lays the foundation for what we now call micro-influencers. I don’t want to say I told you so but I definitely did. ;)

Are you an athlete? Do you blog about it? Tweet? Maintain a Facebook page? Listen up because community marketing is relevant to you. Are you an athletic, fitness, sport or outdoor brand?  You’ll want to pay attention to this too.

There is a new kind of athlete that brands could do a better job at utilizing…the everyday athlete that has put a lot of their own effort into building a blog and online community. I’m no sports agent and to be honest I don’t know a lot about the business side of the professional world of sports. I do however know a thing or two about marketing, blogging and community marketing. A fellow community manager sent me an article the other day that got me thinking about all this.  The article was in the New York Times and was about a social media agency called theAudience.  The article highlighted that there is strong pressure in the entertainment industry to decrease artists’ salaries. As the article states, movie attendance this past summer was at an all time low and the music industry has been badly hurt by the web. Interestingly enough, Hollywood was largely ignoring social media. Hence companies like theAudience who come on the scene and allow agents to bring more than just clients to the bargaining table. TheAudience works with celebrities to build up their social media presence so when it comes time to negotiate salaries the celebrity can bring more than just star power.

To agents, the metrics of theAudience offer crucial leverage: If you cast Ms. Theron in a movie, she comes with an ability to fill seats through her social network, and we can prove it with data. Oh, and she needs to be paid more because of that. The same leverage holds true for sealing endorsement deals, which is where celebrities, and their agency backers, increasingly make their real money.

That couldn’t be more true and I’ll go out on a limb and say this is probably not breaking news to sports agents either. If you follow the social media industry at all I’m sure you’re well aware that the NBA has seen amazing results by embracing social media marketing. In fact one of the leaders in this industry got her start by understanding the power behind this medium and broke off from the Phoenix Suns and started her own agency called Digital Royalty where one of her first clients was Shaq. That’s a pretty good sign that she was onto something.

I’m a big fan of brand ambassador programs and in many ways utilizing those programs utilizes everyday athletes in a nice mutually beneficial relationship. However, I don’t think brands realize the blood, sweat and tears it takes to create a successful blog with a large following. It’s painstakingly hard (not to mention time consuming) and requires a combination of good writing, knowledge of blogging, a passion for the subject and simply speaking the ability to make friends online. This breeds trust and friendship. If a blogger is willing to lend their voice to a brand and chooses a brand appropriately, chances are their followers will pay attention and even be proud of their favorite blogger and like the brand for choosing their favorite to showcase. That’s powerful marketing stuff right there and I think similar to the example of Hollywood ignoring social media a few years ago, this phenomenon of sponsoring a blog or blogger is being under utilized and largely ignored. In terms of ROI it can be as powerful as sponsoring an accomplished professional athlete.

Back to the brand ambassador programs. There’s a good link on Martin Spierings blog, “Triathlon made Simple” where he lists a collection of brand ambassador programs for the endurance sport industry. If you’re a blogger and you’re trying to build your brand or increase your blog audience joining one of these programs can really help build your authority and expose you to readers you might not normally collect.

If you’re a brand and in particular a brand in the athletic, fitness or outdoor industry you should pay careful attention to not only the leading but the up and coming bloggers that are gaining some real traction and doing things right.

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