THE PREMISE – Influencer marketing is here

For a few years now, in the world of sports and, more specifically, in the world of sports marketing, there has been a topic that has been taking up a lot of space: the trend, and consequently the usefulness, of giving space to influencer marketing activities within company budgets, even for companies with sports DNA.

If we broaden our view, this is certainly not a “new” topic, but then again, it is a well-known fact that “if it happens in fashion today, we’ ll see it in sports two years from now”. It is true that in this specific case, however, I want to think that the reason is not to be found in this old tradition (or bug) of physiological delay of the sports world in the fashions of the moment, but in the immune system of marketing and communication strategies of the companies that are the leaders of the sports world inextricably linked to 

to the unbreakable and unquestionable emotional connection of the brand with its audience through high-level ambassadors, real sportsmen who do real things, in a real world and who feel real emotions doing what they do.

As professionals born and raised in sports marketing and communications, we’ve been dealing with change – albeit not abrupt change – for a few years now, and we’ve found ourselves pondering the topic several times.

It’s clear that as experts in sports marketing, first as managers of teams of athletes in companies and then as managers of athletes as freelancers, when influencer marketing was introduced into the world of sports we had an initial reaction of rejection.  It is known that novelty and change are always scary first. And they generate the first questions that bring with them doubts and negative criticism. 

THE QUESTION – is a partnership possible?

So from our own experience we approached the phenomenon, and fortunately in doing so we adopted the attitude we always try to have when looking at something new: an openness to the Eastern philosophy of inclusion rather than exclusion. So it is that before giving in to the natural instinct of defense and closure – “What’s that guy doing? Can he pretend to be an ironman?? And look how many listen to him…” -we tried to better understand what was happening, what new dynamics the phenomenon could give birth to and grow, looking at it a little closer.

And the first question we felt like answering is:

Are we really faced with a choice, a crossroads? Or perhaps a sponsorship program can coexist with an influencer marketing plan? And if so, in what way?

On the surface, sponsorship and influencer marketing may seem very similar: in both cases, a brand pays a subject a certain amount of money (and/or with product) and in return, the subject promotes the brand and products among its fans.  

But there is meanwhile an important difference that has to do with duration: sponsorships are done for long periods of time (usually multi-year), while influencer marketing collaborations are temporary and usually calculated on X number of posts to be published in a given time and in most cases, campaigns do not last more than a few weeks. 

What we’d like to do now, with a series of articles on the topic, is to try to look at the two marketing activities from different perspectives and try to understand how one influences the other.