The collaboration between Lewis Hamilton and Tommy Hilfiger is a prime example of influencer marketing. On the brand side, the Brit acts as a classic advertising figure, when he presented his own collection on posters. On Instagram, the incumbent Formula 1 World Champion shows deeper insights into the cooperation with the fashion label and succeeds in integrating it into his everyday adrenaline-filled lifestyle.
In the meantime, influencer marketing is the standard in the communication mix of many companies, regardless of whether it is B2B or B2C. The aim is to find plausible brand ambassadors and take advantage of their coverage in the relevant target groups for one’s objectives. The range of the set objectives spans from increasing awareness right up to direct sales of products via the influencers’ platforms.
However, in the same way as in any other discipline: first do your homework and then reap good grades. I.e. the search and selection of influencers is crucial for the success of a campaign. The main focus should not only be on the number of followers, but also on the fit between the brand and influencer, the target group of the influencer and the quality of the content.
Using athletes as influencers
Companies also like to use athletes as influencers, in order to take advantage of their fame and image and thereby load up their brand. Strictly speaking, it’s not a bad tactic, as athletes often bring very high social media coverage with them and address interesting, young target groups. However, catching up is still required in respect of quality. Two problems can be observed more frequently with this:
Problem 1: Influencer ≠ Testimonial
Too frequently, the subject of influencer marketing is equated to a traditional testimonial partnership. I.e., very commercial contents are created, which are either used only on the brand channels or fail in terms of their effect on the athletes’ channels. Sometimes, companies are lacking sense of the translation of the contents to match the target group and channel.
Even Lewis Hamilton cannot always preserve the sovereignty over his content, if a major brand like Tommy Hilfiger is also sitting at the table. But here, it can be seen that the traditional advertising post loses out to the much deeper content post when it comes to commitment, even if both posts clearly focus on the brand:
Problem 2: Athletes ≠ marketing pros
Athletes are also not simultaneously marketing pros, who can communicate the messages authentically and plausibly to their target group. Therefore, creative approaches are needed and sometimes also patience, until the appropriate content can be published.
Both sides therefore need support with the content strategy and preparation. The brand must not think too much in the direction of advertising and sales, but must separately consider content for the athletes’ channels and create entertaining, relevant content. And the athletes need support with the implementation of the ideas that have arisen.
Traditional influencers involve themselves more
On the side of the “traditional” influencers, a completely different picture is being created in the meantime. They have specialised in creating content in a channel-appropriate and target-group-appropriate manner, thereby triggering interactions by their followers. They know exactly what works on their channel and what doesn’t and they prefer to produce their content themselves or provide valuable input for its production. It’s not without reason that they are now also referred to as content creators.
In the full knowledge that interactions are their bread and butter business, they participate in discussions in the comments on a regular basis. Consequently, they have a higher interaction rate than athletes and therefore reach a completely different level, when it comes to followers dealing with a product or a brand.
Content strategy for athletes, content producers for brands
And nevertheless, there are good reasons for relying on athletes as influencers. There are namely also social media talents among them. Patrice Evra is perhaps the most refreshing example among many. With his Monday Motivation videos, he puts a smile on the face of his followers each week.
Lewis Hamilton also discovered the power of social networks for himself at an early stage and relied on professional content support. The six-times Formula 1 World Champion brought professional photographer and content creator, Paul Ripke, into his cockpit in the last season, in order to elevate his social media content to a completely new level. Together with Ripke, authentic, approachable and high-quality content has been created, which not only benefited the brand, but also its advertising partners and the entire Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team.
In the current season, Hamilton is also working together with a content creator, in the meantime, Ripke has been hired by Mercedes, in order to produce behind-the-scenes material for at various races.
The example of Hamilton shows that on the athletes’ side, investing in a meaningful content strategy completely pays off. And brands should rely on content producers who are familiar with the material, in their collaboration with athletes – as traditional testimonial campaigns can be transformed into effective influencer marketing.