Last week we held our first PEAK Conference on the hot topic of Influencer Marketing in Endurance Sports. It was great to see so many people – 94 brands and influencers to be precise – come to listen to presentations, discuss the subject and meet other people from the worlds of running, cycling, triathlon and the great outdoors.
We had some great speakers:
- Michael Price gave a brand’s perspective and what he’s learnt from his time as EMEA Marketing Director at ASICS;
- Sophie Radcliffe talked about her successful journey to becoming an adventurer and blogger, and how she works with brands to deliver real value;
- Julie Falconer, blogger and speaker, gave brands and influencers some valuable tips on how to be more creative and measure impact;
- And we presented highlights of our survey on the subject, which will form the basis of our first Pulse report next month.
The discussions ranged far and wide but here are the top 10 things we learnt about influencer marketing – where it is now, and what can be done to get the most from this nascent discipline.
10 things we learned about influencer marketing
- Influencer marketing is now an established and significant part of the marketing mix in endurance sports. It is more valued by marketers than either PR or print advertising, and its importance continues to grow. 70% of brands said they are increasing their budget for influencer marketing in 2016.
- However, influencer marketing is still very much in its infancy – 57% of brands have been doing it for less than 2 years – and the experience of both brands and influencer has been mixed to date. 64% of brands say they ‘need to experiment more’.
- Digital marketing presents a whole new world of opportunity for brands – Michael Price told us ‘you’ve never had it so good’ – but brands need to be more creative in how they work with influencers. Julie Falconer gave us great examples of this but our survey showed that today most brands are quite limited in the ways they work with influencers and only send them the latest kit. There is so much more to influencers and what they can do to help brands get their messages out to consumers.
- Measuring impact and showing return on investment remains an important, persistent challenge for brands and influencers. The main message for brands was to focus on one objective and metric per campaign – whether that be community engagement, brand equity or sales. And influencerS, Prove Your Worth: do a personal audit so you can understand your audience, your channels and the value you can offer a brand.
“Don’t overdo the numbers – focus on one metric that matters for that campaign” – Michael Price (ASICS)
“When was the last time you audited your online assets? Get data, find insights so you can talk to brands eye to eye and help them understand what you can do for them.” – Julie Falconer (@aladyinlondon)
- Our survey showed that both brands and influencers now value relevance as the most important criteria when considering who to work with. Whereas a few years ago it was all about the numbers (reach) both parties appreciate that a successful relationship is one based on compatibility and shared values. Michael Price reinforced this point when he talked about the importance of working with people based on their passion (for the sport and brand) and not picking people based on data alone.
- All our speakers talked about the importance of audience engagement, and tracking the metrics that matter. When it’s possible to buy followers – Greenlight recently reported that 14% of FTSE 100 Twitter followers are fake – what really matters is influencers who have an engaged audience that interact with the content that they create and share.
“If I want reach, I can buy reach – what I can’t buy is the engagement, buzz and creativity I get from collaborating with bloggers” – Michael Price (ASICS)
- Likewise, now so many people and brands are creating content and it’s harder and harder to get cut-through, brands and influencers need to focus on quality over quantity. Our bloggers encouraged their peers to find their own niches, to nurture their audience and tell great stories.
“Find your niche, create those amazing moments, respond to your audience – which is also your brands audience!” – Sophie Radcliffe (@challengesophie)
- Brands need to invest more time & effort in influencer marketing to get the most from it. Our survey showed that these remain the biggest barriers to brands doing more influencer marketing, but also what will enable brands to see greater results from their campaigns. Influencers top pet hate was brands failure to engage with them properly – to understand them, their niche and what they can offer. Sophie Radcliffe invests a huge amount of time for free to make relationships work and create opportunities on the long term.
“It’s key that you build a relationship in a very human way” – Sophie Radcliffe (@challengesophie)
- Brands need to give influencers more creative input into their campaigns, allow them to use their talents more, and relinquish some control of the message. Influencers can bring much to a brand campaign if given the permission to do so and create multiple messages that will resonate with different audiences.
“Your influencers can deliver a much better message than your marketing team – but you have to relinquish control” – Michael Price (ASICS)
- There is significant evidence that people don’t want branded content, particularly from YouTube where even the largest spenders on content (e.g. Red Bull and Coca-Cola) have disproportionately small audience and low engagement rates. Content creation isn’t the strong suit of most brands, whereas influencers can create compelling, authentic content that can still convey a brand message.
Thank you if you came to the conference – we hope you enjoyed it, made some useful connections and learnt a few things along the way. Sorry if you couldn’t make it this time. We will be holding PEAK Conferences in other parts of the world later in the year and we’ll be back in London next year focusing on another hot topic in the world of endurance sports marketing. Watch this space.
Next month we’ll publish our first PULSE report on “The State of Influencer Marketing in Endurance Sports 2016”. Based on surveys of brands and influencers, as well as individual interviews and industry research, the report will contain insights to help you benchmark your influencer marketing initiatives, and optimise your strategy with practical tips. To receive the report for free, all you have to do is take this short survey.
Also, our influencer marketing platform – The Endurance Sports Network – is now up and running. We’re looking for development partners to launch the first campaigns on the platform at a reduced rate and places will be limited to 10 brands initially. If you’re interested in connecting with our community of influencers please get in touch soon by email.