Yesterday our CEO Simon posted on LinkedIn about how the fashion industry’s obsession with influencers may be going through an inevitable – and we think welcome – correction. This article follows up on that and suggests that brands late to the influencer party will end up fighting for scraps.

Who Came Third?

In 1968, at the Mexico Olympics, British athlete David Hemery won the 400m hurdles. After the finish the BBC’s commentator, David Coleman only identified the first two to cross the line and exclaimed: “Who cares who’s third?” Harsh, but in many cases, the winner – the first – takes all the spoils.

The same goes for many other endeavours – in skateboarding Tony Hawk was the first to pull off a 720° rotation and then land a 900°. Edmund Hillary was the first to summit Everest. In 1896 Spyridon Louis won the first Olympic Marathon in 2hr 58min 50sec. In 1968 US sprinter Jim Hines became the first person to run 100m under 10 seconds.

And on 6 May 1954 Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes.

Just after his incredible feat, Sir Roger famously said: “Apres moi, le deluge” – roughly translated, he was saying that now he had shown that a sub-4 minute mile was possible, many others would follow. And indeed that was true. Only a month later, Bannister’s great rival John Landy, ran a mile in 3:57.9.

But Landy was never celebrated in the same way that Bannister was. And the third person to run a sub-4 minute mile? Barely anyone knows who that was.

The point of all this is that the first (or at least the earliest) to do anything is celebrated and enjoys all the benefits. Those that come after tend not to garner anywhere near the same benefits.

The Early Bird

There is an old saying that ‘the early bird catches the worm’. When it comes to influencer marketing, we think this is true. At least to some extent.

There are thousands of influencers out there. As Simon wrote in his LinkedIn piece, the fashion industry is flooded with them. The problem is that with low barriers to entry, anyone with an internet connection can get set up with a blog and a couple of social channels.

However, self-proclaiming that one is an influencer, is not the same as being a good person for a brand to collaborate with. As one of the comments on Simon’s LinkedIn post says:

If I’d got a quid every time someone said “I’ve got 2000 followers on Insta, how do I monetise this?” I’d be spending xmas in Bermuda.

So we think that the real value of being the early bird – getting involved in working with influencers now – is that you have the pick of the bunch. The later birds have to compete with a lot more birds and therefore the pickings become much slimmer.

Fashion has led the way as far as influencer marketing and collaborations is concerned. The sectors that Freestak specialises in – running, cycling, triathlon, adventure and snow sports – is following behind. We believe this means there is an arbitrage in influencer marketing in the endurance sports and outdoors sectors. Those that get involved now have the chance to build meaningful relationships with influencers. People who will move the needle for them.

So the question is, are you going to be amongst the first – like Bannister, Hillary and Hines? Or will you be the person in third behind Hemery, who nobody knows or cares about?


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