How COVID-19 is Affecting Social Media and Influencer Marketing.

PR and experiential event spending will continue to undergo a negative impact owing to social distancing and self-isolation measures set by Governments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers in countries across most of Europe, South East Asia and the Americas with large numbers of COVID-19 cases are avoiding public areas and gatherings if they are not restricted to their homes already.  This has had a clear impact on advertisers’ promotional capabilities to host events or activate product launches in public places, filtering through to Influencer Marketing agencies and Content Creators. Additionally, most advertising spend is currently on pause anyway, whilst brands navigate the most appropriate way to communicate with their audiences at this particularly time.

However, self-isolation and “stay at home” government measures has meant digital media consumption is on the rise, particularly within social channels, which contradicts the drop in Influencer Marketing spend within this period. There are several factors driving this growth in social consumption, further to the instant access of a dopamine release via smart phones in User’s hands, these are; the need to keep in touch virtually, easy gratification of entertainment via social media apps and instant access to news updates in real time from social platforms – as an example majority of adults retrieving news and entertainment from social media in 2019 was at 55% , (eMarketer estimates). Yet this year we will see an even larger number of adults consuming news and entertainment from social media.

As consumers want to stay connected virtually and remotely right now, we have seen a boom in the use of community-based, real-time video platforms such as Twitch and Houseparty. Video streaming services such as YouTube have also seen a huge spike in traffic, with Netflix and YouTube needing to reduce quality of video across the EU to cope with data loading, according to Reuters.

Current social platform traffic has already experienced an exponential growth in the last few weeks. Social networks and Content Creators will continue to see an increase in appetite across the coming months, with a continued uplift in viewers and engagements. This is likely to have been emphasised recently by closures of schools since majority of these platforms are popular with younger generations. As an example, TikTok has seen a “+27% percent improvement on engagement rates over the past few weeks and a 76% increase in daily accumulated likes on #ad posts over the last two weeks”, reported by Obvious.ly, (as seen in 260 of its influencer marketing campaigns). Additionally, Obvious.ly noted Instagram campaign impressions had risen by 22% in Q1 2020 vs Q4 2019.

This is controversially positive news for Vloggers, Content Creators and Influencers at a time when they can really add value, particularly whilst consumers only have access to explore online virtual worlds instead of the real world. Consumers are driven to social channels now more than ever to find support, community, release and escapism.

What This Means for Sports Brands.

Advertisers, particularly those that host many outdoor promotional events and sponsor particular athletes and sporting events, do not currently have the ability to create big production shoots or partake in races owing to government restrictions and self-isolation rulings. Therefore, we expect to see brands re-distribute above-the-line advertising spends into Social and Influencer Marketing, where consumers can experience a more subtle and personal approach amid the current crisis as they turn to social channels for some escapism. Sports brands are going to need to step up their game, maximise their social voice and be more creative to cut through the clutter to remain front of mind. Creative content is going to become a vital interface between brands and consumers, and those that find novel, memorable and engaging ways to communicate will reinforce and maybe increase their position during this period of isolation.


It will be interesting to see how quickly Influencers and Content-Creation react to finding new ways of engaging with their audiences whilst showing solidarity to the events at play. Influencer agencies and brands will need to be tactical to ensure they keep up with the rest of the industry and the shifting eCommerce market. There is a clear urgency for proactivity around alternative content and promotional strategies to navigate those conversations brands have already established with their audiences – they’ll now need to align to a newfound position and redefine their voice.

Even though social has a real chance to add genuine value here, in terms of morale, support and entertainment – most Content, Influencer Agencies and brands are standing still, waiting. It seems like business as usual and reduced budgets. Some are assisting the WHO with pro bono initiatives to help to spread government advice messages. The majority of agencies seem to recognise the impact Content Creators could have in this climate; however, not many are willing to take a strong position just yet and instead remain empathetically sensitive to the situation.

If you would like to read up further on this topic, the team at Freestak have written a thorough report on the endurance sports market, which you can download in full here.

How We Can help.

Our platform of >1,500 endurance and outdoors sports content creators (all over Europe and in the USA) can help spread your message effectively. Our team can help you select them, and they can help you with content ideation, strategy or simply spreading the word for you. You could have a campaign live in less than 24hrs, and see results on your analytics dashboard soon after.

We intend to keep monitoring the situation in our sectors and will publish updates to the report regularly. If you have any comments or questions, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at simon@freestak.co.uk



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