Brands are at present applying the finishing touches to their football-related marketing campaigns ahead of Euro 2016, which gets underway in France in just over a month. For some brands these campaigns will entail the usual mix of flashy TV adverts and on-pack promotions, but others will allocate more resources to social media as they look to reach the growing segment of young male consumers who engage with football content online.
This includes investing in influencer marketing, whereby brands use the self-made stars of social media to reach their target audience. Figures from Pew Research Center suggest that men are catching up to women in terms of their overall social media use, with 73% of men who have internet access using social media last year, compared to 80% of women. Since 2010, the usage gap has narrowed from 15 percentage points to seven.
Brands that use influencers to reach this growing male audience must ensure their activations are authentic to the platform on which they operate. Copa90, a football website and YouTube channel that has over one million subscribers, offers an alternative perspective on the sport to the major TV broadcasters by making content in partnership with fans. Social media influencers play a vital role in building this community through their organic reach and content.
For example, urban music artists Poet and Vuj, who each have big social media followings, appear frequently on the Copa90 YouTube channel. Their current series shows them playing the FIFA ‘16 computer game with Premier League footballers such as Theo Walcott and Riyad Mahrez. Copa90, which is owned by digital studio Bigballs Media, also works with influencers to create native content for advertiser brands including HTC, Nissan and Adidas.
Influencers will play a prominent role in creating content around Euro 2016, says James Kirkham, chief strategy officer at Bigballs Media. “Everything we do is an antidote to the old media model of sticking a bunch of suits in a studio and assuming that’s going to connect with an audience,” he adds.
“Rather than just seeing [influencers] as an asset, we see them as our colleagues and friends”
James Kirkham, Bigballs Media
“[Working with influencers] means we can develop ideas based on the fact that they have this natural noise around them already. You end up with entirely new formats and shows, which stem from the authenticity of these influencers and their connection with the audience.”
Copa90 has extended its reach as a brand by recruiting influencers across different global territories and on different platforms including YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. The arrangement is mutually beneficial since it helps Copa90 to reach new audiences, while allowing the influencers to increase their online exposure.
“Rather than just seeing [influencers] as an asset or commodity, we see them as our colleagues and friends,” claims Kirkham. “We have conversations with them on an almost daily basis, wherever they are on the planet. It’s a very caring, collaborative talent model, which is predicated on the shared passion for football.”
Beyond sport, brands are turning to influencers with a talent for comedy, as they look to reach the male market. To promote the film Legend last year, in which actor Tom Hardy plays both lead parts as 1960s gangsters the Kray twins, distributor StudioCanal created a parody campaign featuring the Facebook star Stuggy.
The company worked with Billion Dollar Boy, an influencer marketing agency with a focus on male audiences, to plan the campaign. This involved recreating a scene from Legend in which the twins fight each other so that it appears Hardy is having a fight with himself. Using simple editing techniques on a smartphone, Stuggy made a parody video in which he appeared to be fighting a different version of himself.
Katie Littleton-Sanders, vice-president of digital marketing at StudioCanal, explains that the campaign was intended to make the story of the Krays more relevant to younger men. The video received more than one million views and 26,000 engagements, including likes and comments. Stuggy also followed up the video by using different social media channels to report from the red carpet of the Legend premiere in London.
“We try to find people who are aligned in some way with the target audience of the film, but also people who are already telling stories to a very engaged following,” says Littleton Sanders.
Using influencers tends to offer greater levels of flexibility compared to other types of media buying. The activation with Stuggy was arranged just a matter of days before the Legend premiere and cost “a comparatively modest sum”, according to Littleton-Sanders. Although it is not possible to measure the direct effect of the video on box office sales, she says it helped raise awareness of the film among men aged 18 to 24.
“The reach versus the spend was much greater than what we would get with traditional media,” she says.
Mimi Turner, marketing director of men’s media group The Lad Bible, highlights the importance of integration and “genuine engagement” with influencers in order to connect with audiences. The Lad Bible website, which offers content aimed at men aged 16 to 30, provides a platform for social media influencers such as rapper Stormzy and Vine comedian Arron Crascall to grow their followings.
Rather than simply post their content, The Lad Bible works closely with influencers to develop their talent and provide them with data on how to improve their reach and engagement. This fits with the site’s editorial goals of creating authentic content that young men will want to share. It also creates goodwill towards the brand from the influencers themselves, making them more likely to direct their social followings towards The Lad Bible. The brand has more than 12 million fans on Facebook.
“We post [influencers’] content and credit whatever channel they want so they can grow their Instagram or their Facebook [follower numbers],” explains Turner. “We use our data science and insight to give them feedback on how the content has performed in terms of engagement, what time lengths work, what the audience said in comments and what they liked or didn’t like. It’s pretty exciting.”