Sports brands are scouring for faster, more cost-effective ways to recruit online advocates to ensure they amplify fan passion around major events. Marketing services companies have noticed this shift and are offering those marketers easier methods of targeting their most influential fans through performance-based incentive schemes.
Adidas is partnering with brand advocacy platform Needle to recruit the most loyal fans among its social fan base to serve as shopping guides for online consumers. Recruits are tasked with a series of online modules before being hired with the sportswear brand claiming they “can earn some money and be the first to try our new releases” if they pass. Those advocates, receive an hourly wage plus additional pay based on how well their work scores on metrics such as conversion and customer satisfaction.
The digital start-up has also been working with American sports brand Under Armour. It claims around 27 per cent of commerce shoppers who with its advocates on product pages make a purchase within 24 hours. The brand is hoping the approach helps secure a share of the online sportswear market as rivals Nike and Asics push forward with their owner ecommerce efforts.
Elsewhere, Puma is working with youth crowdsourcing platform Bright Young Minds and researchers The Opinion Panel to offer advocates £100 rewards and Amazon vouchers for their marketing insight. The German brand has tasked around 60 candidates from the marketing industry to complete a series of tasks created to yield insights on how it can boost its appeal among 16-25 year-olds.
Social media experts say paying advocates for their support through these tie-ups is unethical because it is not obvious to other fans that money is exchanging hands. Some observers, however argue that the rise of companies such as Needle and Bright Young Minds can help brands identify “white space” opportunities that will help them articulate their brand stories.
Roger Warner, partner at digital creative agency Beyond, says: “This is the ‘big data’ opportunity for every brand – to harness the value of the social conversations that surround the brand and turn this into product or comms development insight, as well as pro-active advocacy marketing programs. Paid insight is a step in the right direction, but it’s only the first step.”
Sports marketers are making low-key moves into the paid-for advocacy space in the hopes of finding a cost-effective way to galvanise their most loyal fans. Those brands turning to this blend of affiliate and referral marketing need to ensure the initiatives are communicated clearly to their wider audience to avoid weakening consumer perceptions.