Why Brands Should Partner With Athletes
Author: Darren Rayner, Founder
I was once an (amateur) athlete… amateur in the sense that I was never the best at anything, but was ok at most sports. I was drawn to action sports because it would give me the dopamine release my brain seems to crave. When I broke my back snowboarding in 2003 I decided to take a break and picked up a camera to film my friends. My obsession with action sports was soon replaced by filming, eventually opening the doors to working with athletes across many disciplines, something I’m very grateful to continue to do.
In the early 2000’s we produced long-form films for DVD distribution, hosted film premieres, and shot photos for print ads in magazines. But with a new era of digital marketing on the horizon and consumer behaviour evolving we shifted the way in which we collaborated with athletes to create branded content. Today, with sales of sports apparel, equipment and footwear reaching 400 billion dollars annually athlete content marketing has become a focal point for brands. Here’s why:
- Athletes are at the forefront of conversations around health, wellness, diversity, and social issues. By partnering with athletes who advocate for these causes, brands demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility and appeal to conscious consumers.
- Athlete content performs better: On Social Media, Collegiate student-athletes average an engagement rate of 15% – nearly 11x the industry standard for Influencer Marketing.
- 94% of the most-watched telecasts of 2022 were sports, and 63% of US adults who identified as sports fans said they had purchased a product because it was endorsed by an athlete they admired.
- For me, human performance and athletic achievement is the truest form of entertainment & inspiration. It’s as real as it gets.
So, what makes a successful athlete campaign?
Let’s look at two of the most iconic campaigns of all time:
- The Pelé Puma and the Pause “stunt” was performed at the 1970 FIFA World Cup to promote Puma cleats. With the referees permission Pelé paused the beginning of the game to tie up his Puma cleats grabbing the attention of millions for 42 seconds, as well as a $120k cheque from Puma (equivalent to $1.2M today). Brilliant, controversial, and fervid.
- Remember Nike’s Dream Crazy ft. Colin Kaepernick? Released in 2018, it embraced social activism and encouraged pursuing dreams regardless of obstacles. Kaepernick's involvement highlighted his protest against racial injustice during the NFL season, sparking debates while emphasizing Nike's commitment to athletes' aspirations and their impact on society. Timely, powerful, and controversial.
But not all campaigns need to be controversial (tbh I’m just a big fan of brands that take risks). Where we’ve seen success in our own athlete projects is from ticking these 4 boxes: athlete authenticity, emotional appeal, strong visuals, and a multi-platform approach.
In an age where consumer attention is fleeting and loyalty is hard-won, brands must explore innovative avenues to engage and connect with their audience. Collaborating with athletes for content marketing offers a compelling solution that brings together authenticity, reach, emotional resonance, and creativity. By harnessing the power of these partnerships, brands can craft stories that inspire, entertain, and ultimately drive brand growth in ways traditional marketing methods cannot achieve.
Reach out if you have any questions or are looking to partner with athletes to grow your brand.