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Sportsmen as Influencers

Influencer Marketing – a quick introduction:

Influencer marketing has been taking over the digital world over the past decade. It is no longer the unique idea that the marketers do, but an essential component to spread the word about their brand. With the advantage of targeting niche demographics, influencer marketing has come a long way. But what do these influencers do?

If you are a newbie to this scenario, influencers use the internet and its extended tools to:

  1. Create a fan base and loyal set of followers around the world

  2. Have organic engagement with the fans

  3. Create and produce original content

  4. Ensure that the results are tangible and are converted into metrics

  5. Expand their base and provide expected and satisfactory results to brands

  6. Monetize the results from the influencing

Can innovation become stagnant?

But how is it different from any other form of marketing? Can’t I, a marketing specialist, just create a post on my social media page and have followers flocking to it? Well, I can with limited results.

The uncertainty is what influencer marketing erases. The ultimate goal is that their posts are real and doesn’t look like it is created by the marketing team. It is as good as you going to a friend’s place and trusting the suggestion by them for a pizza place to order from. So, it comes as no surprise that every brand marketing team has realized the potential of the concept and that it has become essential and mainstream. How do you push the boundaries of the concept? How has it evolved from the previous forms of marketing?

Sportsmen as Influencers

Remember the 90’s and early 2000’s? You have heard your major names like Pele, Maradona, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf etc. Who doesn’t remember the big MRF logo on Sachin Tendulkar’s bat? However, these are the big brand names and are sometimes too expensive for brands to reach out to.

With the advent of social media in this prime digital age, not only the legends but also every range of sportsmen have been able to connect with the audience and create a measurable fan base. They get to portray whatever they want – one’s business venture, personal life, social messages etc.

Let’s explore a few sports and related events and see the kind of direct or indirect influencer marketing that has been done.


It starts with 432 stars battling from the first round of the championship (Men and Women’s Singles, Doubles and mixed doubles) and having 4 winners at the end. In this championship, Roger Federer may be considered a king with eleven tournament wins and Serena, the queen with thirteen wins. But the highly coveted trophy and the high-profile matches have created a huge audience not only for the matches but also its celebrity audience.

Some of the most influential women were part of the Wimbledon crowd. J.K. Rowling, Duchess of Cambridge, Duchess of Sussex, Beyonce and even Victoria Beckham made appearances at the English Club, some even embracing a cup or two of the popular strawberries and cream. This got the usual luxury brands like Ralph Lauren, Rolex, Robinsons, Dior and Gucci their usual mark in the championship.

One prime example would be the British Label Palace which collaborated with Adidas. The collaborated collection released on July 3. Adidas and Palace, being affiliated brands, accepted that they were exploring new ways of collaborating through the sport. Sascha Zverev and Garbiñe Muguruza were some of the Adidas sponsored players who were seen sporting the Palace label in the matches.

Garbiñe Muguruza, sporting the Palace Label, in an intense match

Another example of influencing at this year’s Wimbledon was Häagen-Dazs. Players like Grigor Dimitrov (sixth seed), Laura Robson and Sloane Stephens were seen with their favorite ice cream flavors. Dimitrov served some Häagen-Dazs to the spectators and even questioned the Wimbledon favorite strawberries and cream with his own Cookies and Cream, whereas Stephens went the classic way of ‘Team Strawberry’.

Fans were being asked to share their preference, thus drastically increasing sales over the carefully planned campaign on Instagram. This also established a connection between the brand and other rising stars for future opportunities.

Image result for grigor dimitrov haagen dazs

Grigor Dimitrov serving Häagen-Dazs ice cream to the audience

Football WorldCup:

History clearly suggests that every World Cup makes a group of people affirm that it was the most compelling over any of the previous ones. It has drawn a humongous number of viewers over the TV and the internet. According to, it is estimated that 3.4 billion watched the series consisting of 64 matches at some point.

Vivo, the Chinese mobile company, has been aggressive and prominent in its advertising over the past couple of years. Apart from bagging a FIFA 2018 sponsorship, the brand also had the option of selecting 128 influencers who were the “Vivo Super Fan Photographers”. These influencers have complete access to the pre-match warm-ups and were able to connect with fans who wanted to know more about the players.

Not only did Vivo master the conventional way of influencing, the brand also launched another campaign “Vivo Super Time Project” which had music-themed placements in the championship physically and amongst the influencers.

It was extremely refreshing to see a big brand like Coca-Cola also keeping up with the influencer trend. The #PickYourTeam campaign videos from the influencers were used for the purpose of reliving the football World Cup moment in real life.

The c

ampaign kicked off with two FIFA World Cup teasers showing the 8 limited edition Coca-Cola cans. It was a fun process of the audience on social media picking their favorite teams and doing that got them samples of the limited edition Coca-Cola cans’ in small centers across the US and countries like Malaysia and Singapore. The influencers just had to spread the word of their presence in the Coca-Cola centers and pick a team too. The brand went for a light-hearted campaign that was extremely popular across Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram etc.


Cricket needs no introduction in the country. Let’s talk about the list of brands and the kind of collaborations they have done and upped the engagement and marketing game.

Snapchat as a brand – in a not-so-frequent instance, we are going to consider one of our favorite social media platforms as a brand. Do note that Snapchat had the advantage of influencers already being part of the platform. The brand made a smart move by introducing customized filters and options that were part of the IPL theme. The fans were able to support their teams on and off the field with Filters, Stickers and Lenses. Even the official team pages used the Snapchat options and got featured on the Discover page. Snapchat has consistently been finding new ways for their fans to engage. By leveraging this tournament, the social media platform saw a 20% rise in usage over two months.

Snapchat filters featuring different IPL teams

IPL is an ad magnet. IPL 2018 had 34 official sponsors with big names like Coca-Cola, Jio, Vivo, Amul and many more. While brands like Vodafone and Airtel went the traditional way of customizing ads for the tournament, Coca-Cola

Image result for coca cola share a coke ipl

went the emotional way with the campaign “Share a Coke”. The brand not only had TV advertisements but

also, swarmed the social media with influencers Sharing a Coke with their dad, friend or “bae”.

Brands finding ways into the sports scene

While so many of these popular sports have been explored over and over with campaigns, some brands have also gone the off-beat, yet popular way with athlete influencers. Brooks Running which designs sports apparel and shoes for men and women has been advertising with Florian Neuschwander, not a professional athlete, but extremely famous in the running community. The brand has also been targeting the crowd with the account Go Girl Run and doing fabulously well.

One cannot overlook the NBA, one of the most popular leagues, which has been a platform for influencing since its dawn. One of the top players, LeBron James created a post about his shoes which spiked the numbers of particular model’s sales to 30%.


Let’s also not forget the sly ambush marketing that is done during the tournaments. Ambush Marketing is a term used when companies and brands who aren’t sponsors or have no terms of association with a tournament trying to capitalize the opportunities and the audience count. We previously saw examples of Coca-Cola and Vodafone trying to take advantage of IPL. Another example was Cadbury with the “Shubh Aarambh” campaign where Harsha Bhogle, a top cricket commentator, judged audience tweets and gave sponsored gifts to the best ones.

Followers and Count

Here’s a list of athletes who have the most number of followers as of July 2018. Not surprising that players like Christiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Beckham and LeBron James made the list.


India’s very own skipper Virat Kohli is the most trending and has the highest number of followers in the country overtaking MS Dhoni a couple of months back.

Your thoughts

We’d love to hear what you think about brands leveraging these sports events for marketing. Does traditional sponsorship marketing work better? Or do you think reaching out through micro influencers has a bigger impact? Or is ambush marketing the cheaper way to go?

Do share your thoughts below on comments or on Greenroom’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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