The power of influencer marketing in today’s sport landscape
By: Alejandro Echeverria
Sep. 22, 2022
Photo Credit: Associated Press
In today’s world, generating attention and having real influence over a large group of people is something that brands are looking for. As the world’s most famous influencers continue to grow their millions of fans, brands look to attach themselves to that momentum, growing their own fandom in the process. If not, these influencers have begun to prove that they can create their own brands and attempt to successfully compete with the highest quality established names in their respective markets.
In February of 2021, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, two very well known actors, were made owners of Wrexham A.F.C., a club in Wrexham, Wales. Having paid $2.3 million to purchase it, Reynolds and McElhenney have looked to use their combined influence to grow the club’s fanbase and improve the quality of their team.
Wrexham currently sits 2nd place in the National League, which is known as level five in the English football pyramid. However, because of the influence Reynolds and McElhenney have, the club has been able to secure strategic partnerships, which are rare at such a low level. Some of these include their partnership with TikTok as a jersey sponsor, their documentary series “Welcome to Wrexham'' on Hulu, and their recent partnership with EA Sports’ FIFA.
These partnerships have grown the club’s international fanbase and increased its visibility at an exponential rate which can translate into positive revenue for the club and allow it to continue climbing the English football pyramid.
Major League Soccer
In February of this year, the MLS signed TikTok influencer and former Real Salt Lake academy player Noah Beck as its first “social playmaker.” He has over 45 million followers across social media. The main goal of this campaign is to help reach the younger demographic on TikTok.
The MLS will look to take advantage of Beck’s platform with activations around MLS culture, MLS weekly results, and integrations with the MLS youth development system, MLS Next. As the MLS looks to integrate soccer into youth culture in the U.S., deals like this one can help reach those demographics and persuade them to play soccer and watch their local MLS team play.
On July 27 of this year, European soccer giant Arsenal FC announced a partnership with PRIME hydration, serving as their new official hydration partner ahead of similar brands like Gatorade and Powerade. Securing this partnership was a huge step in the right direction for PRIME, which only just launched in January of 2022 by co-founders and social media stars J.J. Olatunji, known as KSI, and Logan Paul. PRIME already accounts for 1% of the market share for sports beverages and can be bought at Kroger and Target in the U.S. and Asda in the U.K. Both creators have said they want PRIME to compete with major brands in the space, an ambitious goal for the company, but one they may be able to reach long term if they continue to solidify the product and grow its appeal to the everyday consumer.
Misfits Boxing & MVP Promotions
In today’s boxing landscape, elite level boxing isn’t necessarily what pays the most financially. With the rise of influencer boxing, social media stars and celebrities have used their huge and loyal followings to promote events, generating similar viewership to the highest level of boxing event.
Influencers Jake Paul and KSI have seen the interest they can generate promoting their own fights- with each launching their own promotion companies in the space. Having made $40 million in 2021 as reported by Forbes, Jake Paul is making much more money than most high-level professional boxers. The eye-catching influencer is taking advantage of his pull with the creation of his promotion company.
KSI has seen similar revenues, with his second fight against Jake’s brother, Logan Paul, drawing 2 million pay per views, making it the fifth highest selling pay per view boxing match of all time. With KSI’s company focusing more on promoting influencer-only boxing events, Misfits looks to create compelling storylines in the influencer space and the taking advantage of existing large followings in order to continue to grow attention and competition in the space.
The company has adopted a similar philosophy to that of the WWE, focused on storylines and rivalries sometimes even more so than the fights themselves. Most Valuable Productions, Jake Paul’s company, focuses more on securing high level boxers, who can reach new heights with the right social media strategy. Both of these companies look to fill a gap in the boxing world, giving fans more of a reason to watch these fighters than just their boxing ability, and making them feel more connected to the fighters as people and personalities.
Both companies have worked in tandem with high level broadcasters in the space, such as DAZN and Showtime Boxing. They look to continue to grow these relationships, as they establish themselves more and more in the boxing landscape.
WWE & Logan Paul
After making his WWE debut at Wrestlemania 38 in April, Logan Paul has officially signed with the WWE as of June 30. The numbers around this deal have not been made public. Having been a state wrestler in high school and having experience as a performer has allowed Paul to make a seamless transition into the sport, with the overall reception of his recent performances being a good one.
Recently, it was announced that Paul would be taking on Roman Reigns, WWE’s current two-belt champion. This puts him on the highest platform in WWE, showing a clear decision from WWE’s leadership to embrace Paul, and the significant audience he brings to the sport. For Paul, signing for WWE allows him to penetrate yet another audience sector, with the WWE’s worldwide fanbase being one of the most passionate in sports. Seeing a brand like the WWE embrace an “influencer” into their sport as much as they have Logan Paul, it is interesting to see if other similar brands look to adopt likeminded strategies in order to reach a wider and younger audience.
With the rise of social media in today’s society, we have seen sports businesses look to take advantage, creating their own accounts and promoting through their own social media platforms. Now, these businesses look to partner with the most popular creators on these platforms in order to use their influence and following to positively impact their own brand, image, and following. Additionally, we have seen these creators make their own businesses, using their own knowledge of how to market themselves through social media and applying similar tactics to help promote their own brands in the sport business landscape.
As these influencers continue to make the crossover into the sports industry, it will be interesting to see how brands find innovative ways to incorporate activations which can positively impact their own business.