The NBA draft propels millions of dollars from owners and organizations to new professional basketball players, just like in any other professional sport. While checks will be flowing from NBA team organizations, brands and eager-to-sponsor companies will also be throwing endorsement opportunities at athletes. This can bring up a lot of questions for brands. Where are the marketing opportunities? Who to endorse? What kind of campaign to create? Will the campaign be effective?
Here are five digital marketing tactics brands can use to capitalize on their relationships with new professional sports talent:
1. Tapping into athletes’ social media fan bases
By tapping into an athlete’s social media fan base via Twitter, Facebook, and other networks, brands are able to share content through the image, voice and sensibility of the athlete. This generates new markets and new potential consumers who may have never acknowledged the brand before. For consumers who are already loyal fans of the brand’s products and services, this can bring a new and different light to the brand as well. A recent Brand Affinity Technologies study found:
“Comparison of celebrity social media messages to non-endorsed Facebook ads revealed that, for equal dollars:
- Endorsed Facebook messages resulted in a 50% improvement in cost-per-action (CPA) over non-endorsed Facebook advertising.
- Click-through rates are 21x higher with endorsed Facebook messages over their non-endorsed counterparts.
- Click-through rates for endorsed Twitter messages were 17x higher than non-endorsed Facebook messages.
- Endorsed Twitter messages resulted in a 72% CPA improvement over non-endorsed Facebook messages.”
Viral video content has become a huge part of social media entertainment. For example, the video of Kobe Bryant jumping over an Aston Martin was a major success.
These creative viral videos and spots can create effective brand awareness, and leveraging these videos with longer term sports endorsements can take the brand-athlete, athlete-fan and brand-fan relationships further. Branded entertainment series allow brands to combine products with athlete personality into web episodes or one-offs that can also propel awareness and build a following.
3. Short term promotional campaigns and contracts
When college athletes become professional athletes, they still have yet to develop their true identities as pro athletes. This raises some concerns with companies that are afraid to give new athletes the power to represent their brands. However, it is undeniable that “big athletes” are coming out of college with large fan bases, making them ideal for brand endorsements. The solution: if a brand is worried about an athlete’s long-term image, one option is to go with short-term contracts with one-off campaigns. This way, a brand is getting the best of both worlds. It gets the large following of the athlete, and the brand is not vulnerable to huge letdowns. If the athlete’s campaign is a success, then look to extend contracts.
4. Let the athlete be the brand
It is crucial that a brand finds the right athlete for its image. Therefore, it is also important for a brand to know its own traits and values, then use them to determine the right athletes to endorse. This way, a brand does not have to worry too much about what an athlete says over social media because the athlete naturally carries the brand’s traits. This also allows the athlete to show his/her fans the brand through his/her voice, which in turn becomes the voice of the brand.
5. Create opportunities for celebrity athletes to grow
For as much as an new star athlete will be doing for your brand, make sure your brand returns the favor. A brand can give an athlete tons of money, but if the brand is doing nothing else for an athlete, it is likely the relationship between athlete and brand will suffer. Respect their values and decisions as athletes, and back them up. All in all, make sure your brand is making the endorsed athlete feel like the star he or she truly is. If the athlete is happy, the brand is happy. Take every opportunity to give back.
There will always be risks when endorsing a professional athlete, but, statistically proven, athletes can generate a ton of digital and social media attention. While bringing awareness and sales to your brand, these athletes become the voice for your brand, and their fans see that. Whether fans know it or not, while they are admiring an athlete, they are also admiring a brand.
As you watch the NBA draft unfold tonight, know that you’ll be watching some of the future faces of digital marketing.