How social media influencers are boosting revenue for brands

By Claire Mullan

The world of marketing is ever-changing, and as social media continues to spread its influence across the world as a whole, the role of the social media influencer has risen in stature.

The effect that influencer marketing can have on sports and fitness brands in particular was brought to the forefront recently when Nike controversially used Colin Kaepernick as the face of a new advert, and saw their market value rise to an all-time high of $6 billion as a result.

Social media is being increasingly used by digital customers, and in the 16-24 age group social networks are the top product research channel. Sports and fitness brands are taking advantage of this and using influencers to show tangible results of health and fitness, as well as relatable and inspirational content. Here’s how they’re doing it:

Increasing Influence

Statistics vary slightly across the board, but research suggests somewhat unanimously that professional marketers have been looking to increase their influencer marketing spend year-on-year.

Marketing Dive suggested that 39% of marketers were looking to increase their influencer marketing budget for 2018, whilst research by WFA suggested that 65% of brands are looking to increase their spend for next year. According to ANA & PQ Media, the total projected brand spending on influencer marketing for 2020 will be in excess of $100 billion.

In terms of sports and fitness brands specifically, research by global affiliate network Awin indicated that 52% of these were looking to increase their spend on influencer marketing.

Man in swimming pool

This statistic resonates with the research undertaken by CampaignDeus, which revealed that ‘Fitness’ was the sector showing the biggest growth in branded posts (i.e. influencer marketing) for the first half of 2018, at +7.6%. To show the contrast, the next biggest growth in this area was the travel industry at +4.4%.

The demand for influencers is being driven by social media’s increased impact on the general population, and the public’s buying habits. 30.4% of shoppers in the UK are using social media as inspiration for their clothing purchases, so it’s vital that fashion brands – including sports and fitness wear – have a strong presence on these platforms.

Knowing how much the public takes inspiration from social media for their online purchases, businesses must take advantage of aptly named influencers to encourage customers to use their brands.

Taking Advantage of Social Media Trends

In general, social media’s impact on retail trends and customer spending habits has increased relatively with its own growth in popularity and use. 98% of digital customers use social media, and more than half of these follow brands on these sites. What’s more, people are increasingly using social networks for product research, a statistic that is the highest amongst 16-24-year-olds, with 50% of these admitting to the practice.

For sports and fitness brands in particular, recruiting an influencer to represent them on their channels is effective in the way that it allows them to connect with a more diverse group of individuals who wouldn’t otherwise necessarily pay much heed to the industry. Instagram in particular is a massive driver used by the sports and fitness sector, and has been attributed to the biggest shift in the fitness world in recent times.

Health and fitness aside for the moment, Instagram is arguably the best platform to reach customers, particularly through the use of influencers. Research has shown that 68% of Instagram users engage with brands, whilst the engagement figure for Facebook users is a much lower 32%.

Instagram feed

Awin’s research indicated that sports and fitness brands are already taking advantage of this statistic, showing that it was the most popular platform for sports and fitness brands when collaborating with influencers, with 45% utilising the network to do so.

The huge benefit of influencers using Instagram to promote products and services relating to health, fitness, and wellness, is the fact that Instagram is a picture-led network.

The ‘wellness economy’ as a whole was predicted in May of this year to be worth around $3.7 trillion, and 151 million people around the world are a member of a gym, which means more people than ever are on the lookout for products, tips and motivation. Instagram provides influencers in the health and fitness sector the perfect platform to showcase real-life content, examples and results, such as workouts or before-and-after pictures.

A Shifting Perspective

Generation Z have been brought up on technology and surrounded by social media, and are fast becoming the main focus of a number of brands. It’s easy to see why as well, as Generation Z account for a predicted 2 billion people around the world, and are estimated to become the largest group of customers in just a handful of years.

With such a powerful group of potential customers being so well-versed in social media and using it as second nature, brands should be utilising social media to promote their products and services, and influencers are an effective method of doing so.

Whilst Nike’s Kaepernick campaign is a good example of how a brand can use a celebrity with influence as part of an effective campaign, Colin Kaepernick is not an influencer per se, and the campaign is perhaps misrepresentative of the trust the public have in celebrities.

Teenagers looking at phone

A study by MuseFind suggested that 92% of customers trust an influencer’s endorsement more so than a traditional celebrity one, representing a shift in the aspirational figures that the current (and future) generation are looking up to.

A fine example of this can be seen in Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, which found success in using ‘normal’ women as part of an advertising push to get more females into exercise and sport. The project was aimed at being disruptive, and targeted 16-40-year-old women to show them that sport and exercise in general is for everyone.

‘This Girl Can’ was highly successful, with 2.8 million 14-40-year-old women saying that they had done ‘some or more activity’ as a result of the campaign, showing that the use of normal influencers is highly effective.

Why Are Sports and Fitness Brands Using Influencers?

The simple answer is that the majority of sectors are now using influencers, and a large number of these are looking to increase their use of, and spend on, this form of marketing, so it’s natural that the sports and fitness wear sector is on board. However, not all sectors are seeing as fast or as large an increase in their influencer programmes, so why is this?

The reason could be due to the biggest target market for influencers and influencer marketing, which, according to research, is millennials – who were found to be the focus of 76.4% of influencer marketing strategies.

Millennials in the UK spend an average of £155 a month on health and fitness, so naturally hold major importance in terms of the targeting of the sports and fitness industry. Furthermore, the soon-to-be largest customer group – Generation Z – were brought up using social media, so will naturally be drawn to influencers and their wares.

This element, coupled with the fact that influencer marketing as a whole is on the rise across the board, gives some indication as to why fitness and sports brands are using this method of marketing more and more, and are the fastest rising sector to do so.

Woman tying trainer

Health and fitness influencers are popping up left, right, and centre too, and along with parenting and foodie influencers, are probably the most common type found on platforms like Instagram.

As an image-centric social platform, Instagram lends itself well to sports and fitness products, because they can be used to show off weight loss, muscle gain, the latest workout trends or anything the influencer is looking to post about that day, whether it’s a drinks bottle in the background of the shot, a new piece of equipment, or the latest gym outfit.

Considering the rise in its popularity, influencers have become a necessary part of modern day marketing, and it’s a great way for sports and fitness brands to showcase their products and raise awareness of the brand whilst in context of content their audience is engaged with.

Claire Mullan, Head of Marketing, Awin

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