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Inside the Influencer Layer

Inside the Influencer Layer

The Ingredients to Influencer Success for Sports Marketers
Source: Monte Isom/Red Bull Content Pool

My daughter, Natasha, is a newly minted Nutella lover. Why? Simple. She learned about it in a musical.ly video. Natasha also recently asked us to buy her a pair of Yeezys thanks to Jake Paul. At a price tag of $1,400, the shoes weren’t something we could easily add to the shopping list, but the fact that she asked made my ears perk up. I realized that in spite of the incredibly young audience, there is robust influencer marketing going on to the youngest social network audience yet, all across musical.ly.

So, what’s the lesson for us grown-ups?

It’s simple really: it all comes down to being relevant. Influencer marketing in the age of Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter presents every type of brand — from ESPN to Wendy’s — with the same fundamental challenge as any other marketing discipline in any other era.

Relevancy has always been measured in terms of media, message and messenger, but now there’s a new, highly engaged influencer layer whose power is fueled by hyper-connectivity, social networking platforms and endlessly wired, digitally facile consumers of nearly all ages.

Both our research and our kids show that consumption of information is quite different even than three to five years ago, which means as marketers we must evolve our mix quickly.


Influencer marketing is still very much a Wild West. No one is denying that.

But it’s not random or haphazard. A couple of years ago it was experimental but now major brands are looking for this method to deliver in big ways — and we can measure to make sure it does.

The old approach to influencers involved marketers picking a celebrity whose personality best fit their brand. The new approach is all about data analytics.

Who reaches my target audience in the right voice, in the right market, in the right way, in the right creative tongue? The key expectation is high engagement, not merely a halo effect.

Because digital behavior is highly trackable, there is an organized approach, and that starts with Big Data. We can begin to answer some important questions on who we’re reaching, when, how and why.

You can reach lots of people by paying media dollars, but it doesn’t mean consumers are sharing. The rule of thumb for influencer marketing is that the higher the reach, the lower the engagement and vice versa. Without an understanding of the value of engagement versus reach, you risk missing out on what’s special in this discipline.


When I helped launch the Sports & Entertainment division at Ketchum, I could not have predicted that it would lead me to the forefront of influencer marketing. Now that I’m here it seems only natural because the practice of influencer marketing is pretty sophisticated in the sports vertical — with credit to pioneers like Whistle Sports.

Athletes are among the most influential figures in our culture, but most are not “creators” in the influencer layer because they’re not born out of that phase. Yet, smart athletes use digital means to stay relevant. Even now we see a large, young cadre of athletes engage as and with influencers on social channels. For example, Gabby Douglas can stay relevant between Olympic cycles because she is amazing on musical.ly which is where her target audience (like my daughter) lives.

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Another example? TeamTen was brought on to promote new U.S. soccer kits rather than using actual footballers because the group is more influential with the target crowd.

Influencer group TeamTen showcasing new U.S. soccer kits to their massive social following.

Athletes embrace social channels and platforms to build their own value as paid endorsers and “brands” while content creators often work with athletes to deliver a meta-take on sports culture that has amassed a large and powerful following.

As with anything, the most effective way to learn is from the people doing it, which is why I’ll be sitting down with Hilary Knight at Hashtag Sports 2017 to ask her to share some influencer secret sauce with the marketing world.

We’ll be taking questions, and I hope those of you in attendance will take this opportunity to do a deep dive with Hilary. Let’s find out together what she believes makes her voice so popular and relevant. How does she do her best work? What makes a brand partnership a complete and utter bust? How can brands maintain their voice while steering clear of the perception of selling out?

I invite you to be there, and I dare you to ask us a provocative question. I can assure you it won’t be any more shocking than my daughter asking me for a pair of $1,400 sneakers.

Ann Wool serves as Partner & President of Ketchum Sports & Entertainment and Ketchum Influencer, where she works to connect brands to the latest trends in sports, pop culture and the latest in influencer marketing. Based in New York, she consults with teams and clients around the Ketchum network to develop strategies that leverage sports and sponsorship investments.

Journey further inside the influencer marketing landscape with thought leaders like Ann Wool and Hilary Knight by visiting our conference website.

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