Updated: 26 October 2020

5 tips on how brands can use professional athletes as their marketing influencers

5 min. read


5 tips on how brands can use professional athletes as their marketing influencers

5 min. read

James Lowe

How important it is to use influencer marketing in this era?

As marketers, we know that we live in a new digital era and that we need to use effective tools to target our audience. But how can we do that?

Influencer marketing is a type of marketing strategy that involves partnering with individuals who have a large following and influence in a particular niche or industry.  Those influencers have built a relationship and trust with their audience, enabling them to persuade and impact their purchasing decisions.

Influencer marketing can be done through various social media platforms, such as Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Brands can collaborate with influencers to create sponsored content, product reviews, and promotions that are aimed at reaching a wider and more engaged audience.

Influencer marketing has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it allows brands to target their audience more effectively and authentically. By partnering with the right influencers, brands can increase brand awareness, drive conversions, and establish long-term relationships with their customers.

However, it’s important to note that influencer marketing can also be challenging, as choosing the right influencer, setting clear goals, and measuring the ROI can be difficult. As a result, it’s essential to have a well-planned influencer marketing strategy that aligns with your overall brand objectives.


  1. What is influencer marketing?
  2. What is sports influencer marketing?
  3. Types of influencers
  4. The tips and ways to do it.
  5. How to choose your influencer
  6. How to structure and evaluate your campaign

What is influencer marketing?

An Influencer is an individual who has built credibility and trust with their audience and can persuade their followers to make purchase decisions. Nowadays, people are looking for recommendations and getting them via influencers. 

They can promote your product, service, or your brand through their various channels and use them to post sponsored content, affiliate links, discount codes, shout-outs, and reviews to promote your brand.

If you want to learn more about how to make the best out of your influencer marketing campaign click here to talk to one of our sports influencer marketing specialists. 

It’s a cost-effective way to increase your reach and engagement among your target audience. It allows brands to access a new segment of customers, which they could not reach through traditional marketing. Moreover, it also assists in cultivating an emotional connection with customers, creating brand loyalty, and improving customer experience. 

It’s a form of social media marketing but with the use of influential individuals who will build trust, communicate your brand message and values, and persuade their followers to make purchase decisions about your offers.

Click the image above to see the marketing campaign with James Lowe, Professional Rugby Player, as a Sports Influencer for Grant Thornton Ireland.

What is sports influencer marketing?

Athletes are valuable in terms of influencers. They created their community because of their hard work and their performances. People respect them and appreciate their attitudes. They eventually want to be like them as it’s a dream to participate in sports as your profession. 

Even if they are retired or still playing, they are great value to work with, as frequently their notoriety stays the same. 

There are so many ways to collaborate with them and to get the most out of this relationship. 

You should be aware that being an influencer is not their first job. So, some of them are not the best users of social media, but they are well able to deliver with some help. 

Athletes know how hard it can be to be the best and earn what you fight for. You as a marketer are the same. You want all your effort to be recognized and appreciated. Sports talent need to build great personal brands to be seen. For them, it’s based on their performances, attitudes, and values. What about your brand? Well, you’re working as hard to build your image and share it with your customers. 

Click the image above to see the marketing campaign with Champion Jockey, Nina Carberry, as a sports influencer for Vhi.

That’s why sports influencer marketing is an essential element to showcase your company. Having someone on your team who can promote, attract, and generate more traffic toward your brand is a huge benefit. 

Customers want stories. They want to know why this relationship exists between you and the athlete. What are your values? What do you want to tell? Why is it important to you to work with this athlete? They want to see the trust and understand how it started.

All of this will allow them to have this vision of “I want to be like them”. Get your brand promoted by a sports influencer.

Types of influencers

As you could guess, there is not only one type of influencer. The levels are based on their followers, their certification on social media, and their audience engagement.

We get several categories of influencers:

  • Mega (Celebrities): More than 1 million followers
  • Macro (Professional Top tier Influencer): More than 100K followers
  • Micro: more than 10K
  • Nano: Below 10K

According to your company and your resources, you will be able to select and go with what is best for you. 

Regarding sports, you will get these categories:

  • International level
  • National level
  • New talent/ Under20 level
  • Olympians

There is also a differentiation still between men’s and women’s sports. 

The tips and ways to do it.

As you may know, there are 2 types of marketing. We have online marketing with social media and emails, then we have offline marketing and all the billboards and direct marketing tools. 

Here are some tips and ways to use regarding influencer marketing.

About online marketing:

Tip #1 Gifting

This collaboration consists of giving the influencer the opportunity to try your products or services and then thank you on their social media and make a review. For the price of your products, you will offer them a free experience and some notes about your brand and your offer to make it easy for them to promote you. 

As a sports example, you could send a gift to an athlete and ask him to review it and highlight your brand. If the relationship is going well and you want more from the athlete, then you could ask them to become a brand ambassador.

Tip#2 Giveaway

With this tip, you could engage an influencer to host your giveaway on their platforms. They would create the visuals to promote it and drive their audience to your profile and generate more traffic.

Tip#3 Takeovers

This is a great tool to share the bond between you and your influencer. You would engage an influencer to “take over” your social channels for a day. You get to choose how you want them to interact with your community. Either they post content on your stories or they can host a live video. Make sure you and the influencer share and promote that event on both channels in advance.

About offline Marketing

Tip#4: In-person appearance

Live events allow your customers and prospects to experience an amazing moment. By asking an influencer to promote your brand in person and be the spokesperson for you, you will get more visibility and recognition. 

This tip is great because it’s exciting for both sides.

Ronan O'Gara, Irish former Rugby Union player as a guest speaker for the Kellogg's Ireland event.

Tip#5 Behind the scenes / Meet and Greet

Meeting your audience and getting the help of an influencer is essential. Offering a Meet and Greet to your customers is beneficial as you will get reviews and comments about your brand by interacting with them. The influencer can promote it and be there that day to generate you a better flow of people.

Also, “Behind the scenes” is an option where you invite an influencer to discover your brand and show it to the followers. That way, everyone knows what your brand is about, and the audience feels included in this process. 

Paul Conroy, Gaelic footballer as a sports influencer for Alpro's IT'S M*LK BELIEVE carton exchange campaign.

Tip#6 Outdoors and Billboards

Back to traditional marketing promotion. The use of outdoor marketing ads and notably billboards is one way to create traffic for your brand and products but also for your influencer. It’s like a post on Instagram but instead, it’s printed on buses or billboards, and all walkers can see your brand going all around the cities targeted.

Oympian and Irish Badminton's player, Nhat Nguyen, as a sports influencer for Permanent tsb.

How to choose your influencer

One of the first steps before using these tips is to choose your influencer. Trust your influencer as they will promote your brand and represent it. Consider also that relationship as a long-term one. The longer it is, the more you get projects and opportunities with them. 

You will pay them, so they will be like one of your employees and must be treated like that. It’s a collaboration but it will be more than that. 

Engage with an influencer who can allow you to achieve your target. Select the ones with the best engagement rate for what you’re looking. Maybe also, select them based on your values and theirs.

Jordan Lee - Paralympian Official International Puma Athlete

How to structure and evaluate your campaign

Follow the next steps to have an efficient marketing campaign.

  1. Set your goals:
    As with any marketing campaign, you need to plan your goals and objectives. Begin with the preparation of your campaign brief. After you will be able to frame what will be your next steps in your influencer marketing campaign.
    Common objectives:
    • To increase brand awareness
    • To promote your products and services
    • To help market entry for your new products or services
    • To target a new segment
    • To increase your web traffic or in-store traffic
    • To gain followers and engagement
    • To promote discounts
  2. Select your target.
    Your target selection will help you to achieve your goals. To get a successful influencer campaign your target audience must consume your brand’s content. How to achieve that? Well, qualify your target by their age group, location, languages (if you are international), audience interest, and gender.
    This decision is crucial as it will affect your campaign’s effectiveness. Also, it will lead you to what type of content you should post or not and what is accurate for your target.
  3. Confirm your budget
    At this stage of the process, you need to confirm the budget that you will need to pay your influencer to achieve your goals. The cost varies depending on the influencer, the network, and the scope of the campaign.
  4. Select your channels and network.
    Be careful with this selection as it will affect your budget. Social media platforms will help you frame the right content. Look at which platforms have the highest penetration of your target audience. It is also recommended to set your campaign on multiple platforms to maximise results. 
  5. Select your influencer.
    You can use these areas to help you find the right one:
    • Preferred social network: Align with where you wish your campaign to run.
    • Content Quality: Align with the content you want to share.
    • Audience: Be part of your target audience.
    • Authenticity: See if their previous work in a former campaign works for you.
    • Brand personality: Fit your brand values.
    • Engagement rates: Explore if the rate is sufficient for you.
    • Fees: Stay within your budget, and remember influencers want to get paid. 
  6. Reach out to the influencer.
    When you will finally find your influencer, contact them. You could use the classic “out reach” email or DM on their social media. Be open, friendly, and honest as you want to create a relationship with them. So, tell them about you as a marketer, about your brand, your products, and what you expect from them. Give them details, don’t be afraid. Try to attract them and get their attention about your proposed collaboration. Once they agree and are engaged, you can then firm up details, including any fees and tasks.

    However, we know influencers receive a lot of messages, including bots and spam, so reaching out to them via social media is not the most effective way to gain their trust. We have a user-friendly platform where you can log in and access our database of elite athletes from over 90 sports. Click here to learn how to utilise the most comprehensive athlete search tool in the sports marketing and sponsorship industry to boost your brand and promote your products.
  7. Plan your campaign.
    When all the previous steps are done, the campaign will be launched. Prepare and decide on the date and time of the launch in order to post it on the social media elected. 
  8. Evaluate it
    The most important part of your influencer marketing strategy is to analyse and measure it. Take the rights metrics and adjust your strategy if needed. This will help you consider the pros and cons of your campaign and to improve for the next one. Compare your performance and decide what is best for your brand. Now that you know more about influencer marketing and sports influencer marketing let’s look at some success stories that worked very well. If you prefer to speak with one of our team specialists,  schedule your platform demo. 

How does Sport Endorse fit in?

Sport Endorse are here to support the elite athletes during and beyond their sporting careers. We are here for the athletes who make sacrifices every day to achieve their aims. Sport Endorse‘s goal is to facilitate athletes in devoting as much time as possible to getting better performances, and to spend less time searching for necessary funding/support. The Sport Endorse Platform is the perfect tool for athletes as it provides an easy connection to opportunities, facilitates the conversations and the transactions between athletes and brands.

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