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Top-5 Influencer Marketing Sports Campaigns

The use of Influencer Marketing in sports offers many advantages for brands and organizations, in every corner of the globe. To achieve reach, sales, traffic and visibility objectives, sports content creators often have a large audience and, above all, a loyal and attentive community of followers. Promoting products or events via social networks, drawing on the prescription power of KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), is now the way to reach new people and boost brand awareness.

race track
race track

Authenticity, compelling content and brand engagement: Sports industry players have every reason to associate Influencer Marketing with their various communication campaigns, enabling them to reach new audiences, sell more products and confirm their positioning. Numerous strategic partnerships have been forged in recent years, and some have made a greater impact than others.

This data is taken from our study “Influencer Marketing in the Sports Sector in 2023”, available for download here.

1. Nike’s Historic #JustDoIt Campaign

First up is Nike, the American market leader in all segments. From apparel to accessories and footwear, the brand’s sales will reach over $49bn by 2022 (Source), and for good reason: The giant’s advertising campaigns are among the most memorable. One of them, #JustDoIt and its slogan created in 1988 has been running for over 30 years. The campaign featured renowned athletes such as Serena Williams (16.6m followers on Instagram), Cristiano Ronaldo (586m followers on Instagram) and Colin Kaepernick (3.7m followers on Instagram), encouraging consumers to push themselves and achieve their sporting goals. Nike collaborated with these athletes to create inspiring content on social networks, highlighting the brand’s strong values and encouraging users to join the movement.

Nike’s #JustDoIt campaign, which recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, has historically focused on emotion and inspiration. It featured stories of athletes who have overcome obstacles and achieved exceptional feats. These inspirational stories touch consumers emotionally, inspiring them to push themselves and achieve their own goals, as in the Nike Athlete Think Tank campaign accompanied by Serena Williams. By showcasing athletes from different backgrounds and encouraging everyone to express their individuality through sport, Nike has created a community of followers who recognize themselves in the brand’s values.

The commitment of content creators has helped and continues to help promote the #JustDoIt campaign. These influential personalities used their platforms and credibility to share Nike’s message and inspire their own audiences to take up sporting challenges. The involvement of influencers has helped to extend the campaign’s reach and strengthen its impact worldwide. Influencers share inspirational videos, motivational quotes and athlete success stories, creating buzz and encouraging users to engage with the brand using the #JustDoIt hashtag, which now has 20,509,763 mentions on Instagram and 2.4bn on TikTok.

The strength of this campaign, which has been running for 30 years, also lies in the wide range of media used: Television, social networks, in-person events, etc. Not only are visibility objectives achieved, but the campaign also becomes timeless thanks to its emotional aspect.

2. Rapha, Influence at the Service of Strong Commitments

In the world of cycling, one brand has made a name for itself by using Influence Marketing. It’s Rapha (668k followers on Instagram), a British brand specializing in high-end cycling clothing and accessories. Known for their commitment to quality, style and innovation, two marketing and influencer actions left a lasting impression on the brand’s followers. Their collaboration with skateboard brand Palace, which boasts 18.1k followers on Instagram and prestigious appearances, their designs and innovations left their mark on the cycling world during the latest Tour de France. A very masculine sport that leaves very little room for originality was turned upside down by the arrival of colorful jerseys and a universe far removed from the usual carried by cyclist Magnus Cort (126k followers on Instagram) to name one. Their commitment doesn’t stop there, however, as this collaboration includes a third player EF Education (489k followers on Instagram), which supports not only access to education worldwide but also women, with a special Rapha x Palace kit for the women’s Tour de France.

We find Rapha on another landmark segment in sports, the creation of Legion of Los Angeles (103k followers on Instagram) an organization aiming to improve inclusivity in the sport while combating racism. Website, Instagram account, posts with top athletes, promotion of articles via Reels, these new content creators have mastered their own brand image to perfection, but also the art of propelling the brand and its values to thousands of subscribers. A fine example of success!

3. Black Crows, Between Earth Days and TikTok Campaigns

Black Crows (242k followers on Instagram), a French brand of skis and technical equipment for the mountains, sets an example in terms of brands committed to the planet. To make its mark, Black Crows has teamed up with the Bye Bye Plastic Life Foundation (14.6k followers on Instagram) to mark Earth Day in April 2022.

Supported by artists such as Blondish (357k followers on Instagram) and Scandinavian KOL Kajsa Larsson (101k followers on Instagram), Black Crows’ values are first and foremost promoted by KOLs who have become true brand ambassadors. Not only that as the brand is also often noted for its successful campaigns on TikTok, racking up over 8.6m views on the social network via the simple hashtag #blackcrows.

4. Red Bull, an Undisputed and Omnipresent Player in the Sports Industry

Red Bull (17.6m followers on Instagram) is known and recognized worldwide for its Influence Marketing campaigns focused on action and adrenaline. The recent #GivesYouWiiings campaign put and continues to put the spotlight on extreme sports action athletes such as board sports with creators like Valentin Delluc (184k followers on Instagram), motocrosser Jess Blewitt (54k followers on Instagram) and Fred Fugen (116k followers).

The famous Austrian brand frequently pushes its communication to the extreme, using all existing formats on all social platforms, from Real to live broadcasts and the mass distribution of stories. Athletes are strongly encouraged to publicize and share all their actions, especially the most remarkable, following the example of Felix Baumgartner (107k followers on Instagram) and his historic jump from space in 2012. Broadcast live on a platform created by Red Bull especially for the occasion, media from all over the world turned out to follow and share in this moment of performance and brand image. A global visibility for Red Bull and all those who are part of this company, from partners to sponsors to fans was acquired.

Lately, one sector has stood out from the rest, thanks to its media coverage and the revenues it generates ($2.573bn in 2022), but also the brand image it conveys: F1. For several seasons now, the Red Bull Racing team and its drivers Max Verstappen (10m followers on Instagram) and Checo Pérez (6m followers on Instagram) have monopolized the podiums and the 9.8m people who follow them on the @rebullracing account. A showcase for the brand and its various sponsors throughout the season, but also a good way to highlight the energy drinks worn by athletes all year round.

5. Influence at the Service of a Long-term Project for Diadora

In 2022, the Italian brand Diadora (425k followers on Instagram) launched its #thespeedproject campaign, bringing together several top athletes and sportspeople to take part in the film «The Mirage» shot by the brand and The Speed Project (43k followers on Instagram). It’s a long-term project supported by numerous sports content creators such as Achille Mauri (8k followers on Instagram), Claudia Decaro (2.3k followers on Instagram), Emily Maye (18k followers on Instagram) and Alex Roudayna (8.7k followers on Instagram). After years of shooting, images and collaborations with personalities and running enthusiasts, the feature film saw the light of day in 2022.

To support this project and propel the campaign forward, numerous levers were activated, such as Influencer Marketing at the heart of the production from the outset: The creation of a dedicated Instagram account, three hashtags used repeatedly #thespeedproject (22k publications on Instagram), #diadora (800k publications on Instagram), #diadorarunning (14k publications on Instagram), a front-page story on Instagram, photos and videos shared on social networks with a very specific grain. In short, a committed and engaging campaign that blends several sportsmen’s profiles intending to highlight a state of mind, an attitude unique to Diadora that enables it to sell its shoes and clothing through the sense of belonging created by the KOLs activated.

Activated by successful campaigns, sportsmen and women, in turn, become influencers, representing brands via their social networks, and increasing their image to meet consumer expectations. As a sector with strong values of belonging and trust, the sports market has been able to leverage social platforms as genuine broadcasting tools for a message carried by KOLs.

Classic campaigns still exist, but they are accompanied by ever more powerful and original formats aimed directly at consumers and sponsors. The more visible an athlete is, the more brands and sponsors will want to be part of his or her environment. Managers no longer have to deal solely with technical skills, but also with the popularity of the influencer. With well-thought-out personal branding on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and even TikTok, the various data presented confirm that brands today have every interest in collaborating directly with athletes who match their values.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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