How Surfrider Foundation uses Influencer Marketing to protect the marine ecosystem

How do you mobilize a whole movement in a country you don’t live in, and whose language you don’t understand?  

Our partner Surfrider Foundation Europe has cracked the code of multilingual change-making and how influence marketing can be pivotal in helping protect and preserve what all life depends on: Water.

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+6.8 %

Engagement Rate



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Audience reached

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About Surfrider Foundation

From a grassroots movement initiated by a group of surfer buddies to one of the strongest voices in marine conservation — Surfrider Foundation has come a long way.

The organization touches on a multitude of issues in the areas of water quality, public health, plastic pollution, and coastal management, and has become an international reference for their beach clean-up and education programs, as well as diverse scientific research projects and campaigns against climate change.

Its European business unit is also one of movers and shakers in EU policy-making and stands up for the implementation of a legal framework that protects and preserves our oceans, coastlines, and water reserves. Headquartered in Biarritz, France, Surfrider Foundation Europe currently counts 18,000 members in 12 countries and is renowned for its compelling and comprehensive communication on complex issues, mobilizing audiences that are often unfamiliar with marine protection and European law-making.

Challenge 1: Capturing the attention of Gen Z and Y’s without a big marketing budget

There is hardly any age-group as solicited by marketers as the 18 until 40 year-olds of today. While the upper part of it, aka Generation Y or Millennials, makes up the established workforce and decision-makers of today and tomorrow, its younger half (Gen Z) is behind the many rapidly evolving trends and movements that define the 2020s.

Gen Z is also the first generation of Digital Natives and usually as familiar with social media as it is overexposed to influencer marketing campaigns. With big brands investing billions of dollars to grab their attention and ever-changing social media algorithms, it’s getting increasingly difficult to stand out and get noticed (for more information, have a look at our Guide to Gen Z Influencer Marketing).

As a non-profit organization, Surfrider Foundation Europe invests a large chunk of its funds into its larger purpose and mission, cutting down where commercial companies spend — including on salaries, general expenses and marketing.

So how did their team manage to expose thousands of social media users to their core messaging and create wide-spread awareness for a topic that’s not exactly a ‘top-of-mind’ discussion topic for Gen Z?

Solution: Boosting engagement and conversion by partnering with authentic content creators

Amandine Lermigeaux is the mastermind behind Surfrider Foundation Europe’s communications strategy. For almost a year now, she has been using Kolsquare to manage and grow the organization’s influencer marketing program.

“I use the platform to find and identify influencers across Europe,” explained Amandine. “As a non-profit organization, we have a small budget to work with but big causes to defend — influencers and ambassadors play a huge part to help us juggle this balancing act.”

With powerful KOLs by their side, Surfrider Foundation Europe doesn’t only expose a much larger number of people to their core messaging compared to their owned channels. Content creators also find the right words to make complex issues relatable and comprehensive and even manage to convert social media scrollers into political activists, as the recent ‘Blue Up 2024’ campaign highlights in an impressive way.

“We got a lot more engagement from the influencer campaign than with our in-house communications because the influencers are better at creating content than we are and have communities that engage more than ours does.” Amandine Lermigeaux, Surfrider Foundation Europe

BlueUp 2024! is a participative democracy initiative that aims to put ocean protection on the agendas of candidates running in the 2024 European Parliamentary elections. The campaign’s first phase gathered 400 proposals from European citizens and experts based on five topics: climate change, biodiversity, pollution, blue economy and health. That six-month consultation phase was followed by a Europe-wide vote in June 2023 for the top 10 proposals to be presented to EU candidates.

By partnering with a diverse mix of macro- and micro-influencers, Surfrider Foundation Europe managed to mobilize almost 3,000 people in four European countries to vote for a proposal. Using a compelling mix of imagery, videos and language, content creators such as @JC.Oceans (Spain), (Germany), @tiago.greentribe (Portugal), @joanaguerratadeu (Portugal), and @plasticsoupsurfer (Netherlands) triggered constructive conversations within their communities and built awareness for Surfrider Foundation Europe’s appeal to European politicians.

@jc.oceans Debemos proteger el océano! Vota por un futuro mejor del planeta azul 🤙💪👊@Surfrider Fondation France 🐚 #oceano #blueup24 #protecttheocean ♬ sonido original - Juan Carlos García

When searching for suitable influencers and campaign ambassadors, it is crucial to take a close look at their audience demographics. Big follower numbers don’t necessarily mean high engagement and media value, as Kolsquare’s Head of Product, Michella Saliby explains:

“When collaborating with a KOL, you want to make sure you partner with a person that really converts. Authentic content and genuine intentions set the foundation for this, but you also need to look at some numbers to make an informed decision when your budget is limited.” - Michella Saliby, Head of Product at Kolsquare
"KOLs followed by a large number of people who follow few accounts (500 and less) have a much higher chance at getting noticed”

Kolsquare’s audience analytics feature provides deep insights on where a creator’s audience is located, who they are and what they’re interested in, allowing organizations like Surfrider Foundation to strategically partner with those who really match with their goals and objectives, and offer them a maximum impact.

Challenge 2: Running multilingual campaigns and finding credible influencers in unknown markets

A major challenge for Amandine’s work with BlueUp 2024! was to roll out the campaign in different European countries, including Spain, Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands — countries which were, until then, unfamiliar territory for the native French-speaker.

“My idea was to use hashtags and keywords to find five profiles in the different countries that could speak to the five topics in the local language. I don’t know much about these markets and don’t speak the local languages. I struggled a bit because I didn’t necessarily have the right keywords to start with,” she explains.

Solution: Semantic search function supporting unlimited, multilingual queries

Thanks to Kolsquare’s advanced, semantics-based search function, which enables users to search via keywords, hashtags and mentions, Amandine identified several influencers suitable for the BlueUp 2024! campaign.

Intuitive, data-driven features like the credibility score and audience reachability were invaluable in helping her overcome language barriers and determine which KOLs were the right fit for her campaign objectives.

“I needed activist profiles committed to these subjects, who talk regularly about the environment, have a good audience, and above all an audience that would convert. The idea was to have repetition or no one would click to vote.”

Kolsquare’s influencer marketing platform offers an exhaustive database of KOLs profiles with 5K+ followers on different platforms, as well as unlimited search queries, campaign creation, and access to content.

In the end, Amandine partnered with five micro and top KOLs with a combined audience of 1.2 million people on Instagram and TikTok in Spain, Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands. (This in addition to the organization’s established army of ambassadors in the French home market.)

Six pieces of content generated 2,933 votes for the BlueUp2024! Campaign, with a top engagement rate on Instagram of 6.8% and 1,000 votes generated from a single Story.
“The Portuguese profiles were very niche but the community was engaged with the message being delivered. I got some great engagement rates, which I wasn’t expecting. We see that with smaller profiles who work with other NGOs, even if they are not specialized in ocean protection, their community knows what we’re talking about. If they talk about the climate crisis, they know right away what we’re referring to and the community is more apt to vote or get involved.”

Surfrider Foundation Europe’s Influencer Marketing Strategy is a great example of how much you can achieve through smart data analytics combined with bold ideas and genuine intentions. Follow them on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube @surfridereurope to stay updated and learn more about their different activations and programs.

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