Professional Athletes Have Become the New ‘Social Media Influencers’

Advertising is entering a new age where everything is analytics-driven. Especially advertisements on social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow businesses to reach their audiences in diverse ways — through video, audio, and the written word.

Additionally, these platforms allow advertisements and posts to be tracked to gauge their effectiveness and reach.

These platforms now have the ability to use those same tracking tools to discover how influential an professional athlete can be for a brand when promoting on social media.

Social media platforms and the influencers on said platforms present a unique opportunity to showcase a product or service. It is not just about how popular an athlete is anymore, rather it is about how many people will engage with the athlete — or influencer’s — post.

Engagement of a post could be liking the post, re-posting, or sharing the post via direct messages.

As the analytics become more available, we begin to see that some influencers with large followings have been cheating the system. This does not apply to all social media influencers, but it has been exposed that a fair amount of these influencers have deployed ‘bots’ to increase their engagement and social media followings.

“Trust comes on foot and leaves on horseback, and we could very quickly see the whole influencer space be undermined,” Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed told Reuters. “There are lots of great influencers out there, but there are a few bad apples spoiling the barrel and the trouble is, everyone goes down once the trust is undermined.”

So brands who have paid these influencers in the past to promote their product have likely not seen a good return on their investment. Simply because their sponsored post did not receive the correct engagement with its target audience.

Professional athletes present a truthful and transparent influence when sponsoring social media posts. Their popularity is a product of their production on the field. If they produce great results during games or matches and have won championships then their social media following — or individual fanbase — increases. There is no reason to audit a social media account for an athlete.

With that in mind, athletes and sports sponsorships can generate millions of dollars in media value just through sponsored social media posts alone. Athletes like LeBron James or Carson Wentz — who cannot be sponsored while on the field — can provide sponsorship opportunities through their social media presence.

A perfect example would be Bose headphones, who sponsor Wentz and other notable athletes. Wentz can always be seen wearing Bose headphones when he arrives at the stadium and during his pre-game warm-ups. But Bose wanted to take advantage of Wentz’s (1 million followers) social media presence by having him post the Instagram post below:

This post received just under 200,00 views and over 660 comments. The reach was likely worth millions in media exposure. All because of a 60-second ‘commercial-like’ post to Wentz’s social media page.

Who are the Most Influential Athletes on Social Media?

That is a great question, especially in terms of how influential the athlete is. Luckily Hookit released their Top-10 Most Influential Athletes. Below are the Top-10 from August:

10. Lebron James — 15.2 million interactions
9. Paul Pogba — 15.7 million interactions
8. Marcelo Viera — 16 million interactions
7. Philippe Coutinho — 18.7 million interactions
6. Neymar De Silva — 20.7 million interactions
5. Sergio Ramos — 21.1million interactions
4. Conor McGregor — 23.4 million interactions
3. Paulo Dybala — 23.7 million interactions
2. Ninja (Tyler Blevins) — 50.4 million interactions
1. Cristiano Ronaldo — 118. million interactions

Moving Forward…

So even if you cannot afford to sign a Lebron James or Cristiano Ronaldo to an endorsement deal doesn’t mean your brand shouldn’t out marketing dollars into other athletes for exposure on social media.

In fact, that is the issue Instant Sponsor looks to resolve. Perhaps you would like to sponsor an athlete for a series of social media posts. Instant Sponsor’s platform can connect you with the athletes that have made that option available and who are ready to work with you.

The sponsorship ecosystem will become democratized through Instant Sponsor, that way brands of all sizes can take part in sports sponsorship.


Please join the Instant Sponsor Telegram Group and interact with our community of sponsorship professionals.