SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/In Depth

Digital matchmakers: How brands and agencies find the right athlete for an alliance

Just as tracking improves for digital and social media marketing campaigns, so, too, can brands and agencies analyze data to make better matches for endorsements and advertising alliances with athletes.

Among the newest entrants: Boston-based BrandMatch Score, a software tool used to pair brands and campaigns with sports personalities. Rather than a simple Q Score measuring how well-known a particular athlete is, BrandMatch considers everything from the brand, goals, budgets, key attributes (family friendly, edgy, etc.), components (appearances, online only, broadcast, etc.) and geography (local, regional, national).

On the other side comes the match with an athlete. The software looks at career performance trends, latest results, the cost of various players, the mutual attributes the player and company share (genuine, disciplined, etc.) and so on.
“It’s important to gauge what’s realistic,” said Derek Boyle, BrandMatch founder and president. “And with this, you have the ultimate due diligence [on track record]. You’re not making decisions based on guesses.”

Rates start at $12,500 for BrandMatch analysis.

An athlete with a clever social media history attracts attention from marketers.
At GMR Marketing, a consultant to Lowe’s and other companies with sports partnerships, closer inspection of social media influence and characteristics for athletes has become an area of increasing importance.

Jonathan Norman, senior director of client strategy, said the follows-likes-mentions criteria still matter, but not as much as sentiment. What do followers say about the athlete’s tweets and Facebook posts, who follows a particular player, and what influence do those followers have?

An athlete with a clever social media history attracts interest because of his or her ability to share some of that equity with a company or product. Some athletes are trendsetters, dabbling in sites such as WhoSay (Usain Bolt and Hope Solo attracted attention at the London Games for their affiliation with that site).

Twitter and Facebook can also lend insight into compatibility. Is an athlete already talking about community appearances and philanthropy that could fit with a company or campaign? Or does the athlete show an interest in fashion, electronics, music or something else dovetailing with a brand’s core business?

The best campaigns elicit enthusiasm from the endorsers, Norman said. Last year, Nokia and ESPN’s ESPY awards show worked with GMR on a digital campaign featuring Donald Driver, Evan Longoria and Mike Miller. “They tweeted and posted photos, we gave them phones,” Norman said. “The athletes loved it. You have to see the athletes as partners.”

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.


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