I am a sporting superstar, therefore I influence.

When Cristiano Ronaldo pushed two Coca-Cola bottles to one side during a press conference at the European Championships so he could grab a bottle of mineral water, the stock market value of the American main sponsor plummeted. Even though it turned out to be a coincidence, it was too late to stop the aftermath. After all, wasn’t Ronaldo one of the faces of Coca-Cola during the World Cup in 2006?

Using influencers to promote your business: a lot of brands use this type of advertising to reach (new) target groups nowadays. You can't ignore the impact it has when you find yourself starting another swipe marathon. Plus sporting superstars exploit it for their own gain as well. In fact, being a sporting superstar and an influencer seems like the dream combination. But does it really make commercial sense to invest in a sporting superstar?

Ronaldo's crispy chicken wing

Let's get back to Cristiano. You see him sitting there with his family. He's got a crispy chicken wing in one hand, and a 1 litre bottle of Coca-Cola in the other. Really? Is that what Cristiano has for dinner? I don’t think so! It might make him very commercial as an influencer, but it detracts from his credibility. The impact for your business? Little or nothing! It is therefore essential to create a 100% direct link between the product that you are trying to promote and the sporting superstar. The storyline of the product has to be aligned with the life story of the sporting superstar.

Around 10% of followers see this type of sponsored post from their favourite icon appear on their feed. As an influencer and as a brand, you need to make sure you hit hard and you hit fast. And to guarantee top of mind, repetition and recognition are key factors. If you want to start a partnership as a brand, then you need to make sure it is part of a long-term strategy.

Thomas the technician

But how do you make sure your brand is aligned with the right profile? First of all, you need to find out what sporting superstars like to do in their free time. A brand is more likely to have success in developing partnerships with influencers who are in the early stages of their professional career. Because in this phase, before they become established superstars, there is more room and time for creativity. And the best time to make a long-term deal with a sporting hero is when they are still relatively unknown. Even better, your sponsorship can help them to accelerate their career by drawing a parallel between their story and your mission.

A good example of the type of partnership we have been able to establish in the past as an agency is the partnership between the athlete Thomas van der Plaetsen and HTC. One: he has a diploma in applied information technology. Two: he is a passionate amateur photographer. In other words, the perfect combination for a partnership with a telecom-tech company that focuses on its superior camera specs. The ultimate reward followed with an engraved gold-plated telephone after Thomas became European champion.

It might be too late for a Belgian fashion designer to make a deal with the very fashionable Nina Derwael. But it is definitely the perfect moment for a partnership with the heptathlete Noor Vidts or one of these 10 rising stars. And I ask myself: would there be mineral water companies lining up outside Cristiano Ronaldo's house trying to make a deal right now?

Discover in this case study how Sony links a product launch to sports and influencers.

Discover the case

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