This is a great example of how influencers and sponsors can work together in harmony.
Influencer marketing, as a medium, has grown with the popularity of social platforms like Instagram. And, as I wrote in this piece here, sponsorship as a whole has evolved into a mutually beneficial relationship between the two parties, rather than a pure funding opportunity.
One brand who has executed this to perfection is AT&T, via their recent partnership with Indi Cowie.
AT&T made soccer an area of focus — using the sport to target a highly engaged and passionate millennial demographic (through sponsorships with Major League Soccer, as well as both the US and Mexican National teams).
Working with the lifestyle marketing agency MKTG, they developed an influencer strategy, seeking out a credible and engaging voice to help bring their Soccer Everywhere platform to life through social content.
After an extensive search, AT&T moved forward with female freestyle soccer star, Indi Cowie, whose juggling tricks had been on display around the world, including features on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Good Morning America!
What made Indi suited for a millennial target was her content — which was sharable by nature, and didn’t require audio (a majority of social video plays occur without audio).
And, for all its uniqueness, freestyle soccer can act as the ideal conduit for a brand’s message. In Indi’s excellent blog post here, she writes:
“What is freestyle soccer, you ask? It’s a mix of sport and art. It’s a way for me to express myself with a soccer ball. It’s beautiful. And it’s challenging. Without teammates or a coach, you have to be driven and self-motivated to improve.”
A Clear Value Proposition
The deal was structured as a partnership, where AT&T provided a clear value proposition to Indi that included more than just capital. Their first question was: “how can we help you?”
While at first glance, this seems like a simple question, it does mark a shift in the way influencer marketing has been seen by many brands, who treat it as a transactional purchase.
Indi’s vision was clear. She appreciated their interest in helping her grow and answered the question with a direct and simple list of her 2017 goals. This included:
1. Opportunities to travel to big-time soccer events and collaborate with other athletes
2. Create more professional and dynamic content for her social channels
3. Break a new Guinness World Record
4. Creating artistic content that shows off her creativity and helps educate the world on the art of freestyle soccer
While AT&T had their own campaign goals and objectives, they made it a priority to integrate Indi’s as well to make the partnership mutually beneficial.
To prop up their partnership, AT&T orchestrated content collaborations with the likes of Jack Harrison (NYCFC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders, US National Team), Jimmy Conrad (former player — MLS, US National Team) and Mariano Trujillo (former player — MLS, Mexican National Team) and gave Indi the red carpet treatment at events like the MLS All-Star game and US World Cup Qualifying matches, allowing her the opportunity to provide true behind-the-scenes access to her followers.
An area of emphasis for Indi, the Guinness Book of World Records provided Indi an outlet to raise awareness for the growing sport — and the art form of freestyle soccer.
Especially in freestyle soccer, a sport without a sanctioning body or official records, world records have been used to showcase athlete performance.
On October 18, AT&T set Indi up in AT&T Stadium to break two records: most consecutive “around the worlds” by a female, and most consecutive “sole juggles” by a female.
And AT&T provided more than just a venue — they also provided an official Guinness judge, developed a mini-documentary, and created artwork to celebrate the achievement.
On her partnership with AT&T, Indi said:
“It’s more than a partnership. It’s a collaboration. AT&T and MKTG are invested in my freestyle career and help bring my ideas to life. I love working with them!”
This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.
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