Tech is Reshaping How Fans Connect with Athletes via Sports Influencer Marketing

by Tunde Salau

Historically, athletes had little direct interaction with their fans. They’d go out and give their all, but contact would be carefully moderated afterwards. Perhaps there’d be press conferences, pauses for autographs, and promos, but the athlete would remain shielded from his fans for the most part. This all changed when social media emerged. Instead of going through specific channels, the athlete could connect with his or her audience anytime, anywhere, engaging in live one-on-one interactions. 

The era of direct-to-consumer had begun and it wasn’t restrained to brands and businesses. Instead, this gave rise to a whole new level of interconnectivity and branding. The incoming athlete could instantly cultivate a following and develop a brand, while the veteran enjoyed a captive audience. It was then that people realised these athletes, from the rookie through to the all-star, had solid brands and audiences that could be leveraged for marketing. Influencer marketing.

Of course, the tech has not stopped coming, and with new advances and algorithmic changes, the way athletes engage with their audiences and influencer marketing strategies have changed too. Let’s look at four emerging trends.

1. Augmented Reality is Generating Buzz

We’ve seen how AR impacts the sports experience. For example, Major League Baseball came out with the “At Bat” app, which allows fans inside the stadium to get key stats on whatever they point their phone at. When a player comes into frame, detailed stats about that player become available. App users can also get ball flight trajectory data in real-time too.

When it comes to one-on-one experiences between athletes and their fans, AR shines as well. Using tech like yinzcam, fans can pose next to their favourite athlete or throw on a layer of virtual face paint to show their team spirit.

2. Virtual Reality is Engaging Fans on a Whole New Level

VR is in its infancy, so it’s only being used by early adopters now—those who are extreme sports fans and have an affinity for tech. However, athletes can now leverage it to give fans a serious VIP experience. Imagine what it’s like to feel like you’re on the field with your athlete or being given an exclusive tour of the locker room or other behind the scenes coverage. The Nike Football Experience did just this, giving an insider look at Arda Turan’s halftime speech to the Turkish National team.

3. eSports is Cultivating a Fresh Crop of Influencers and Providing New Reach Opportunities

There were 454 million esports viewers in 2019, of which 201 million were considered enthusiasts. By the end of 2022, nearly 300 million enthusiasts are expected, for a total of 645 million viewers in all. That puts it on par with sports golf, rugby, and even baseball. eSports arenas are popping up everywhere to accommodate. Even Real Madrid plans to include an eSports arena in its new high-tech rebuild of the Bernabeu. Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka, Finnish Dota 2 player, is a great example. He’s now ranked the number-two eSports player in the world with estimated earnings of over six million. He now has over 106k followers on Twitter and is sponsored by Red Bull.

4. Data is Building Better Fan Relationships

As more teams, leagues, and athletes leverage tech, they have a wealth of data at their fingertips. This allows them to segment their audiences, so they can deliver the right message to the right group at the right time, building better relationships. Brands like Yinzcam are leveraging data to personalise experiences as well, including stats like how many games a fan has attended in their messaging. This helps develop bonds, even more, resulting in increased loyalty and engagement.

The Evolution Will Continue

Even though there’s a wealth of exciting new tech aiding sports influencer marketing already, this is by no means the end-all. As tech continues advancing, so too, will the techniques being leveraged. 

This article was provided by Vensy. If you’re looking for more sports marketing related insights or are looking for inventive ways to grow your sports brand and business, Vensy is an AI-powered influencer marketing agency specialised in leading creative campaigns.

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