How the Sports Industry has Embraced Influencer Marketing

Written by Ryan Berger, Founder, Berger Shop & Founding Partner, Julius with HYPR

As the world of influencer marketing continues to grow, we are seeing a huge adoption in certain categories for the first time. Whether it is fashion, automotive or CPG, we have seen a shift in how brands talk to consumers, moving away from buying media and towards executing “human media,” or working with people to tell their stories and share their messages.

We are seeing categories such as pharma beginning to tap into creators and influencers who can lead the conversation for these brands, and ultimately influence purchase decisions in line with what consumers want today.

My favorite industry, sports, has always been more traditional in how they market, partnering with cable companies, sponsors and other partners to amplify their messages. But over the last five years, as technology has exploded, so have new ways to market for teams and leagues – and the industry has been at the forefront of innovative ways to tell their stories, driving their narrative with existing fans all across the world and finding ways to drive revenue with new fans.

I have been deeply involved in the sports industry for the last 15 years, going from helping the professional basketball team in NYC create a word of mouth campaign to attract the league’s biggest free agent, Lebron James, to play in there; to consulting for several sports teams to help them navigate the new media landscape; and most recently, working with many of the major sports leagues to provide them with a digital platform to identify and manage influencers as well as create influencer campaigns on their behalf.

As teams have adopted technology platforms and fan engagement tools, like our platform, Julius with HYPR, we have seen a huge shift in how these clubs and leagues work with creators. We have been working with many NBA teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, who needed a new fresh group of influencers to work with. We were able to connect them with new influencers and creators, allowing them to reach larger and more diverse audiences, which ultimately resulted in new revenue from new fans.

“The Trail Blazers can shout from the top of the rafters how great it is to come to a game, but when people hear that same thing from other fans and creators, there is nothing more powerful,” said David Long, the Director of Innovation for the team.

Jessica Ciccone, New York Jets Vice President Content Strategy & Marketing, says the Jets think along the same lines. She notes, “It can’t just be about our brand – it’s about finding opportunities to engage that are authentic to both the influencer and the New York Jets. Partnering with influencers is a two-way street. When the collaboration resonates with both audiences, everyone wins.” Jessica and her team at the Jets have been so great to work with over the years, as they continue to experiment with new ways to reach fans, from draft night parties for fans with influencers to influencer-hosted episodic shows that fans can interact with. 

Finally, as sports continues to push the envelope into new, exciting areas, I have been working on launching a new company, called DAPS, with two NBA players and a 22- year-old CEO who just finished playing Ivy League basketball. Together, we identified an idea that taps into NIL, allowing college and high school athletes a chance to make money. DAPS taps everything I’ve learned about the industry, and is a new applicationhelping professional basketball players, and amateur hoopers as well, monetize their content and gives fans an easy way to connect with their favorite players in ways they never have before.

Want to have your favorite baller follow you on Instagram? Or have them do a duet on TikTok with you? We want to turn consumers into fans, and we want to turn fans into superfans, by delivering these digital experiences in unparalleled ways, allowing fans to engage with their favorite athletes in ways they never have before. Want to have a 15- minute cup of coffee on Zoom with the point guard of the Orlando Magic? Just sign up on DAPS and get the milk and sugar ready.

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