by Lauren Dugan
Tracking the return on investment (ROI) on an influencer marketing campaign is different from tracking your standard marketing campaign. For starters, influencers are people – they aren’t just static messages or clever videos driving views and comments. Armed with the right information, influencers can engage the people who most admire and trust them about your brand or product message. And, since many sports influencer campaigns rely on social media as part of their distribution, real-time measurement and adjustment becomes all the more feasible and important for driving results.
As with any other marketing campaign, sports influencer campaigns need to begin with clear brand goals, which will in turn affect how you measure ROI. For instance, sports marketing often produces tangible lead generation, as influencers are able to mobilize their large fan base. The ROI of a campaign with lead gen as its goal will be measured in website visits and the number of customers who offer their information in exchange for something of value. Of course, there are a plethora of other goals for sports influencer marketing, including driving brand awareness and sales.
We’ve rounded up three examples of sports influencer campaigns that generated sales, actionable leads and awareness to show how ROI can be tangibly measured in different scenarios. Granted, some of these campaigns may have larger budgets than your brand, while others have different goals, but they all offer valuable lessons for tapping into the power of influential sports figures in your next campaign.
NOTE: The actual ROI can’t be determined by the case studies since we didn’t receive cost information – but we use an example from our own campaign to show actual ROI below:
#1: Got (Chocolate) Milk?
How do you transform a beverage that has traditionally been associated with young children, into an adult sports performance drink? Working with Weber Shandwick, the Milk Board invited a broad range of influencers including athletes, nutritionists and researchers, to drink chocolate milk after their workouts in order to refuel.
One star influencer that helped propel chocolate milk into the sports drink arena was Pittsburg Steelers Hines Ward. The chocolate milk team followed him through his workouts and meetings with dieticians to show the science behind chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Not only did Hines’ embrace of chocolate milk inspire his fans to try it, but it also worked to influence fellow athletes.
The Milk Board wasn’t concerned with website traffic, sentiment, or other types of ROI – they wanted to see black and white sales numbers go up. And that they did. The campaign sales data showed a consistent year-over-year increase thanks to its influencer campaign, which launched in March 2012.
#2: Mercedes-Benz Tweet Race (#MBTweetRace)
To get people excited about an upcoming Super Bowl ad announcing one of its new luxury cars, Mercedes turned to social media – and the sports stars who shined most brightly on Twitter and Facebook. Working with razorfish, the car company launched a three-day, 1400 mile Tweet Race during which fans tweeted to competing teams in order to help them earn gas.
Each of the four teams was led by a sports influencer with 1 million+ Twitter followers, including the Yankees’ Nick Swisher, who wasn’t a big name celebrity in a traditional sense, but was extremely popular on Twitter.
One of Mercedes’ main goals for this campaign was to generate online buzz for their new car and upcoming Super Bowl campaign. So rather than base their ROI on sales, they tracked social media interactions, participation and reach. The campaign generated over 150,000 tweets to power the cars from almost 30,000 active participants, reaching over 25 million Twitter impressions. It also produced tangible business results: a 4 percent year-over-year increase in consideration, 7 percent increase in scheduling a test drive and 6 percent increase in first-time owners/leases.
#3: Dream It Do It
The state of Nebraska wanted to build a stronger relationship with students within its borders and encourage them to consider a degree in the manufacturing industry.
To get their message to local students, the state tapped former Nebraska football players Prince Amukamara and Adi Kunalic as well as Omaha native Niles Paul, now playing for the Washington Redskins. The three sports influencers were invited to share personal stories about their own education on Twitter, sending 45 sponsored messages between them.
This campaign was not trying to sell a product or a service – it was an awareness campaign designed to alert students to the value of a degree. Therefore, the state was most interested in how many Nebraska residents saw the campaign’s messages, and how many actually interacted with them. Overall, this initiative reached 617,000 residents and resulted in more than 6,000 engagements.
ROI can be measured a number of ways depending on goals and outcomes for a particular sports influencer marketing campaign.
First, businesses must calculate the outcomes of their campaign. These might include media impressions, views, social engagement (the total likes/comments/shares, for instance), top of funnel leads, coupons or sales (which require dedicated sales links or integration with a backend CRM system to be measured accurately).
Next, the costs of the campaign are added up. Costs will include payments (if any) made to influencers, the cost of managing the campaign, and any tools used to track and measure results.
To determine ROI, divide the campaign outcomes by the costs. If the objectives of the campaign are fully realized, the ROI should prove the campaign has had a significant, positive impact on the business. Of course not all benefits of an influencer campaign can be measured since there additional benefits that are difficult to measure (brand impact, latent recollection of brand’s product as time of purchase, etc.)
Our ROI Example
But an example of this can be seen in a recent campaign we did with a multinational client. We were tasked with distributing a new product line to influential people in order to review and promote the product if they like it, or provide private feedback if they don’t. The campaign was a huge success, with only a few influential people refraining from promoting the product because of differences in taste.
Our client spent $16,500 for the campaign and achieved 4129 leads (which have so far converted to almost $100,000 in deals), thousands of engagements on social networks, millions of impressions, 22% increase in share of voice, and thousands of follows. You won’t see that kind of performance on Google Adwords or banner ads. You won’t see it with Affiliate ads. In fact, the simple ROI of over 6X (and counting) also has the long term benefits of increased awareness and social proof.
It isn’t enough to set up a sports influencer marketing campaign and let it run its course – businesses need to consistently track results, in as close to real-time as possible, in order to fine-tune the program and generate optimal results for today’s and future campaigns. But there’s no doubt, influencer marketing works – we can help you design programs that work and that drive revenue.