Launched in 1996, Under Armour is a fairly new brand in the sportswear market compared to titans Nike and Adidas, which are over half a century old. But that hasn’t stopped Under Armour from forging ahead with unique, innovative products and a strong marketing strategy, pushing both Nike and Adidas to step up their marketing games.
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Under Armour has established a strong presence across all major social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. This has opened up many opportunities for fans to participate in conversations and build a relationship with the brand.
Let’s take a look at Under Armour’s performance on Instagram, one of the fastest–growing social media platforms in history, during the last few months (11/23/16-1/23/17).Studying the data, we see that Under Armour uses Instagram best practices to engage with their audience, for example posting regularly, using hashtags to aid brand discovery (70% of the brand’s posts included a hashtag),
and regramming user-generated content.
Under Armour does a lot on Instagram, but one strategy stands out: the brand’s use of prominent professional athletes in posts to amplify reach and influence customers. These athletes also activate their own large Instagram followings by mentioning Under Armour on their individual social accounts.
Over 75% of all the posts sent out by Under Armour included celebrity references.
This is higher than any sports brand we have studied before.
Let see how Under Armour is using celebrity influencers on Instagram, and what other brands can learn from them.
1. Under Armour Chooses the Right Celebrities
Under Armour sponsors famous athletes from a wide range of athletic endeavors, like Stephen Curry (basketball), Tom Brady (football), Misty Copeland (dance), and Kathryn Budig (yoga). Under Armour expands its social media presence with the reach each influencer brings.
In this data period alone, Under Armour has worked with 21 different sports icons and 10 different sports. Here is the most engaging post from the data period, highlighting an influencer.
What Can Brands Learn? Collaborate with influencers who are relevant to specific lines of business.
For example, average engagement per post for a football-related post by Under Armour on Instagram without any influencer is 26K…
…whereas a football-related post tagged with Cam Newton on average receives close to 30K engagement per post.
Brands should also think about diversifying their set of influencers so that they can highlight various aspects of the brand’s business and target a varied set of audiences. Different influencers (even within the same sphere, say football) appeal to a different set of fans, and teaming up with a broader set of these influencers would expand the brand’s reach to a larger audience.
2. Connect with Influencers Who Are Passionate About the Brand
While Under Armour has used many influencers to amplify the reach of their posts, as we have seen before, their influencers have also strongly supported the brand in posts on their own social channels. The influencer posts resonate more strongly with the audience and are more likely to encourage people to take action, since they do not come across as scripted endorsements from brands. This post below, by Michael Phelps, tagged Under Armour and generated almost twice the engagement over the next-most engaging post by Under Armour in the data period.
What Can Brands Learn? To make the most of your influencer strategy, connect with your influencers so that they mention/tag/hashtag the brand on their own social channels. Posts by influencers themselves can help create a lasting resonance with the audience as people see someone they like/trust authenticating the brand.
3. Leverage Influencers to Communicate Beyond “Buy This Product”
While the ultimate goal of any marketing campaign is to sell products, Under Armour avoids a direct “buy this product” approach on Instagram in their influencer strategy. The brand focuses more on the athlete’s persona than the product: his or her inspiration, grit, reliability, and “never give up attitude” when it comes to performance. Influencer-related posts highlight product functionality as it relates to the influencer, showcasing how the product solves the wearer’s problems.
What Can Brands Learn? You don’t have to use your influencers to directly sell product. Instead, use influencers’ star power to connect with their audience and communicate your brand’s unique proposition and values. This doesn’t mean you can’t measure the effect of Instagram influencer initiatives through web visits, content sharing, and conversions.
4. Use Influencers to Inspire and Motivate the Community
Under Armour’s “I Will” has been a common theme across most of their campaigns, setting a tone of unyielding determination and tenacity. The brand superbly communicates the same using many of the athletes — for example, Michael Phelps, Misty Copeland, and Jordan Speith, who have faced challenges in life and, by their sheer willpower, have come out victorious each time. This is another value that Under Armour embodies. In the words of Kevin Plank, the brand’s founder,
“We can be a little better, we can push a little harder. So why would we set our sights on anything but being No. 1?”
What Can Brands Learn? Think about your brand beyond the products you sell, and use your influencers to communicate the same. Taking a holistic view of how the brand and its products can help make your audience’s world better, easier, and help them achieve all the goals they aspire towards, can help create a strong resonance within the community, thereby accelerating the brand’s success.
5. Use Celebrities to Help Support Causes
Under Armour uses influencers to spread messages related to causes they support, for example, the UA Freedom Project supports the people who have devoted their lives to defending the country (the first responders, firefighters, military, and veterans). Supporting such social causes helps brands be seen in a positive light. The brand partnered with The Rock, who himself is a strong supporter of the cause, to spread conversations around the issue.
What Can Brands Learn? The brand’s influencers are real people whose are trusted by the audience and whose voices drive conversation and action within their communities, raising awareness about the cause with a larger set of people. Use the right influencers who embody the spirit of the cause to help the audience relate to the cause as well.
To wrap up, influencers today are a very important aspect of a brand’s digital marketing strategy as consumers move to inform their purchasing decisions by not only looking at companies as they did in the past, but also looking at each other and at their favorite personalities. Use your influencers to go beyond just selling, and leverage their strengths to communicate the brand’s values and beyond.
Which influencer strategies do you admire on Instagram? Let us know on Twitter or leave a comment. If you’re looking for more tips, download the guide below.