It's easy to dismiss an ad like this as a corporation capitalizing on controversy. Nike wasn't the only one that wanted to use Colin for an ad. They just happened to have first rights.
And it's also easy to critique Kaepernick as trying to cash in on fame.
I would instead argue that while this was a mutually benefiting transaction for both Colin and Nike, we can use this situation as a perfect example to understand Influencer Marketing and how to apply it to your own business.
What is Influencer Marketing?
While many have dismissed Influencer Marketing as a new trendy marketing buzzword, the new Colin Kaepernik ad shows us that it has hit the main stream.
Influencer Marketing, is the act of turning a person's social media followers into a market where you can target your advertising.
Millions of people watch the super bowl, so the stations monetize that with expensive ads. Newspapers have hundreds of thousands of readers, so they monetize that audience with ads, and content.
So, an influencer is simply the word we use to describe a person with an audience that is open to be monetized.
While the common ( perhaps unfair) perception of influencers has been attention seeking, self centered people on twitter or Instagram, posting every minute of their lives for fame and attention for free swag…. Colin Kaepernick shows that having an audience truly is monetizeable, even when no one is hiring you.
That being said, if you over simplify influencers to just an audience for sale, you are going to miss the mark.
What makes Kaepernick different?
Repping brands in ads is a common practice when it comes to famous sports stars, musicians, and actors. (Michael Jordan anyone?)
Kaepernick doesn't really fit into the standard image of a brand ambassador. He was not known (at least in the mainstream consciousness) for being in the top 1% of quarterbacks. Negative publicity isn't the most desirable trait to have when it comes to getting ad dollars from big corporations. They like the audience, but they are allergic to potential loss of sales.
What makes Kaepernick different is that he isn't a controversial figure like we are used to seeing in sports. He has an audience right now because he has taken a stand for something. He has a strong message that he believes in.
And his audience does too.
While fans of UFC's Conner McGreggor, or Basketball's Dennis Rodman would prefer their hero's personal life would just disappear, the audience that follows Colin to support and his message.
Why is this Ad so effective?
If this ad was just Colin Kaepernick saying "I'm Colin Kaepernick, and I love Nike's" It would have still been a buzz generator. But there is more to this than just an audience and an ad.
This ad is effective because Colin's message and Nike's brand resonate with each other already. Their messages are compatible.
If Dell computers did this ad, it might still do well. People sympathetic to Colin would applaud Dell for their boldness, and those against would still be throwing out their Dell Computers on social.
"Just Do It" now MEANS something so much more to Colin's fans. Just Do It isn't just a slogan, they have a way of applying it to something they believe in.
It will be remembered for a long time after the ad is out of the news, whereas people would forget about Dell after the next news cycle
So, How do YOU use influencer marketing correctly?
- Understand your brand.
Nike knows its brand. You can prove this because every ad or spokesperson that they get to represent them in media/ads, just feels right.
When you look at your marketing, does it just look "right" or does it look like just another ad? If it's not getting you excited, then chances are there is some work to be done on your branding.
2. Have a strong message.
You can't be generic here, or have boring platitudes like "transparency" or "Great Customer Service!" Your brand has to stand for something.
3. Find an an audience, in this case, an influencer, whose message resonates with yours.
A fundamental marketing concept, is that it's not how many people you reach, but the quality of those people. If you are going to pay for an audience, you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
This takes a lot of work, but remember that this is a two way street. Influencers benefit too! When you do the work to find the right people to help you market your product/services they will work much harder to help spread your message, because your brand will mean something to them too.
The Main Takeaway
Any shoe company could have done this ad, or hired Colin to rep their brand. But only when the brand, the message and the influencer are all in alignment does a marketing campaign truly reach it's full potential.
What are other examples you've seen of a brand and a brand ambassador being a great fit?