The most successful marketers today have gone back to their “old school” playbooks and applied them to a new media — and come out on top. Faced with global markets and consumer behaviors that are changing more rapidly to digital than ever before, they’ve revitalized one of the oldest marketing strategies in the book — advocacy marketing.
What is advocacy marketing? By harnessing the power of their brand advocates, consumer brands and sports organizations are winning the hearts, minds and wallets of the audiences where they can make the biggest impact: personal endorsement on social media and digital platforms.
But what is advocacy marketing, exactly? How are brands across industries using this age-old concept to drive their 21st-century businesses? And, why is it so important for consumer brands and sports organizations to embrace advocacy marketing on social media today? Read on to make your marketing program soar by harnessing the endorsement power of your most passionate advocates.
What Is Advocacy Marketing?
Advocacy marketing is a directed word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) strategy driven by people. It leverages your brand’s closest, most passionate and valuable circle of supporters for marketing, promotion and advertising across digital and social media channels. Many studies have proclaimed this people-to-people marketing approach — the most foundational type of marketing — to be the best ever.
It makes sense: People want to interact with other humans— not a faceless brand. And the people who do the best word-of-mouth endorsement are brand advocates: The individuals most closely tied to your brand, directly or indirectly, who love it and want to share that love with others.
These advocates — your staff, partners, customers, fans and more — are in the natural and best position to spread adoration for your organization to their networks of your potential customers. They can do this by sharing your brand content and by creating their own authentic media — videos, photos and more — on behalf of your brand. Today, advocacy marketing activity is running in lockstep with general shifts in how and where consumers spend their time consuming and sharing information. It’s happening almost exclusively on digital and social media channels.
In most cases, these first-degree brand champions collectively have more followers on their social media accounts than your brand accounts do. And they’ve built solid, authentic relationships with those followers. So, they have a unique ability to extend your reach exponentially and build the emotional bonds that drive consumer loyalty and activation.
Why Is Advocacy Important to Brands?
Consumer brand marketers everywhere today are struggling under the weight of many obstacles to reach and activate consumers, particularly in the last 18 months. Slashed marketing budgets and headcounts, increased costs for advertising and production, and wandering audiences, to name a few.
Advocacy marketing is so critical for brands because it enables their teams to stretch capabilities and extend resources to meet their business goals — without increasing advertising spend, workload and staff. With the help of brand advocates you already have, organizations can do a lot in a very short time:
- Attract more new customers — for free
- Expand reach, engagement and build trust
- Increase sponsorship revenue and online sales
- Reduce or eliminate costs and increase efficiency
- Drop reliance on ‘official’ digital and social media channels
Brand advocates are the human face of your organization. Importantly, they’re also 50% more likely to influence purchase decisions. People trust company, event and product endorsements from their closest circles: their friends, family, co-workers, and even celebrities and other notable individuals they admire. As one example, they’re 16x more likely to read a friend’s post about a brand than one from the brand itself.
Because of this, advocacy marketing is a core business concept that is more relevant than ever right now. Consumers are ignoring ads more. And social media has diminished the control a brand has on its own personality, image and voice. It has also changed buying habits and put consumers in charge of determining whether what a brand puts out is real and should be trusted.
An organization’s message and perceived value are now in the hands of individuals, collectively more powerful than even the biggest brand budgets. Savvy marketers know that leveraging the right advocates on social media channels can turn those individual voices into a roar from millions that can prompt still more people to embrace a brand.
You may be thinking that if you have paid influencers, your advocacy marketing work is done. But paid influencers aren’t authentic brand advocates. They generally don’t have a genuine interest in the brands they represent, they’ve saddled companies with a multitude of brand safety issues, and they’re expensive at any follower count level. In reality, they’re the same as the brand advertising consumers are avoiding in favor of quality content and credible endorsements from their real connection points.
That’s likely why only less than 20 percent of people trust brand influencers these days, while over 90 percent trust brand advocates. And consumers find authentic content nearly 10x more impactful than influencer content when making a purchasing decision. Real photos, videos and conversation — not manufactured, hyped brand content — spur higher brand engagement, activation and conversion.
Because the most effective brand advocates work with you in some way or are already customers, they have meaningful ties to your organization that stand out in their communication. Consumers are more open to engaging with them and more willing to act on their messages.
Why Is Advocacy Marketing Important to Sports Organizations?
Sports marketers also have been facing a new sobering reality lately. Lost ticket and merchandise sales, reduced sponsorship deals, and alternative entertainment options for fans have turned the industry revenue models upside down.
Sports content consumption has also changed. The time U.S. consumers spend daily on mobile devices surpassed TV two years ago. The gap has only been widening since then. Fans, particularly younger ones, are choosing mobile as their first screen and getting their fill of sports content on digital and social media platforms. It’s no surprise: the average daily time spent on social media globally is now over 2.5 hours. There, audiences can engage with fellow fans, athletes and teams in real time while live gameday action is still happening.
Accordingly, marketing to sports fans through traditional, one-way channels is on a fast track to extinction. In its place? Interactive, people-to-people marketing approaches across digital and social media that spread awareness, engage new audiences, and convert new fans.
The leaders in the industry right now understand this. They’re embracing advocacy marketing principles to grow their direct fan connections and their businesses for the future. Forward-thinking sports organizations are enhancing existing revenue streams with media from and for their best brand advocates and true marketing partners: their athletes, coaches, photographers, sponsors and staff. Even the fans themselves.
These groups, particularly athletes, genuinely want to help in this area. Building their personal brands with content alongside their team or league increases their fan bases and their marketability for endorsement deals and other revenue opportunities during their sports careers and beyond.
Like consumer brands, sports organizations get a significant bump in organic reach and engagement through advocacy marketing. As one example, this athlete’s post saw over 3x the brand’s engagement for the same content. That’s the power of brand advocacy.
Advocates share content from their favorite sports brands and create their own original media for their followers and the organizations they represent. In this way, advocacy marketing instantly provides value and revenue opportunities. That content fills advocate and team social media channels and supplements new revenue streams such as team subscription boxes, digital VOD archives, and branded mobile apps. It gives sponsors more ways to showcase their brands for activation. And, it provides media rights partners with supplemental material for their linear broadcast feeds.
The new media shaping the future of sports is media co-created with advocates.
How Does Advocacy Work on Social Media?
As your brand’s representatives on digital and social media, advocates provide an instant lift.
When they tell your organization’s story in their own voices or share your brand content with their enhanced commentary, their trusted personal endorsements shine through to their followers. As a result, they increase your brand’s organic reach, awareness and trust. Importantly, their original photos, videos, graphics and messages perform better and cost less than slick, agency- or influencer-produced content.
Every organization has at least one group of supporters you can call on to serve as your advocates on social media platforms. These can be your partners, brand ambassadors, notable endorsers or passionate customers. And don’t forget your employees: The content they share garners 8x more engagement than the content brands share.
All these brand crusaders are on the ground and around the world. They have mobile phones and are eager to speak to their friends and followers for you. And they likely engage actively with your brand on digital and social media channels already. So, they’re perfectly positioned to augment your stories in creative and personal ways and help you build new relationships there. In return, they have a forum to share their enthusiasm for your brand and boost their personal profiles among their own networks.
Their authentic voices matter today more than ever and more than your brand’s best ads. And your customers — and future customers — are ready to listen to them. These evangelists can provide strong connections to people through the stories and media they create and share for you on their social accounts. All you have to do is activate them, giving them the structure, motivation and direction they need to work on your behalf.
Welcome to your new marketing plan.
How To Get Great Content for Your Advocacy Marketing Program
Here are ten tips for working with advocates and building a successful advocacy marketing program through content:
- First, think about all the things that inspire you about the brand you represent. They will likely spur similar feelings among your advocates and audiences.
- Examine your data to understand what content and stories resonate with your audiences the most and motivate them to engage with your brand.
- Seek out the specific advocates you have that can best tell and share stories like these on your behalf.
- Look at what content those folks are already creating and sharing on their social media channels to confirm that it aligns with your brand and particular objectives.
- Talk to them. Find out what strikes a chord with these advocates about your brand. Give them some context around what you’re looking to achieve with content.
- Explain the communication process upfront — how they can expect to receive content and requests for content. It will become part of their routine more quickly.
- Give them examples for creative inspiration and personalized, suggested copy points with trending or relevant topic hashtags to help them build great content.
- Let them know any deadline to share your media or get their media back, or a particular format needed.
- Check in with them regularly to make sure your mutual interests are still on track.
- Offer feedback and messages of appreciation to improve their content over time and grow your collaboration together.
Examples of Advocacy Marketing in Action
Here are a few recent examples of advocacy marketing around the globe:
Connect With Fans
A pro sports league received over 50 content pieces in only a few days from players at home, including video PSA messages to fans and videos with their pets.
A pro sports team collected fan welcome videos for its new class of draftees that they could share, building their connections right from the start.
Find Engaging Types of Content
A leading international sports media network got videos from on-air talent performing a fitness challenge, supplying fans with new, entertaining content.
Gather Clips for More Authentic Video Stories
A fitness franchise celebrated a recent holiday with a montage video made from clips contributed by their instructors.
Repackage Your Archives
A pro sports team requested videos from fans and mashed them together with archived footage into new videos celebrating special moments in the franchise’s history.
Get Started With Advocacy Marketing
If you’re working in brand or digital marketing today, there’s no better time to embrace advocacy marketing strategies and transform your advocates into brand builders. Advocates already support your organization, so let them spread that love organically to new audiences.
Greenfly helps some of the world’s biggest brands with advocacy marketing. The Greenfly software platform enables organizations of all sizes to activate their top brand advocates to harness the power of digital media on social networks. With the right digital assets, advocates and influencers can build more awareness, increase loyalty and drive revenue. Find out how Greenfly can automate digital media collection and distribution and measure social media sharing from your most potent brand voices.
Are you thinking about launching an advocacy marketing program this year? Read our complete, free guide to harnessing the power of brand advocates below.
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