As football fans, we are all consumers, influenced by the players we idolise. We are striving to better ourselves and become like those that inspire us. Earlier this year, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was listed by The Times as one of the top 100 Influential people on the planet. It certainly comes as no surprise that many brands turn to these athletes to promote their products. Yet as great as these athletes seem, are they the best choice to promote your brand? We conducted a short study, including some of the football influencers we’ve used in our influencer campaigns, and there is much evidence to suggest that football Influencers on Instagram and YouTube are just as effective as footballers (You can find the results of the study later in this post).

Football Influencers may be a more cost-effective option for your brand…

PMYB X Boot Buddy Influencer Campaign featuring Theo Baker

PMYB X Boot Buddy Influencer Campaign, featuring Theo Baker

Football Influencers Earn Considerably Less Than Athletes

Cost-effectiveness has to be one of your main priorities when planning any marketing campaign. It is well known that top athletes regularly do campaigns with leading companies, such as Nike and Adidas. Unfortunately for most brands, this would be far from realistic. Last years Hopper HQ Rich List reported that a single post on Instagram by Cristiano Ronaldo would cost £600,000. Also on the list was Lionel Messi, who was estimated at £400,00 per Instagram Post. His Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez was said to cost brands £150,000 for an upload. That is not to say this extortionate price has put brands off; a short look at Rolando’s feed will showcase a number of endorsements for the likes of SixPad and a Spanish hair-product called Insparya.

In contrast to this, a brand using football Influencers rather than athletes would not have to spend anywhere near these prices for reaching a similar following. Football Influencers are often a small fraction of the price. Despite this, some still bear the same level of influence because of their relatability, regular content and the strong connection they’ve developed with their followers. Thanks to Influencer marketing, sponsorship campaigns are now much more affordable to brands across the globe.

Audience Responses

But is the price of a top athlete worth it? In terms of reach, it probably is. Ronaldo has 166,000,000 followers on Instagram, making him the most followed person in the app’s history. However, there is more to a successful Influencer marketing campaign than reaching a mass audience. On Ronaldo’s Insparya post, he generated 25,500 comments but on average, only 1 in every 200 was brand related. Most comments were in relation to Ronaldo as a footballer and not the product he was endorsing, as some read “Like if Ronaldo is better than Messi” and “I love you”.

Off-brand engagements are common with professional athletes, with many comments referring to recent matches rather than the product on display. For example, Liverpool’s Adam Lallana did a campaign with Puma and the reception was far from positive. One comment read, “Think it’s time to stop doing these (paid promotions) and actually focus on your football and push for the first team.” This is a clear risk for brands, as the public opinion of a player may change by the time content goes live if they play poorly for their team.

Comparing the Sponsored Content of Footballers and Football Influencers

Content from Football Influencers is often far more positively received than that of athletes, and this is reflected in their engagement rates. In general, paid promotions have little effect on the engagement levels football Influencers can generate. This was reflected in our short study which compared the difference in engagement rates for regular content and sponsored content.

For example, Football Influencer, Kieran Brown’s Instagram engagement rate decreased by just 0.07% on his paid promotions. The F2 Freestyler’s engagement rate actually increased by 0.23% when doing influencer campaigns, compared to their regular content at the time of our research.

This is remarkable when compared to the rates of premier league footballers. At the time of our research, Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold’s engagement rate on Instagram dropped by 10.13% on his brand endorsements compared to his regular uploads – This means 10.13% fewer likes and comments than his usual content.

Tottenham’s Deli Ali averaged an engagement rate of 5.50%, yet his rate for influencer marketing posts was just 3.32% (That’s a drop of 40%!). The same applies to Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, who averaged an engagement rate of just 1.74% on his paid promotions. This research shows that whilst athletes can offer a brand a huge reach, their audiences are far less focused on the product on display as they are the player. Football Influencers are able to target a smaller, more concentrated audience that will more be interested in the product.

Exceptions to the Rules

However, there are a few exceptions that blur the lines between athlete and football Influencer. One example of this is Scott Pollock. After winning the HashTag United academy series on YouTube, Scott Pollock rapidly developed large social media following. After signing for Hashtag, Scott uploaded a number of sponsored posts from Influencer Marketing campaigns and has continued to do so since signing a professional contract for Northampton Town. He recently did an Influencer campaign for Boot Buddy, generating over 11,000 engagements. Over half of the comments positive in relation to the brand, proving that athletes can run successful Influencer campaigns.

Footballers On YouTube


Breaking the conventions further, a few footballers have tried to bridge the gap between athletes and YouTubers. 2018 saw the launch of Raheem Sterling’s YouTube channel, which saw him create content with the likes of KSI. This year has seen Jesse Lingard launch his YouTube channel and collaborate with the F2 Freestylers. Lingard’s first video is proof that athletes can do Influencer marketing successfully on YouTube as he promotes his own clothing brand – JLINGZ. The video had over 1,000,000 views and generated over 40,000 engagements.

However, this channel has not always been suitable for marketing his brand. For example,  a recent Lingard video received a large number of negative comments due to his performances for Manchester United. Rather than discussing his clothing brand, the comments air more frustration at United’s recent defeats. This again highlights that athletes can be less dependable than football Influencers. The frustrations from supporters can cloud an audiences response to an endorsement.

It will be interesting to see if more footballers create YouTube accounts and how effectively they bridge the gap between athlete and football Influencer. If you would like to read more on Footballer YouTubers you can here.

The Verdict – Football Influencers or Professional Athletes?

For football brands looking to launch influencer marketing campaigns, it makes sense to use football Influencers over athletes. Influencers are far more cost-effective, charging less and reaching more concentrated audiences. Additionally, they are in the public eye less, which adds a layer of brand-safety that can’t really be avoided for popular, world-renowned first-team footballers. There are some that bridge the gap between athlete and Influencer, and it will be interesting to see if more follow in this pattern.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the football influencer campaigns we’ve conducted for brands, such as Booty Buddy, Liverpool FC/Western Union and My4, get in touch here today for a free consultation.

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