‘We’re in the dark’: Asics wades warily into micro-influencer marketing

Asics wants to work with more micro-influencers but is finding it tough to justify the value they bring.

Smaller influencers are being recruited to join the brand’s influencer-led community “FrontRunner,” which launched in 2010. Since then, influencers have become more expensive to employ, which for a brand like Asics that would rather reward influencers with free shoes and gear instead of cash, has made growing a community of loyal followers harder. Now, it’s considering social media users without massive followings but who could deliver better results with the right strategy.

In exchange for their posts, the smaller influencers will be given access to certain products, experts within the business, social media training and running events instead of cash. Asics won’t sponsor influencer posts either, ensuring that any engagement they generate will be organic. The advertiser expects the bulk of that engagement to come from Instagram after seeing many of its influencers move to there from Facebook over the last two years.

All of Asics’ micro-influencers will go through an application process before they sign for the brand, while their posts will be monitored and their follower counts tracked to safeguard against potential brand-safety and fraud liabilities.

“There’s a budget reality in comparison to the two biggest sporting goods companies that we have to accept, which means that when we can’t afford to gamble on our marketing and have to make sure we have the right partners,” said Asics’ vp of marketing EMEA, Björn Hamacher.

But the problem with micro-influencers is it’s harder to show why managing lots of smaller relationships is worth the logistical hassle, said Hamacher. Asics already asks some of its micro-influencers to include promotional codes in certain posts as a way of tracking their engagement, though it’s a one-dimensional measure that Hamacher believes isn’t a proxy for their actual influence on their followers.

“We’re in the dark when it comes to the impact those influencers have on things like awareness, consideration and perception, so the ROI justification for assigning resources to manage those relationships is harder,” said Hamacher.

It’s easier to find that ROI for the larger influencers as they also appear in the brand’s ads so “there’s a certain media value” attached to them which the micro-influencers don’t have, said Hamacher.

If Asics can’t come up with a way to show how those micro-influencers change the way people perceive and consider the brand, then it will look at other options, said Hamacher.

“Finding the ROI for micro-influencers is a humongous challenge,” said Hamacher. “If we’re not at a point within the next 12 months where we can put some hard numbers on the impact micro-influencers have on our brand then it will be harder to justify the investments to the CFO.”

Asics’ shift to smaller influencers is also about control. The advertiser prefers to deal directly with its influencers, who usually put agency and management executives between themselves and the brand the more popular they get, said Hamacher.

Image courtesy of Asics.


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