Influencer Marketing in Skiing
Dr. Andreas U. Lanz is a marketing researcher and strategist. His field of study is business analytics of online platforms, particularly user-generated content networks, with a focus on influencer marketing and nudges.
Andreas is one of the architects behind Elias Ambühl’s career. As his friend and manager, Andreas helped him make the jump into the freeskiing elite in the late 2000s. His interest in how to effectively create online buzz and build a human brand then led him to pursue an academic career. As the skiing industry is disrupted once more, manifested, for example, in the heavily decreasing number of youth ski camps in Switzerland, we thought it might be interesting to hear Andreas’ analysis of the hype around influencer marketing and its potential use for skiing.
Protect Our Ski Culture
Skiing has undergone big changes over the last decades. The emergence of the freeskiing movement in particular has made a wide-ranging impact on how the sport is perceived by the masses. It was the driver behind the rejuvenation of skiing – and the decisive factor behind the plunge of snowboarding. However, the snow-sports industry as a whole (i.e., both skiing and snowboarding) faces some major challenges, the biggest one being how to catch the attention of the youth. There exists such fierce competition when it comes to free-time activities, why should a teenager spend his or her spare time (and big money) on the slopes?
How to win them over is a big topic in marketing, because most consumer brands are focusing on this target group. The reason is that preferences within this group are not yet rigid. Hence, the main goal is to create a relationship with these young consumers that then turns into customer loyalty – and therefore into a steady revenue in the future. The modern battleground is digital, and given that teenagers consciously or unconsciously ignore banner-like information and increasingly use ad-blockers, the tactics have more and more moved toward influencer marketing. The fundamental idea behind influencer marketing is that individuals with a large follower base on social media can, by endorsing a product or service, influence their audience and raise awareness (they ideally also trigger sales, which still remains to be proven).
I believe that snow sports are well-positioned to secure a share of the cake and stay a relevant free-time activity for teenagers. However, resorts, snow-sports brands, and athletes all need to step up their game. There is huge potential for widely dispersed audience reach, especially with the followers of the athletes. Moreover, athletes are perceived to be very authentic and credible – two characteristics that resorts and brands usually lack. Unfortunately, this is also part of the problem since many athletes fail to understand how to effectively create value for their sponsors as influencers. It used to be that athletes “simply” had to perform well in competitions, but there has been a focus shift. Today, it is all about raising brand awareness in the digital world. Therefore, content is king: A strong presence on Instagram and YouTube is a basic prerequisite for any sponsorship deal – besides performing well in competitions, of course. Legendary Jon Olsson, a freeskier turned YouTuber, understood this already a decade ago when he hired a filmmaker and started his own vlog. This expense quickly paid off: Higher reach enabled better sponsorship deals. To further build his personal brand, he established two events: the “Jon Olsson Invitational” and the “Jon Olsson Super Sessions.” This move was so clever, because they were, in fact, media stunts. Another good (and more recent) example is Andri Ragettli, who continuously accomplished getting his stunning videos into worldwide mainstream media.
For snow sports to make a turnaround, however, everyone must fully understand the digital landscape – just like Jon and Andri do. Resorts, brands, and athletes together play a crucial role not only in catching the attention of teenagers, but also in convincing them to spend time on the slopes, for day trips as well as longer vacations. In my opinion, athletes should be generating the attention (e.g., by means of coordinated social media actions), and brands and resorts need to lower the initial entry barrier to the sport (e.g., free day trips to the mountains to learn how to ski/snowboard). Along these lines, dear readers, may this serve as a call to finally unify efforts to secure the future of snow sports as we know it today. Let’s protect our ski culture!
- Dr. Andreas U. Lanz