There is a company called Brand Affinity Technologies (BAT) that is profiled in last month's issue of Wired magazine which is worth a look for anyone who is interested in how advertising and endorsements in particular in athletics work today, and how this could apply in the future. BAT focuses on what the article terms the "long tail of athlete endorsements." They connect brands not with the superstars who are almost household names, but the local stars. Through their database of 3500 athletes, they can connect smaller athletes to more local advertisers with a smaller budget.
Imagine for a moment if such a network existed in the world of social media. There are certainly more than a few enterprising efforts to do something similar through larger blog networks of specific niche groups, such as MomCentral, or even a model like Ad.ly that does something similar around helping people monetize their Twitter streams. The problem with most of these is that they remain insular to the online world. The power of BAT is not that they have brought all these athletes together, but that they do it under the umbrella of acting as an agent for these players to represent them in multiple types of marketing opportunities … from showing up at the opening of a car dealership to using their image as part of an online banner campaign geotargeted to a particular region.
The premise that makes the whole system work is that every athlete is famous somewhere. And if a brand can use that athlete in the markets or areas where they are famous, and change them out for another athlete who is bigger elsewhere, then they can roll out a region by region marketing strategy in a way that can scale. For the most popular bloggers, chances are their audience spans across geographic regions – still you could imagine the value of using a popular tech blogger for a campaign for a new mobile phone targeting geeks based on benefits and changing the endorsement to a popular fashion blogger if the same phone were promoted based on design and style.
What do you think – could the BAT model help open a new world of opportunities for brand to connect with popular bloggers, or is it too different from athletics to work?