Two time Olympic triple jumper, Nathan Douglas has worked with major sports brands like Nike, Red Bull and Asics. Episode four of our influencer marketing series comes in the form of a guest post, where Nathan reveals his golden rules for engaging with athletes.
1. Know when competition season is
Every athlete’s schedule is different, depending on their sport. For me as a triple jumper, indoor season is January - March and outdoor season is May - September, with major championships taking place in July and August. During those two months in particular, I’m going to be purely focused on competing. I’ll have very little free time and I won’t want to be trying new products.
Of course competition season is when brands want to work with athletes the most because that’s when a lot of the attention will be on them. However these conversations should be had months in advance ideally. This allows us to test the product in training and therefore not risk affecting competition. After September is a great time for new brands to engage with me personally, as my schedule is more relaxed. Find out when your athlete's core competition season is and try to make sure you’ve approached them way before then. If they like your brand and product, they’ll continue using it/wearing it all year round including competition season.
2. Consider a holistic approach
Many athletes take a very holistic approach to their training regime. So try to consider how your brand and products might fit into their overall lifestyle. Our needs go beyond sportswear and energy drinks! For example, I recently worked with a bedding brand because I have to make sure I look after my recovery and sleep is the best form of recovery. It sounds like an unlikely fit at first but it was ideal for me and the messaging worked for them too.
Some suggestions: Anything that makes food preparation easier or anything that boosts recovery and/or performance will go down a treat. Many athletes travel a lot but sitting down for long periods isn’t good for the body so products that make long journeys more comfortable and less of a strain, will be well received.
3. Limit long distance travelling
I’m based in Birmingham and that’s where my training base is. Depending where I am in the season, I could be training twice a day. Therefore getting to London and back isn’t often feasible in terms of timings but also sitting down for extended periods isn’t great for sportspeople. At the very least be mindful they’ll likely want to keep traveling to a minimum during core training periods. But if you can, try to arrange meetings at the athletes training base. They’ll really appreciate that you’ve made the effort to go to them, which will be great for your relationship.
4. Think of training regimes as set in stone
Unsurprisingly many brands want to get footage or photography of us doing something active and often request this. Be mindful that asking an athlete to do this is similar to us doing an extra training session, which can disrupt our meticulously planned regime. My way around this is to allow brand reps to attend training sessions.
My agent always stipulates that the session will be as normal with no disruptions, so that my training isn’t affected. To be honest, I’m actually happy to do a few extra things if I’ve got the time and it isn’t too strenuous. However a slight bug bear of mine is when I am asked to do a jump from a full approach. Now this is specific to triple jump, however it’s likely similar situations could occur in other sports. A jump from a full approach (40 meters) is extremely intense on the body and takes so much power and adrenaline that I’d never do this outside of a competition. For example, up to 22 times my bodyweight goes through my leg when I land a phase. It’s always clearly stated beforehand that I won’t do this but some brand reps ask anyway. It’s really cheeky and makes it a bit awkward.
My advice here is let the athlete choose what type of activities they do. If you really want to make requests, either check with an agent or research it first. It sounds obvious but it might not be as simple as they make it look.
5. Factor in lead times for robust testing
I take my endorsements very seriously and I would never promote something that I haven’t tested myself. It goes without saying that if it’s some kind of food or drink, it must be drugs tested. Being on Instagram and other social channels means that people can ask questions about products instantly and I want to make sure I can give genuine answers. I can’t do that without a rigorous review. For brands it’s important to make sure this is factored into plans. If you’re expecting coverage a week after posting out your samples, you could be disappointed.
I take my endorsements very seriously and I would never promote something that I haven’t tested myself.
6. Don’t underestimate your product
Not all athletes can be Michael Phelps. For some it can be tough to earn money and to keep sponsorship going. So don’t forget that athletes will appreciate the value of your product. Many things sportspeople require are costly. Even little things like gym gear and protein really add up when you get through it as quickly as I do. Don’t be shy to engage with an athlete, simply because you don’t have a big budget. The value of a product can be a huge draw in itself.
7. Use direct messages for speedy interaction
There's no need to be scared to use social media to get in touch with athletes. Everyone is different but I personally use Twitter and Instagram most days - so slide into those DM’s! I always check my direct messages and I’m happy for brands to reach out to me there. It’s speedy and less formal than an email.
If you’ve been following this series, we’d love to know what you think.