Brands Taking a Creative Approach at Influencer Marketing

As a follow up on my presentation I wanted to dive a little deeper into why I think influencer marketing is only going to increase in the coming years.  We will see brands investing more into online personas who connect at a deeper level with target audiences. “74% of customers say they are most influenced in their purchasing decisions by others’ referrals.”  The benefit is that almost everyone has access to social media whether it be vlogs on YouTube or Instagram stories today. 65% of brands planned to increase influencer budgets in 2021. American’s on average people spend about 5.4 hours a day on their mobile devices.  As I mentioned in class, it was very interesting to find the micro influencers were getting the most engagement on social platforms- meaning more people were interacting with their posts (liking, commenting, ect). One issue brands discuss is making sure the content seems authentic and non-scripted which is why many brands allow for influencers to to take creative direction in what they post.

This had me thinking more about the overall adoption of influencer marketing we are seeing on social platforms across big name brands.  I thought I’d dive deeper into a few large campaigns and how they are utilizing influencer marketing to spread brand awareness/ drive sales with authentic voices:


This brand is doing a great job promoting their brand on social platforms using both celebrities and micro influencers.  They have run ad campaigns with people across all areas from TV, to movies, to sports to singers.  A few examples of influencers used are Selena Gomez, Lionel Messy, Mesut Özil, Naomi Campbell, Paul Pogba, Mohamed Salah, Javier Chicharito and many more.

They were early to the adoption of this type of marketing and ran a very successful campaign in 2015 which involved the use of the hashtag #MyNeoShoot which was targeted a younger audience. This was a contest that encouraged everyday users to post Adidas inspired Instagram posts using the hashtag.  The users who posted the best content were invited to attend a professional photo shoot to promote the brand.  This really got a big buzz going online and grew Adidas sales that year by ~25% while Nike shrunk by ~9%.  This shows how the free quality content posted by users can save brands money and have a further reach than other types of typical marketing.  Adidas’ branded hashtag #MyNeoShoot had over 71,000 mentions and the Adidas Neo Instagram page gained 41,000 new followers as a result of the campaign.  Overall this is an early on success story with influencer marketing and we saw many brands follow suit after this and the industry constantly grow year over year since 2015.

Instagram Marketing Case Study: Adidas' #MyNeoShoot


Walmart is running a new influencer campaign using micro influencers.  They are actually using their employees and encouraging posting on Tik Tok and Instagram.  The program is small now but it looking to expand to 1.5M associates.  Currently the program is run on an app called spotlight.  On the app campaigns are posted that are themes and influencers can post on there own social to promote.  The app has a ranking system on number of interactions and the highest ranking posts (based off the algorithm) have set earnings.  For example in a recent challenge for the brand Hover-1, the top prize is $1,000.

This is an example of a brand using social media to bring authentic voices to their products.   

Walmart has also run a recent influencer campaign in partnership with Feeding America called “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” This enlisted 7 influencers to spread the word that each post and promised to donate $0.90 for every like, share or #FightHunger comment on  the posts.  This generated a large buzz and had an engagement rate of 23% and over 3 million likes.

Inside Walmart's army of employee TikTok influencers

Gym Shark:

This is a brand that utilizes influencer marketing by sponsoring many athletes and sending them free products.  They encourage customers to post on social media by spotlighting top influencers on their web page.  This allows for free advertisement and increased following for both the influencers themselves as well as the Gym Shark brand.  This is what the real driver of the growth of this business which originally was a small company to today a $1B business using this marketing technique.

How Influencer Marketing Made Gymshark a Million Dollar Business

These are three examples of brands of different sizes really thinking of new ways to use influencer marketing.  I think going forward we will see brands taking different approaches discussed such as competitions, social causes, and incentives to inspire customers to create their own content and drive the spread of the word on social platforms.

Are there other brands that you see using influencer marketing differently?  Are there other trends that you are beginning to see while using social media that we will see more in 2021?  With more brands adopting social influencers for campaigns in order to get recognized brands will need to begin to get creative to get noticed.


  1. ritellryan · ·

    Awesome follow up to your presentation! I would be very curious to know if the GenY/Z demographic is what drove the sales in Adidas. Obviously it is so difficult to know if a marketing campaign is successful and what the ROI is on it, but I think one could draw a pretty strong correlation between marketing on platforms geared towards younger customers and their increases. While I am not active on social media, it is obvious that it is a great way to drive sales. However, as you mentioned in your questions at the end, the more saturated this becomes the more creative companies will have to be. I look forward to hearing how these micro-influencers get more creative to drive their respective brands.

  2. abigailholler1 · ·

    Great presentation this past week, Alex! After class, I looked further into how COVID has impacted the success of influencer marketing. To your point above, people are spending a ton of time on their phones, and much of that time is spent on social media apps / content consumption. But the really unique aspect of COVID, is that while influencer engagement is on the rise, the cost of influencer marketing has ben relatively stable. Specifically, a Forbes article I was reading quoted a ~50% increase in comments on influencer posts and a ~70% increase in ‘likes’, compared to only a 3% increase in influencer pricing. Much of these increases in content interaction was driven by the fact that influencers were able to tailor content to be more ‘pandemic appropriate’ – i.e. more posting from home, and a focus on health and wellness. I think this is another huge benefit of influencer marketing: the ability to quickly pivot to more suitable marketing content based on a specific audience’s desires. This provides a unique opportunity for companies to stay nimble and cut out lead times that traditional marketing practices (i.e. commercials, billboards, photoshoots, etc.) are accustomed to. Thanks for your post!

    Forbes article:

  3. marissaspletter · ·

    Your presentation did a great job introducing the class to influencer marketing! This article supports your enthusiasm towards the growing integration of influencer marketing. Your examples show how influencer marketing can fit into any companies marketing campaign with unique approaches. I’ve seen GymShark campaigns but didn’t realize the extent of the companies success.

  4. sayoyamusa · ·

    Great follow-up post! Your presentation was highly informative that I just wanted to hear more about the specific examples. The combination of the presentation and the blog has made your argument perfect!
    I thought influencers should be celebrities or someone who has many followers, but I was wrong. The idea of using micro influencers including the own employees like Walmart is an eye-opener to me. I’ve found this tactic matches beautifully with advocacy marketing, which should be integrated to a whole digital marketing strategy. Another thing I’m curious about is how to manage the risks. As a marketer, I used to be cautious about using social media as a promotion tool because an influencer marketing can be a notorious stealth marketing if you make a mistake with just one step. Yet I appreciate that your post and presentation have made me think I need to become more familiar with sophisticated methods.

  5. This post was a great follow up to your presentation last week because my biggest takeaway was that micro influencers were actually more impactful than the celebrities. I wanted to know more about larger brands using micro influencers and this post did exactly that. I thought the item you had about Walmart using their workforce as micro influencers was really interesting. It seems like a win-win scenario where the employees could win money but the company could also spread its brand awareness. I will be looking for more companies to do this in the future as well.

  6. therealerindee · ·

    Great follow up to your presentation, and I definitely think influencers are here to stay. I have noticed Adidas doing a fantastic job utilizing social media. I mean, Beyonce basically posted her entire new line with them exclusively through social media and it was spectacular (obviously). I think it will be interesting to see if influencers can drive the same kind of sales that celebrities attached to larger brands drive. I constantly see former Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants advertising some new brand and product but because I know that’s their whole purpose as influencers it doesn’t push me to buy it. This is probably a just me problem as I know the generations below me are much more attached to influencers and because of this I think companies will need to get on board, if they aren’t already, and spend on influencer ads.

  7. olivia_levy8 · ·

    Great job on your presentation and this blog complements it nicely as well. I think that influencers and specifically micro-influencers are a great way to bring authenticity to a brand and their products. One company that stood out to me in this blog is Gymshark, I think they do a great job at partnerships with influencers that align to their company values and have the audience that the company wants to target. Lululemon also does this in an interesting way that I would possibly call even micro-er than micro-influencers by having a Sweat Collective program, in which they provide discounts to fitness instructors, referees, etc. as they are key opinion leaders in the sweat community that Lululemon intends to reach. I think this is a great idea to give back to those who are working in the sweat community Lululemon promotes and they are getting those who embrace their vision to wear there clothing as well.

  8. Jie Zhao · ·

    Awesome blog and great presentation last week! It’s crazy to think that some of the biggest brands in the world (Walmart and Adidas) are moving away from using big celebrities and now using “normal” people/influencers to sell their brands, all because of the power of social media. I’ve been seeing a lot of celebrities are now starting their YouTube channel, which I assume they’re seeing how much of the following Youtubers are getting and starting their channel will be necessary to become more personable and build their digital platform. I remember back in undergrad, a few of my friends were “brand ambassadors” (Keds and Coca Cola), who would host campus events and give out free merchandise to promote the brands. I feel like once things go back to normal, we’re going to see more of these brand-sponsored events on campus as they seem to be very effective! Thanks for the post!

  9. shaneriley88 · ·

    Well done, Alex. This post, much like your presentation, was very balanced, professional, and informative. I was fascinated and honestly quite delighted to learn that micro-influencers have such a strong influence on this marketing channel. Your post caused me to pull out my copy of Aaker on Branding by David Aaker from John Fisher’s Brand Management class. Chapter 11 leads off with a quote, “It is useless to tell a river to stop running: the best thing is to learn how to swim in the direction it is flowing” – Anonymous I feel that micro-influencing does just this. Micro-influencers are a bespoke way to access this “customer sweet spot,” as Aaker calls it. I’ve always been more apt to (though I can’t recall ever doing it) comment on a post if it’s from a more relatable source. Some brands like LL Bean take it a step further with their “Be An Outsider” campaign. One could argue that LL Bean essentially enlists the outdoors as a quasi influencer of sorts by association.

  10. lisahersh · ·

    Great job presenting last week, Alex! And thank you for delving deeper into some more use cases here. I agree with you that influencer marketing is only going to become more prevalent as more and more of the population gets on social media. One thing I’ve read about is how many influencers, particularly micro-influencers, are pretending to produce sponsored content. As influencer status can often be tied to the promotion gigs they receive, there’s been a dramatic uptick in the number of fake sponsored posts, which are not only unsupported by the brand but are sometimes seen as detrimental to the brand’s image and messaging. Do you have any thoughts on if marketing teams should try to curtail this practice or how they might approach this issue?

    Here’s an excellent article on the topic if you’re interested:

  11. Scott Siegler · ·

    You’ve done a really good job covering the ins and outs of influencer marketing, and even though I’ve already been focused on this type of initiative in my role at work, I feel like I’ve come away with a sharper perspective thanks to your research, presentation, and blog post. An up and coming trend that goes hand in hand with influencer marketing that I’ve noticed lately is affiliate marketing. To me, this feels like the same idea as influencer marketing but it has a different compensation model where influencers can share links and get paid a commission based on the number of people who click the link that go on to convert and make purchases. Influencer marketing is here to stay, and I think brands will continue to get more and more creative like this in how they set up and run these types of campaigns.

  12. williammooremba · ·

    Really interesting post and a great compliment to your presentation. One thing I have just recently had an experience with is influencer marketing impacting talent acquisition. A couple of weeks back I was at a virtual career fair looking at different information session to attend. One of the company’s name I recognized but I wasn’t initially sure why. After double checking a few things, it turns out they had sponsored an episode of a show by a youtuber I regularly watch. Interestingly that sponsorship is I believe the only instance of their advertising that I had seen. I attended their information session heavily based on the fact they supported a creator I enjoyed. I personally was surprised how much that endorsement set the company apart in my mind. I think micro influencers could be a very big impact on advertising for talent, especially for smaller companies.

  13. changliu0601 · ·

    Interesting post. The social media is changing way of marketing.In China, through tick tock, the ‘lipstick king’ Li Jiaqi who has 40 million fans raised more than 145 million dollars in sales on single day.Luxury brands even movie tickets make money by selling goods through his live streaming platform.He is even more valuable to the brand than most of the celebrities.

  14. Great presentation and the follow-up post! Influencer marketing is so popular nowadays specifically in China. Tons of people in China actually start building their accounts to gain influencers and followers with a series of stories in the videos/pictures they post, then start promoting products after gaining a certain amount of followers. Besides, live streaming is also very popular in China. With the combination of live streaming and influencer marketing, an industry and business chain is created that people even start companies specifically for building social media accounts and promoting products. However, there were problems associated with it, one crucial part is making sure the authenticity and quality of the products they are promoting. If the products they promote have certain problems, then their reputation would go forever, and sometimes even they are liable for the product they promote, and they may get legal charges for problematic products.

  15. courtneymba · ·

    I loved your presentation and enjoyed your follow up post as well! It is amazing how effective those micro-influencer (“regular person”) campaigns are, and how companies are shifting to those models and less to celeb endorsements. I’m such a sucker for those campaigns if I feel like the person is like me, but I don’t identify nearly as strongly if I see a celeb promoting.

  16. Divya Jha · ·

    Thanks for sharing, Alex! I have to agree with you, influencer marketing is only going to get a bigger share of the ad budget as the years go by. I think consumers typically find influencers more relatable and reliable than celebrities, because they’re still ‘regular folk’ or at least they all started like that. Most people know that celebrity endorsement posts are written by their social media managers and not the celeb themselves. But a lot of people don’t and are possibly heartbroken to find that out, resulting in a loss of trust. Influencers are strong content creators. The kind of content they share, showing how they use a product or service in their daily lives is more ‘attainable’ and reliable. A huge part of their followers almost trust them as friends. It makes total sense for brands to increasingly recognise this shift.

  17. kellywwbcedu · ·

    What a cool world we live in! Social media and specifically Instagram, are where all the eyes are at these days so it only makes sense to advertise there. I think there is a much more tangible feeling when you see an influencer advertise a product because you feel you can relate to that person. If I see Lebron James advertising something it is hard for me to relate because he is so different than me. The biggest advantage that micro influencers have is their relatability and I think companies will look to explore this form of marketing more and more.

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