Reebok is building an in-house influencer team

Reebok has widened the scope of influencers it works with (@fitwithasd)

Reebok is in the process of building an internal team dedicated to bridging the gap between its marketing team and digital influencers.

The sportswear brand has already employed a senior manager of influencer marketing and operations in Purvi Patel, who joined at the tail end of 2017 from the marketing department of footwear company Sperry. She is now working on building a team dedicated to handling and developing Reebok’s dedicated digital influencer marketing campaigns.

The brand had previously juggled its work with bloggers, vloggers and Instagram personalities between its celebrity-focused entertainment team and athlete-focused partnerships team. Patel was hired to “really centralise efforts for digital influencers – people who make their living off the internet”.

Patel was in charge of launching Sperry’s influencer strategy and is well-versed in the language of marketing, PR and content creation. She implements Reebok’s global strategy but also executes it in in the US.

“I get briefed by our US marketing team ... and I come back with recommendations as to the program, what it should look like, the types of people we work with and the vetting [process],” she said. It means she is responsible for translating marketing campaigns onto influencers’ Instagram grids and YouTube videos.

“It comes down to something as simple as [marketing] saying: ‘this is our commercial colorway, we want all our influencers wearing this colorway’, and I'm like ‘no – you’ve got to let them have their creative freedom of picking whatever colour they want, as long as it's the product you want to promote,” she explained.

“[It’s about] being less prescriptive ...and showing that we want to make sure that this influencer likes the product and potentially – in a best case scenario – continues to wear it without any kind of sponsored post.”

Patel has also expanded the scope of influencers Reebok works with. The brand’s performance category would previously only interact with those that fell neatly into the ‘fitness influencer’ category; now, it engages more generalised lifestyle and fashion personalities for whom fitness is an important – but not all-consuming – part of life.

Despite plans Reebok’s plans to hire internally, Patel believes her team will continue to work with agencies. The sheer volume of influencers Reebok engages – from movie stars such as Gal Gadot right down to a swathe of microinfluencers with jobs outside of social media – means that the brand will likely always need external support when it comes to implementing and monitoring creator campaigns.

“It's impossible to work individually with the hundreds of influencers that we work with, so we work with a lot of different tools and agencies to make sure they're pre-vetting lists before they even come to us,” she said. “It’s a constantly evolving landscape. For instance, some of the tools we were using got almost totally wiped out when Instagram put a big restriction on their API.”

On top of their platform expertise, brand experience and ability to test new ways of works, Patel believes her agency partners are vital to the daily running of campaigns.

This includes the nitty gritty operations: pulling up contracts, payments, deadlines and “all that stuff that is ... really tough to do 100% in-house when you're working at a gigantic global company like Reebok,” said Patel.

Patel was speaking at Activate’s annual influencer marketing summit, Collab.

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