Reebok’s Gigi Hadid partnership is its latest influencer marketing push

Reebok has linked up with popular model Gigi Hadid to be the new face of its #PerfectNever campaign, which initially launched in July this year with mixed martial arts athlete Ronda Rousey.

Partnering with Hadid makes sense: she’s the model of the moment. From her partnerships with fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, to modeling in fashion weeks around the world, Hadid has 27.3 million followers on Instagram and 3.1 million followers on Twitter, which Reebok can now tap into. Hadid’s three Instagram posts about the new partnership announced Tuesday, has already garnered 3.2 million likes collectively, compared to Reebok’s single Instagram post on its main account, which got 53,6000 likes. The photo on its “Reebok Women,” account got 53,000 likes.

@reebok @reebokwomen #PerfectNever #BeMoreHuman

A photo posted by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on

“For many of them it may be the first time they’ve engaged with Reebok,” Dan Mazei, the brand’s newsroom senior director said about Hadid’s followers. Reebok has combined social media, content and PR teams into a “newsroom” of 17 people. “They may have outdated perceptions of what we stand for, so it’s not just an opportunity to reach an enormous group of people, it’s about creating one to one relationships,” through Hadid, Mazei said.

In the past two years, Reebok has worked to reposition itself in the market. It shed partnerships with sports leagues like NBA and NFL, and launched a new marketing campaign, #BeMoreHuman, to focus solely on fitness. The move involved targeting new consumers, new categories like yoga, dancing, running and combat training and new partnerships. Social media played a key part in this shift.

Reebok’s social media strategy spans Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. To cut through the crowded and competitive market that fitness and athleisure has become on social media, Reebok plans to create one to one partnerships with consumers on social media, particularly through influencers said Mazei. Creating one on one partnerships means Reebok’s eight person social media team responds to every individual comment or tweet, which can range from where to buy product to seeking advice on uncomfortable sneakers, Mazei said. It’s Twitter bio reads: “Tweet Us, we’ll Tweet back.”

Reebok refocused its Instagram strategy over the past two and a half years. Just a year ago, it had paid off, with it seeing an 8000 percent growth in engagement numbers. This year, growth slowed slightly. Between January and October its Twitter users grew 3.6 percent and on Facebook, it gained one million followers, an increase of 24 percent. On Instagram, it’s number of followers increased by 54.7 percent, to 828, 326, according to social media analytics firm, Unmetric.

Its Instagram pages are split into three: Reebok, Reebok Women and Reebok Classics. The Instagram feeds are a mix of Reebok product, photos of fitness competitions from running to weight lifting, and short videos on consumers and fitness trainers doing burpees, for example, and followers are encouraged to video themselves doing burpees, upload it to Instagram and tag #burpeethon. Over on Snapchat, the platform is used for product reveals, and for behind the scenes at events like CrossFit. The brand is also exploring how it can tap into its influencers’ loyal Snapchat audiences, too.

Reebok recently partnered with Australian fitness influencer Emily Skye, who claims 9 million social followers follow her for nutrition and exercise programs on YouTube. The partnership with Skye includes a collaboration on shoes, due to hit stores next year. “This generation is all about experience. It’s less about going to the gym and logging lonely miles on a treadmill,” said Inga Stenta, Reebok’s senior director of global brand management. “It’s going to a park to exercise with friends or in a living room with Emily Skye’s video.”

But as influencer marketing has rapidly grown, it hasn’t come without tensions, with one expert describing it as the “Wild Wild West,” in terms of the prices now being paid.

In its 2015 the Adidas group (Reebok’s parent company) reported Reebok’s sales had increased by six percent. Mazei said when it comes to sales, social media is at the top of the funnel and is used to increase awareness and how people view the brand. While Gigi Hadid’s values and view of fitness as part of her wider well-being align with the brand, the ideal situation is to try to turn her huge social following, as well as Reebok’s social followers, into buyers.

“At the end of the day we’re here to sell product, but we’re not going to be a brand that’s selling to you on social, we’re here to build relationships,” Mazei said.

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