Introducing a monthly series with The Goat Agency, which will profile a host of sporting campaigns that the firm has undertaken, InsiderSport sat down with Co-founders, Harry Hugo and Arron Shepherd, who provided a deeper insight into what makes the company tick, as well as the importance of engaging content. 

Entering The Goat Agency head offices, it’s impossible not to be struck by its sheer scale of the agency and the transparent work ethic that the company is seeking to inspire among its staff.

Prior to a lengthy discussion with Harry and Arron, both made it clear that transparency remains one of their key priorities and they were more than happy to answer any questions about the continually evolving world of social influencers.

That openness ultimately led to an insightful and in-depth conversation, in which we discussed the importance of marketing to the correct audience, as well as how the company adapts to different regulations as it continues its global expansion.

The inevitable starting point for our conversation focused on the circumstances that led to the formation of Goat, with Arron detailing that marketing trials and tribulations in their previous role at Sportlobster, had led to the pair unearthing the power of social influencers.

He stated: “In my previous role at Sportlobster, we were essentially leading the marketing at the company. We raised £17.5m and had 2.5m active users, spending money on every different active ad channel in London. We did TV, we had sponsored football clubs, NBA games, billboard ads, we did every single type of programmatic. However, one day in the middle of 2013, we gave a guy that had 2,000 followers on Twitter £10 and asked him to join Sportlobster, post about it and then put the link out on twitter. That’s obviously influencer marketing, but the word influencer didn’t mean what it does now and the results blew our mind.

“We got ten thousand downloads for the £10 we had just spent. To put that into context, the day before that we had Cristiano Ronaldo, who was a headline ambassador for us, a third of all his social content was talking about Sportlobster, he drove about the same amount and we obviously paid him a lot more than £10. This was the first lightbulb moment, where we realised there was value here.”

He went onto reveal how the agency explored more deeply the possibilities of social influencers, discovering in the process that not every influencer would replicate the same results, however expansive their reach was. It underlined, he said, the importance of knowing what type of impact each influencer can have on each market, something they feel they have discovered at Goat, which has allowed the agency to guarantee specific KPIs to clients.

Whilst the Goat Agency has remained loyal to using social influencers, it has also evolved beyond the sports marketing sector, utilising its marketing skills to partner with a whole host of brands. According to Harry, the transition from sports wasn’t as difficult as many would have anticipated. He noted: “The core of it is pretty simple and stays the same. It changes slightly with the way influencers interact with you and with the audience. Sport brands are also far more performance based than a fashion or lifestyle brand that tends to be far more aesthetic.”

Key to Goat’s evolution has been a deep focus on content, with the firm recently launching a podcast to compliment its daily vlog series.

“The podcast landscape is really interesting; in recent years, the length of time that people are listening to podcasts has increased dramatically,” Hugo explained. “We are trying to capitalise on that, highlighting who we are and telling the stories that really interest us. I think we have really seen in the last six months especially, that human brands that tell real and relatable stories are the ones that are winning.”

The podcast follows on from the launch of Goat’s daily vlog, a social offering that Arron couldn’t speak highly enough of. He emphasised: “I don’t see the daily vlog edits before they go out, this is a sort of fly on the wall at Goat. It’s not us saying make us look good here, or record us saying this – what happens, happens.

“Being able to show people what motivates us, what drives us and what our priorities are in life, the fact that I’m married with two kids and Harry is 24 and in a very different part of life. The greater insight people get, the more they trust us. I very much think that is the future of b2b branding, especially off the back of the bad press that influencer marketing has had over the past six months.”

From a personal perspective one of the partnerships that peaked my interest, was Goat’s partnership with the Cricket World Cup. I questioned Harry on how Goat plans to engage the diverse audience the tournament unites, as well as how they aimed to engage both a young and old demographic in one day cricket.

“We’ve been working with the ICC for around two months,” he responded. “We did a lot of work on utilising influencers to push ticket sales for the ballot, which sold out in record time. We also worked with them on the opening ceremony which was super British and amazing. One of the main challenges so far is that we are having engage a lot of different communities from a wide variety of countries.

“We are bringing all these countries together, for what is essentially a festival of sport; it’s all about the experience, bringing together a host of elements from each culture, from food to music. This means we are using a wide variety of influencers to really highlight that different countries and cultures are coming to England for this festival of sport.

“It’s been really interesting, deep diving into the people that are interested in the tournament and exploring engagement amongst the next generation that could be interested in the tournament in 10 years time.”

Emphasising the crucial requirement for the tournament to engage a younger demographic, he continued: “The ICC is so keen to get families and kids involved, because as with all these tournaments, the Olympics, the World Cup and Wimbledon, it’s about legacy and inspiring the next generation. The reason marketing teams are brought in for these tournaments is because they need to see an uplift in grassroots following the tournament. Legacy is a massive part of what we are doing at the tournament.”

A significant market challenge continues to be remaining within regulations, specifically when it comes to global influencer marketing, as no social influencer appeals to a demographic that is solely based in one country.

“Influencer marketing gets a much harder rap on this stuff from a regulatory point of view than any other industries.”

With a footprint in Singapore, New York and London, Arron takes the view that ‘social’ crosses international boundaries in a way that no other form of marketing can. In other words, any marketing that you do with an influencer becomes an international campaign.

When it comes to regulations, Harry revealed that the industry and the regulations are constantly changing, crediting the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who he stated they work very closely with in the process of forming new rules.

“We accept there needs to be regulation, as there needs to be in all forms of life, but they have to be the right ones. I told them in a presentation two months ago that they are governing a 2019 marketing practise in 2016. They’re not moving fast enough. We accept they will be six months behind, but they can’t afford to be three years behind on an advertising practice that’s moving so fast, and they accept that and are working with us to fix that.”

Arron added: “Influencer marketing gets a much harder rap on this stuff from a regulatory point of view than any other industries. Celebrities are posting without disclosing that it’s an ad all the time. If a journalist gets invited to a restaurant and leaves a good review, they don’t have to state it’s an ad; if we sent an influencer to do the same thing, they would have to clearly state it was an ad. Where’s the difference?

“I think a key reason for this is that those controlling the other sets of media are doing everything they can to stop the budget sliding into our type of media. If you own TV stations or newspapers, it’s not in your interest for social media to grow at the pace it is. Some of it is a lack of understanding, but there is also an agenda.”

The monthly series with Goat kicks off next Wednesday, as the agency breaks down its hugely successful Cricket World Cup campaign. 

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