Redefining influence: Empowering lives through storytelling in sport

I have to admit I was pretty sceptical of influencer marketing at first. Being someone who’s had to work with social marketing agencies and various influencer networks over the years, I’ve always felt it was a mere numbers game and that it is difficult to establish actual authentic meaningful engagement.

That beyond short-term successes with impressive numbers on a report card there is little to substantiate long-term efficacy since campaign tactics that are used are often short-term, and tied closely to a given product’s life cycle.

Also Read: SportSG’s announcement of the Sport Ambassador & Influencer initiative here

So it was hugely ironic that when I was tasked with our Content Lab@Sport team to look into developing a more sustainable model for SportSG’s content strategy over the next 5 years, given our limited resources, that we ultimately arrived back at the word ‘influencer’.

Kerstin Ong and Samantha Low SportSG ambassadors and influencers
Finalising the legal paperwork. Kerstin and Samantha pose with their contracts after signing on for the first term of the initiative.

But this is not to be defined in the same breadth as modern day influencership as I mentioned above. Though given the inter-twining and social nature of our work, it is impossible to totally disassociate ourselves from it either.

The key then lies in marrying the two, and redefining what influence actually meant for us here at SportSG. This was an opportunity for us to reframe “influencership” and to chart our own path in the right direction.

We also knew from studies of consumer behaviour, that people hated to be advertised to these days, so we were intent on breaking away from in-your-face marketing tactics and explore a more subtle yet authentic approach.

Also Read: Harbans J Singh’s Thought Leadership piece ‘From awareness to advocacy’ regarding this Sport Ambassador and Influencer initiative here

SportSG Ambassadors and Influencers John Yeong Samantha Low Gary Yang
myActiveSG show hosts and presenters. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

How then could we best create and harness the kind of influencers that align with our vision to produce fun, entertaining, and engaging content for our audiences? Content that is compelling enough to spark the kind of purposeful online conversations we are actually looking for, in order to bring the Vision2030 narrative to life? This, taking into consideration the multitude of operational and situational factors that are always at play.

I am thankful that over the past 12 months, with the help of our agency Gyro in co-conceptualising this framework, we are finally able to start the ball rolling with the first run of this initiative. It is a first-in-public sector attempt, so we are only right to be cautious. But as they say, without risks there can be no innovation.

TeamSG Laura Tan Shaheed Alam Kerstin Ong
Team Singapore represent. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

Selecting the people who are the right fit to be our storytellers proved way more challenging than we first thought. The process included careful study of each potential candidate’s social profiles with our agency, sometimes for months, before mapping them onto our forecasted initiatives and their projected roll-outs.

And what of our choice of sport ambassadors and influencers? What do we deem to be more critical than things like number of followers, reach, and having a camera-friendly face? To me it’s pretty straightforward: a heart of service, a compelling personality, an aptitude for sparking online engagement, and the right values to become our living brands.

SportSG ambassadors and influencers group photo
Laura all smiles for the camera as she is happy that she isn’t standing beside ‘Jonathan’. I kid. She is mean but not that mean. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

We wanted people who shared in our common belief, and want to use their influence for something that is greater than themselves. Not the ones who constantly asked us what’s in it for them.

Which is why even though some of our first batch of candidates may not arrive with a follower-count of jaw-dropping proportions (a couple of them intentionally do not wish to grow their following), but it matters little to us; as our true interest lie in the quality of organic online conversations they bring to their existing communities, and the ripple effects that come after.

This I believe, matters much more than follower-count and impressive numbers of likes which those who are less digitally savvy or clued-in are typically more drawn to or buy-in to at first.

team nila volunteers ambassadors influencers randall wu jannah monjiat
Our two beloved sport volunteers from Team Nila. I am hopeful we will meet more of such cool volunteers in subsequent runs of this initiative. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

There are afterall plenty of opportunities for us to work with our ambassadors regularly on our shows and platforms for their exposure to the masses eventually, where numbers and public awareness of who they are is concerned.

And so I look forward to working closely with this team, and God-willing if I stay in the same role, with subsequent batches that come later on as well. To creatively storytell together and produce good content for SportSG’s platforms.

SportSG Ambassadors and Influencers candid shot.
Candid shot while waiting for a group photo to be taken. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

All our Facebook LIVEs, Sport 101s, Reality Series game shows, short films, promotional and teaser videos, blog posts, and lifestyle feature content can now finally start to make sense to those who previously may not have known the background and true purpose of our work.

They are, each and every one of them, necessary pieces of a much bigger jigsaw. An integral part of a deliberately thought-out content strategy, and not just random calls we make for event coverage or ad-hoc activations as a means to profile ourselves.

Those who have truly seen our real work behind-the-scenes will know just how difficult it is to be part of any single activation, let alone to orchestrate and chart multiple journey threads and customised narratives across all our events and initiatives such that they all make sense for the public.

Not that I am complaining, as it is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to see the fruits of our labour finally fall into place. We do hope that the sacrifices that are made today can eventually help SportSG reap the benefits in the medium to longer term.

GroupPhotoonPhone.jpg
Camera taking a photo of another camera taking a photo. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

For now it’s off to Lombok for me for the next few days. Time to spend some much needed quality time alone with myself and our divine creator, whom I have neglected amidst the busyness.

Work for now, can wait.

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