Women's soccer star Megan Rapinoe Photo: Wasserman

Sports and entertainment agency Wasserman is launching a new partnership with advertising agency Giant Spoon to bring companies the ability to leverage the followings of individual athletes for social marketing, as opposed to sponsoring a specific team or sporting event.

The latest: The partnership kicks off today in Los Angeles with a co-branded "Off the Court Summit" featuring Olympians, professional athlete, marketers, and sports executives. 

  • The digital marketplace created by Wasserman, called the "Athlete Exchange," will be used by Giant Spoon moving forward to help the agency's big-name brand clients, which range from companies like GE to MassMutual, tap into the followings of athletes big and small. 

Why it matters: It's a significant step in helping to elevate athletes as individual influencers, apart from their teams.

  • In the past, lesser-known athletes were less likely to be sponsored, even if their interests or mission were aligned with that of a certain brand.
  • For example, a company that cares about veterans issues can use data from Wasserman's data file of 1800 athletes to identify an athlete that may be a veteran and have a strong social following of people that care about veterans issues. 
  • "This is a court-side seat for brands into sports, culture, and the audiences that surround it," says Laura Correnti, Partner at Giant Spoon.

The big picture: Sports marketing can be expensive, especially if a brand wants to align themselves with a high-profile team or player.

  • Marketers spent $10.3 billion on sports advertising on TV in the US in 2017, and $3 billion on TV playoff advertising across the four major sports leagues in 2018. But over $17 billion is currently allocated to endorsement deals, with 70% of those dollars going to the top 100 athletes. 

The bottom line: "Athletes are more engaging and reach more fans than ever before, yet are currently underutilized in the digital marketing space,” says Jennifer van Dijk, Executive Vice President, Athlete Exchange at Wasserman. 

Go deeper: The power of social media influencers is shrinking

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