How Gregg Popovich Can Help Your Influencer Marketing Program

The NBA Playoffs are here, or as I call it, “The time of year I actually start paying attention to professional basketball”. A regular season chock full of daily practices, sweatbands, locker room fights, team-building exercises, and gatorade (among other things) all comes down to which team can pull it together in the end. It’s an exciting time to be a basketball fan.

This year, a few surprising teams joined the fray, prompting intermittent NBA fans to investigate when exactly Charlotte got a franchise again. Joining these surprise teams are the “regulars”; teams that make the playoffs so consistently that the league bartender keeps a running tab and doesn’t need to take their order anymore (“A pint of “Second Round action”, shot of “Conference Finals”, and a side of “Championship Trophy” coming right up!”). The OKC Thunder and Miami Heat are in the class that everyone expected to make the postseason. But perhaps most prominent of this group of habitues (the Norm Peterson of NBA playoff teams, if you will) are the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs have firmly planted themselves as a championship contender every season of this millennia. Think about that. While most teams withstand the normal ebb and flow of success and failure (intertwined with the almost inevitable “rebuilding phase”), the Spurs have sustained a level of consistency unparalleled in the league. They are the tortoise of the NBA – not the fastest or the quickest (and a bit wrinkly), but slowly and steadily competing for a championship every year. Since 1997, they have never missed the postseason, won over 50 regular season games 16 times, and won 4 NBA championships (and let’s be honest, they should have won the championship last year too). Spurs Records Year by YearNearly two decades of success? That’s just not supposed to happen in professional sports and it’s a testament to the true professionals involved. Not belittling the accomplishments of management or the players, many point to the steady tutelage of their head coach, Gregg Popovich. Popovich (aka “Pop”) has brought a culture of professionalism and accountability to the organization, and they have prospered. Outside of Texas, his track record has earned him respect and admiration around the league as well (so much so, that when faced with a difficult dilemma, many young NBA coaches ask themselves, “What would Pop do?”). Truth be told, we could all learn a little something from the 2014 Coach of the Year.

In this author’s humble opinion, leading a successful sports team is similar to building a successful influencer marketing program (why else would this be in the Traackr blog?). It requires forward-thinking, strategy, and a sound game plan. Thus, here are 3 qualities of Coach Pop that can help your Influencer Marketing program:

1) Authenticity – Pop is known around the league for his uncompromisingly forthright, “call it like I see it” personality. If you don’t believe me, just watch one of his in-game interviews. Though at times incredibly blunt, Pop’s players and colleagues respect and respond to his no-nonsense coaching style. Unabashed honesty, albeit occasionally offensive, evokes a feeling of authenticity.

Authenticity is also key to a sound influencer engagement strategy. Rather than reaching out to influencers with cold, generic email pitches, instead try creating a relationship with them on social. Converse with them on Twitter. Tweet a relevant blog post they just published. Interact with influencers around the topic you’re both interested in. This behavior shows that you think more of them than “just another blogger” that can boost awareness; that you’re also passionate about the topic itself. This is what it means to authentically approach and pitch an influencer.

2) Think outside of the box – Popovich has been known to make decisions that some consider unconventional or unpopular. For instance, Popovich and the Spurs were once fined $250,000 for sending his best players home before the last game of a 6-game road trip. Pop wanted to rest his aging players and to save them for a run in the playoffs – They ended up making it to the Finals. He doesn’t hesitate to make decisions he feels will increase their chances of success.

Similarly, your Influencer Marketing strategy needn’t be another cookie-cutter program in order to achieve your goals and objectives. This is your chance to get creative. Put together a fun interview series that includes the top influencers in your space. Organize an event and invite your influencers to share their expertise. Influencers are more likely to respond to originality than generic pitches and initiatives.

Oh, and if you’re looking for some good ideas, look no further.

3) Respect and nurture your superstars – While many players have contributed to the overall success of the Spurs, a few stars (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, among others) have shined the brightest. They are the anchor of the franchise, steadying the ship in times of turmoil, and propelling forth a culture of accountability for new players joining the team. Pop and the organization recognize and appreciate their contribution. Existing is a mutual respect between player and organization, and an understanding that doing their job will be beneficial for both parties.

The same can certainly be true for Influencer Marketing. A select group of influencers can move the needle for your business. While it can be exciting to form strong relationships with influencers, it’s important to keep the bond as mutually beneficial as possible. Be careful not to cross the line of asking too much from your influencers. Here at Traackr, we like to preach the mantra “Give, Give, Get”, and that’s a good rule to live by. A feeling of reciprocity on both sides should always exist in your influencer relationships.

When you next face a dilemma with your Influencer Marketing program remember to ask a simple question: What would Pop do?