NHL Enters Metaverse With Beyond Sports, Technology Debuts

In 2019, the San Francisco 49ers launched their own influencer program to partner with popular social media personalities for content creation. Since then, the team has created organic content with influencers such as Natalie Aguilar, who creates TikTok videos with her die-hard 49ers’ fan father, the Santa Clara-born rapper Saweetie whose grandfather Willie Harper played for the 49ers, and the popular video game streamer Dr DisRespect who attended a playoff game last season against the Dallas Cowboys.

“People don’t realize that when Gen Z is following these influencers and celebrities, they’re trusting them more than they’re trusting actual brands,” Allie Dicken, the 49ers’ director of brand & influencer marketing, said at Horizon Summit on Wednesday. “Studies have come out that 63% of that audience trusts what an influencer says more than a brand directly.”

Dicken led off Day 2 of SportTechie’s Horizon Summit with a keynote conversation with Maddie Bregman, a 23-year-old founder of the consulting agency Girl Z that helps brands connect with the Gen Z audience. Gen Z is defined as seven to 25 year olds while Millennials are 26 to 41.

“Millennials grew up as technology did — so getting the first iPhone, computer, iPad, all that kind of stuff,” Bregman said. “Gen Z hasn’t known a world where we can’t order a pizza, FaceTime our mom and text a friend at the same time.”

Dicken said that authenticity is paramount when deciding which influencers to partner with, so the team prioritizes working with people who are 49ers fans or have connections to the Bay Area. Videos that Natalie Aguilar and her father recorded at 49ers games last season generated an average of more than 12 million views on TikTok. Dr DisRespect announced a 49ers’ draft pick on Day 2 of this year’s NFL Draft, which ended up being the team’s top performing draft-related video on social media.

“I think that brands and teams in particular, since sports are a little behind the curve, are going to have to prioritize influencer budgets and influencer positions,” Dicken said of how the sports industry must adapt to successfully reach Gen Z. “Right now, influencer [content creation] is something that a lot of places are just throwing at a marketing person having to do that on top of everything else and lot of places don’t see it as a position that warrants its own body.”

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