Sports Publicist Shares Marketing Lessons Learned From Working With Brands Such As Nike and Adidas

Cindy Hamilton is a publicist in Chicago who works on brands and projects that inspire people to move more.

Tell me what that means? Give me a little background on your work.
CH: That means I work with entities like the Chicago marathon, Olympians or brands like Nike and Adidas. I've been really lucky to experience the power of this kind of industry. I spent almost 6 years working in communications for Nike and ever since then, I've just been enamored with the idea of being in the space.

What opportunities do you see in the sports space? How did you decide that it was a big enough market for you?
CH: As a PR person, I always say that I'm lucky because I'm not trying to come up with newsworthy opportunities about cheese, toilet paper or paper towels. I don't mean to diminish that because there's lots of really smart marketing people that come up with really compelling campaigns about those products. However, to be able to get out of bed every day and know that I'm going to be storytelling around people that are taking on a challenge like crossing a finish line, that's just really motivating. When I discovered that there was so much content and so many interesting brands in this place, in this space, I just couldn't turn back.

What do these brands see in you that makes them want to work with you?
CH: I think those brands saw in me an appreciation for what they do and an individual who was right there with them on their mission. When I was at Nike, we used to talk about, if you have a body, you're an athlete and it's impossible not to get excited and inspired by that. And so I think they see the authenticity in me. I'm on board with their brand and 100 percent in trenches with them trying to get that message across. 

Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
CH: I always roll my eyes a little bit about influencer marketing, especially now just because I think the space really is changing. A number of years ago, I think it was a little bit different and it more authentic. It used to be that you only had sort of one way to tell your story, and that was through traditional media outlets. Then the world expanded to social and owned media. Brands and companies recognized that and then this other world opened. Individuals now had their own platform. They were folks within specific communities with authenticity and power. People looked up to them. Nike was one of the first companies to recognize that power. When it came to influencer marketing the philosophy of Nike, and the philosophy that I've tried to remember, is to make experiences with influencers really special. You can gift them with products, but inviting them to an event to really experience your brand is gonna be so much more powerful.

Do you have predictions of where you see the space moving towards? How is it different from when it began to now, and for the future?
CH: I think when [influencer marketing] began, it was really local and it was looking at individual cities and individual spaces within the cities. Example, the soccer community within Chicago. Or it was the sportswear, sneaker-heads in New York City. I think since then, as channels have multiplied, you see influencers having more of a reach. They can talk to people outside of their spheres of influence. We might actually see it go back to that, which I think would be a breathe of fresh air. As influencers have more opportunities to tell their story across so many more channels to so many people, their message is becoming diluted and their branding is just not a strong cohesive message. I think we might see, I hope we see, a pendulum shift back to keeping things more local and more concentrated. 

You talk about creating experiences, how do you incorporate that into clients that might not have Nike's budget, what are the core elements that you take in?
CH: Yeah, not everybody has big budgets and big resources, so I think it's pretending that you do, if that makes sense? It's coming to the table with a goal in mind of how you want your customers, your consumers, your influencers, how you want them to feel, and then prioritizing that. If you want them to be magically taken away to something new that only your company can provide, it's really honing in on the one detail that'll do that. Be ruthless about your priorities and then lining your resources against that.

Where do you get your ideas from?
CH: I get my ideas from following other folks in the industry and seeing what they're doing with their clients and what the trades are writing about. I get my ideas from running and seeing what people are doing when they're on the road.  I get my ideas from the types of questions that reporters are asking in press conferences. I get my ideas from reading the publications that I want to get my clients in. I get ideas because I can get a sense of what's of interest to the reporters. And then there's social media accounts and being a stalker, I absolutely get my ideas from that too.

What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
CH: There is enough business to go around and there's no need to fret about not getting a piece of business that you wanted or being jealous of other entrepreneurs who might have the kind of clients that you want. As much as you can, try and relax and know that it will all come your way. Also, hire a good accountant. 

The video portion of this interview rand on July 17, 2017: