Award-Winning Athlete Marketing Case Study: Using NFL Athletes to Create National Brand Awareness & a 369% Sales Lift


Forever Collectibles Inc. (FOCO) is one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of licensed merchandise in the world. They have partnerships with all of the major sports franchises (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc.) as well as entertainment franchises such as DC Comics, Game of Thrones, & Stranger Things. FOCO has traditionally sold most of their manufactured products to a variety of other resellers, for example. However, FOCO recently launched an e-commerce website,, with goals of building FOCO brand awareness and increasing direct to consumer sales. FOCO hired Today’s Business in June of 2019 to help them develop and manage an affiliate marketing program. By July, things were off to a great start and the program was booming. The collaboration between both teams was outstanding and FOCO knew that Today’s Business was ready for the next big challenge.

The Challenge

FOCO has traditionally done well in Q4 due to the popularity of their Holiday Sweaters.

But this year FOCO had two new products, Christmas-themed Pajamas and Hoodeez that they knew would be a hit this year if marketed correctly.

With the successful launch of the e-commerce website and the recent addition of the affiliate program, FOCO was ready to invest in a campaign designed to build the FOCO brand. Here were the challenges that needed to be addressed:

Low Brand Awareness

How can we leverage the holidays and seasonal products to build our brand?

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Athlete/Influencer ROI & Management

How can we get the best bang for our buck using athletes? How can we get athletes to properly fulfill their obligations while they are in the middle of their season?

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How do we differentiate from the other licensed sports merchandisers out there?

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The Solution

With a lot of challenges, FOCO turned to Today’s Business to help create an athlete marketing campaign that could help the brand reach its goals. Knowing the NFL and evaluating the products that FOCO had, we knew that the way to compete here, create a buzz, and see a return on investment we would have to appeal to women and families. In collaboration with FOCO, we created the #FOCOFamily campaign.

First, we analyzed FOCO’s Google Analytics alongside 3rd party data to analyze each team’s fan equity and social equity or how much money they spend on their teams, and how much they support their teams on social. We created a ranking for all of these teams based on this data. Once we had identified what teams should be the main focus we turned to the players. This is where things got a bit more complex.

To help select the player’s we used the Today’s Business NFL player database and reviewed the following metrics:

  • Instagram following by volume
  • Percentage of authentic followers
  • Athlete’s percentage of female followers
  • Instagram posting frequency
  • Family content posting frequency
  • Wife’s Instagram Following
  • # of children
  • Athlete position
Foco Chris Hogan
Foco Graph

By reviewing this information we were able to select the athletes who would produce the best content for the campaign and who would resonate most with our target audience. Also, we knew that by getting families involved this would appeal to athletes who post family content and we would be able to pitch this to our network of athletes as a great opportunity for them to produce great content that their fans would engage with while also getting paid. This method helped us recruit over 100% more athletes than we had guaranteed in our proposal and also helped secure fantastic rates.

Securing the athletes was step one in the campaign but we knew to truly drive results we would need to have the ability to repurpose this content for advertisements. Anybody who is in the social media marketing industry knows that organic reach has been in decline since Facebook updated its algorithm in 2018. Social media is a “pay to play” space for advertisers so we knew that organic reach wouldn’t be enough to move the needle. We made sure we contracted content usage rights for all of our athletes so that we could run advertisements on social media.

We also used the athletes’ images on the website to help increase conversions.

While this campaign was going on we still had our affiliate team working tirelessly bringing everything full circle. We did product placement to get the product featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. We used the content from the athletes to help secure big publishers such as FanSided, SBNation, and more.


The Results

Today’s Business helped FOCO create a huge buzz around these products and this campaign. By Christmas Day, nearly every NFL athlete & their family members had seen our content. This created a “network effect” where athletes and influencers from all leagues were constantly reaching out to Today’s Business plus the FOCO team asking to join the campaign… for free. By having the right product, strategy, timing, and execution we made it so that athletes wanted to post and be a part of the #FOCOFamily campaign. This campaign was declared a “massive success” by the FOCO team creating huge quarterly and year-over-year sales lifts for the brand. Additionally, the campaign helped FOCO win the NFL’s Innovation Award for “executing forward-thinking social marketing campaigns”. Today’s Business also won the 16th Annual Davey Awards Gold Award for this campaign!

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Sales Lift (2019 Q4 Vs. Q3)


Sales Lift (Q4 2019 Yoy)

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