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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

The Authentic Influencer

"I have no business doing a running commercial. 15 months ago, I was dead."

That's how Marvel actor and "Mayor of Kingstown" star Jeremy Renner began the video he posted to Instagram on May 20, 2024.

And it sure caught my attention.

Renner, of course, is referring to his January 1st, 2023 accident; you may recall hearing about how he was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after being crushed by a snowplow.

My doctor said I would never walk again. They said, "You're never running again. That's not happening."

Yet Renner then goes on to describe how Brooks, the #1 running shoe brand in the adult performance running category in the US in 2022, reached out to him and offered to send him a pair of shoes, thinking they could help with his recovery efforts.

At this point of the video, my natural cynicism kicked in: was the video genuine?

Was it possible that Renner's relationship with the company really began so organically?

According to Fast Company, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes.

The ad feels authentic because it is... The company first reached out to Renner in 2023, once he started posting about his recovery on social media, by mailing him a pair of shoes—which Melanie Allen, CMO of Brooks, says was just about supporting his mission. “The team sends out a lot of gear,” Allen says. “We said, ‘Let’s send him some shoes; if we can help, that’s great.’” They were ecstatic when Renner posted his first run back-and-forth in his driveway, wearing the Brooks Ghost Max they’d sent. Then he began interval training on this treadmill, also wearing Brooks.

Based on Renner's video, he was equally ecstatic:

"I put their shoes on. They have so much cushion in it, it's so good on my joints. It's been a big part of my recovery. Wearing the shoes and running down that driveway, that was a big day for me. It gave me a lot of hope."

One Simple Question

When I've hired influencers in the past, I've used a simple question to help me decide if the person was right for my brand: Would this person use my brand if I wasn't paying them?

Renner's case is a perfect example of an authentic influencer.

Brooks sent a celebrity free gear; there's a cost to doing that, and it's not unreasonable to assume they were hoping for some form of return on that gesture.

But it's probably safe to say that Renner can afford to buy whatever running equipment he prefers to use and that Brooks is savvy enough to understand that the free gear they sent would in no way represent an obligation for Renner to do or say anything about the company, let alone actually use what was sent.

But Renner did decide to use the gear. And he liked it enough to use it while he filmed the "recovery videos" he posted to his social media channels.

And then?

When Brooks began considering people who might become the face of its upcoming brand campaign, according to Fast Company, "the conclusion was obvious. Not only was Renner’s story great, not only did he test well in younger and older demographics in Europe and Asia, he was a sincere fan."

Big-budget brands can usually hire whoever they want to serve as a spokesperson.

And who they should want is an authentic influencer.

Because the best return on an influencer investment will happen when the partnership is about more than just money.


P.S. If you haven't seen Mayor of Kingstown, it's on Paramount+ and it's worth the watch


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