Fitness Influencers. Impact on Purchase Intentions and Attitudes of Instagram Users

Master's Thesis, 2018

102 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of content

I. List of figures

II. List of tables

1. Introduction
1.1 Relevance, research questions and objectives
1.2 Course of investigation

2. Conceptual framework: influencer marketing 5
2.1 Origins, goals and classification in the scientific context
2.2 Types of digital influencers
2.3 Social media platforms
2.3.1 Blogs and micro blogs
2.3.2 Online forums and communities
2.3.3 Social networking sites
2.3.4 Media sharing platforms General information Instagram
2.4 Success factors and limitations of influencer marketing
2.4.1 Overview of success factors and limitations
2.4.2 Influencer-/brand fit

3. Digital fitness influencers in Germany
3.1 German fitness industry
3.2 German fitness influencers on Instagram

4. Purchase decision process and advertising impact of influencer marketing in the German fitness industry
4.1 Influencing factors on purchase behavior
4.1.1 S-O-R-model overview
4.1.2 Promotional posts on Instagram as stimuli
4.1.3 Reference groups
4.1.4 Attitudes
4.2 Purchase decision process
4.2.1 Phases of purchase decision processes
4.2.2 Purchase intention
4.3 Advertising impact
4.3.1 Model overview
4.3.2 Measuring advertising impact: attitudes and purchase intention

5. Empirical analysis
5.1 Objectives and research methodology
5.2 Operationalization of constructs
5.3 Results
5.4 Discussion

6. Recommendations and further steps

7. Summary and outlook

II. Bibliography

Annex 1: pre-survey and results

Annex 2: survey A for the main study, high influencer-/brand fit

Annex 3: survey B for the main study, low influencer-/brand fit

Annex 4: current state of research: digital opinion leaders

Annex 5: current state of research: concept fit

Annex 6: SPSS Results - total

[Note from the editor: Annex 1 and parts of annex 2 and 3 had to be removed due to copyright issues.]

I. List of figures

Figure 1: Course of investigation

Figure 2: Types of digital influencers

Figure 3: S-O-R-model

Figure 4: Connection between activating processes

Figure 5: Pamela Reif - promotional post for PUMA

Figure 6: Types of purchase decisions

Figure 7: Purchase decision making phases

Figure 8: Impact of digital fitness influencers on purchase decision process of fitness shoes

Figure 9: Paradigm of communication by Lasswell - a digital fitness influencer scope, own visualization

Figure 10: Paths of advertising impact for emotional advertisement and high involvement

Figure 11: Methods to measure attitudes

Figure 12: Research design

Figure 13: Steps in the process of elaborating stimulus material

Figure 14: Promotional post of elisaelly.becker from 24th of October 2017

Figure 15: Promotional post of flyinguwe from 20th of November 2017

II. List of tables

Table 1: Differentiation of digital influencers

Table 2: Overview of the hypotheses for the empirical study

Table 3: Distribution of sample within experimental conditions

Table 4: Results of the pre-study

Table 5: Construct source credibility

Table 6: Construct source trustworthiness

Table 7: Construct attitude toward the ad

Table 8: Construct attitude toward the brand

Table 9: Construct purchase intention

Table 10: Reliability test for the constructs

Table 11: Results of the statistical analysis

Table 12: Verification of hypotheses

1. Introduction

1.1 Relevance, research questions and objectives

In the last decades the marketing landscape changed dramatically due to the ap­pearance of internet and web 2.0. Especially social media, which emerged as part of web 2.0, gave new opportunities to consumers to search for and distribute in­formation about products and services (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, pp.5-10; cf. Schiele, Hähner and Becker, 2008, p.4). Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are nowadays important channels for both consumers and business­es. In Germany 72.2% of the population is online daily, spending in average 14 minutes using social media services (cf. Koch and Frees, 2017, p.434; cf. Sev- enOneMedia, 2017a, p.25). Especially amongst younger people these platforms are increasingly important in the purchase decision process (cf. Nielsen, 2017, pp.9-12; cf. Hulyk, 2015, p.32f.). For the first time consumers are able to choose which information about a company they want to receive and can provide opin­ions about brands easily. A shift of power from firm toward consumer took place (cf. Urchs, 2010, p.17f.). Therefore, the marketing communications landscape was deeply affected. The visibility on social media platforms is nowadays an essential driving force of the economic success of companies (cf. Aßmann and Röbbeln, 2013, p.15).

Parallel to technological innovations, consumers changed their reception of adver­tisement. Due to the information overload every person has to face, the skepticism toward traditional forms of advertisement has increased. The trust toward these classic channels decreased drastically during the last decades (cf. Defacto Gruppe, 2008, p.5). On the other hand, 66% of the interviewed people stated in the ‘Niel­sen Global Trust in Advertising survey’ (cf. 2015) that they trust in opinions post­ed online and 34% of German social media users said in a study conducted by Statista (cf. 2017), that they have already bought a product that was recommended by other users. Therefore, companies had to rethink and find new forms of adver­tising. Influencer marketing emerged as an effective tool for social media com­munications. This means that brands use influential persons, called influencers or opinion leaders, to produce, distribute and spread advertising messages to relevant target groups (cf. Brown and Fiorella, 2013, p.18f.). Whereas the usage of offline opinion leaders, e.g. journalists, as brand ambassadors is a widely used technique for decades, the focus of influencer marketing lies on collaborating with digital opinion leaders that are popular on social media (cf. Schüller, 2015, p.120f.). Via the various platforms it became possible for everyone to build up big numbers of followers. Social media stars emerged on channels like Instagram and YouTube. Especially amongst younger audiences these digital influencers are trustworthy and credible sources (cf. Kilian, 2016, p.98f.). As such, companies are highly in­terested in collaborating with them. By sending free products or paying them, companies hope to be recommended. The benefits of influencer marketing are multiplication effects that can be triggered via this form of electronic word-of- mouth (eWOM) and the high level of trust toward the influencers (cf. Cha et al., 2013, p.10). Many companies are already using it, and the budgets for influencer marketing are still growing (cf. Linqia Inc 2016 p.3; cf. Launchmetrics 2017 p.12).

The sports, fitness and health industry became increasingly important in recent years as people try to live healthy and stay in shape. It is already quite common for German brands in this sector to implement influencer marketing campaigns (e.g. cf. Brecht, 2017; cf. John, 2017). Especially Instagram, a social media plat­form that is focused on visuals, became important as it is predestined to depict aesthetics. As such, many German fitness influencers with high numbers of fol­lowers emerged there. The most popular example is Pamela Reif, focused on fit­ness, fashion and lifestyle, who has more than 3.3 million subscribers (cf. Insta­gram, 2017a). Especially amongst younger people Instagram became increasingly relevant and is one of the most important channels for influencer marketing (cf. Bauer Media Group, 2016; cf. Woods, 2016, p.10f.). In Germany it currently has 15 million users (cf. Allfacebook, 2017).

In order to reach defined goals, companies have to consider several success fac­tors when collaborating with digital opinion leaders. The most critical point is to find influencers that fit to the brand. The term fit describes the degree to which one partner is congruent to another one in an alliance (cf. Kapitan and Silvera, 2016; cf. Deutscher Fachverlag GmbH, 2017, p.2).

In order to define whether an influencer campaign on Instagram was successful, it is important for companies to measure the advertising impact of promotional posts of digital influencers (cf. Bell, 2012, p.4). The advertising impact shows to which degree consumer behavior is affected by advertising stimuli. Which determinants are measured, depends on defined goals for the campaign (cf. Kroeber-Riel and Esch, 2015, p.58ff.). Common measured variables are purchase intention and atti­tudes toward source, ad and advertised brand (e.g. cf. Choi and Rifon, 2012).

This thesis has the purpose to gather further insights for the research field of digi­tal influencers and to expand general knowledge in this area. As the topic only emerged in recent years, it has been examined tentatively so far. Especially re­garding influencer-/brand fit and the fitness market there is no scientific data available yet, despite its societal relevance. The collaboration with digital influ­encers is ubiquitous on the German fitness market and still a growing field. Sports, fitness and health are topics that became increasingly important for con­sumers, wherefore an examination of this specific area is of importance for prac­tice. The investigation of digital influencers with a focus on fitness can deliver new insights for this industry.

The general objective of this thesis is based on the following research question:

RQ: Does the degree of fit between digital fitness influencers and advertised brands impact attitudes and purchase intentions of Instagram users?

1.2 Course of investigation

This thesis consists of seven chapters. Figure 1 illustrates the course of investiga­tion. After this introduction the theoretical framework of influencer marketing follows. In this regard origins, goals and classification in the scientific context will be explained first. Afterwards the different types of digital influencers will be presented followed by the different social media platforms. In the end of the chap­ter success factors and limitations of influencer marketing will be outlined with a focus on influencer-/brand fit.

Chapter 3 considers digital fitness influencers in Germany. After introducing the German fitness industry, German fitness influencers on Instagram and their col­laborations with companies will be presented.

In the fourth chapter the theoretical framework for purchase decision processes and advertising impact of influencer marketing in the German fitness industry will be given. In this regard, the influencing factors on the purchase behavior of con­sumers in this industry will be presented with a special focus on promotional posts as stimuli, reference groups and attitudes. Afterwards the purchase decision pro­cess will be explained with a spotlight on purchase intention. In the end of the chapter the concept of advertising impact and measurements for impact on atti­tudes and purchase intention will be shown.

In chapter 5 the empirical analysis will be presented. First, the objectives and re­search methodology will be explained. Afterwards the operationalization of the constructs will be presented, followed by the main results of the analysis. In the end these outcomes will be discussed.

Chapter 6 will give recommendations for practice and theory and will explain further steps. The last chapter will present a summary and an outlook.

2. Conceptual framework: influencer marketing

‘Influencer marketing’ has become a buzzword recently and experts all around the world underline the various benefits of cooperating with influencers. Some sources state that companies received $11.20 in earned media value (EMV) for every $1 paid media spent on influencer marketing in 2016 - a highly increasing value (2014: $6.85). EMV is the media value that can be credited to promotion, sharing on social media, and support through audience engagement (cf. Rhyth­mInfluence, 2016, p.5; cf. Simply Measured, 2015, p.4). As the sources that calcu­late EMV for influencer marketing are mostly influencer marketing agencies, a pro domo effect can be assumed as they try to appear attractive to companies. However, influencer marketing is seen as an effective marketing tool proved through a study of Launchmetrics (cf. 2017, p.5) (n=600, majority from Europe and North America), in which marketers said that it was extremely effective to raise awareness (88%), increase customer loyalty (65%) and generate sales (53%). Influencer marketing is already used by a majority of companies whereas the budgets remained relatively low. Nevertheless, marketers plan to increase finan­cial resources in the near future (cf. Linqia Inc, 2016, p.3; cf. Launchmetrics, 2017, p.12).

In the next subchapter origins, goals and the classification of influencer marketing in the scientific context will be explained.

2.1 Origins, goals and classification in the scientific context

The term ‘influencer’ has its foundations in the noun ‘influence’ which means “causing effect or changing behavior” (Solis, 2016, p.4). There are numerous def­initions of influencers in the literature. Keller, Fay and Berry for instance define them as: “everyday consumers who are substantially more likely than the average to seek out information and to share ideas, information, and recommendations with other people” (2007, p.2). As such, influencers are people that have a high impact on other individuals. In the influencer marketing guide 2016 influencer marketing is defined as: “allow[ing] brands to authentically connect with con­sumers outside of traditional digital advertising channels [...] by leveraging the influence a blogger and/or a platform superstar has on targetable consumer seg­ments.” (RhythmInfluence, 2016, p.3). According to Kreutzer and Land (cf. 2017 p.213) it consists of four tasks:

1) Identification -> who are relevant influencers to reach target groups?
2) Courting -> appreciation of the influencers
3) Motivation -> e.g. with money or free product samples
4) Monetizing -> turn influencers’ actions into revenue for the company

By working with them firms try to exploit the influencers’ impact on its network which can ultimately result in eWOM, where people share content within their own network (cf. Cha et al., 2013, p.10). Therefore, content of a firm can get mul­tiplied- which is why influential people are often called multiplicators. Sugges­tions that are made by digital opinion leaders often lead to a search for and usage of products by their network (cf. Flynn, Goldsmith and Eastman, 1996, p.137f.).

In his book “Return on Influence” Mark W. Schaefer (cf. 2012, p.31) identifies three technological evolutions as driving forces for influencer marketing: cheap or free global access and availability of internet, the emergence of social media tools that give anyone the possibility to publish content and the rise of companies like Klout which developed algorithms to measure and classify influence. The so called web 2.0 - a term introduced by Tim O’Reilly in 2004 - changed the internet from being a pure information source to become a performance and collaboration platform (cf. Schiele, Hähner and Becker, 2008, p.4). All existing definitions ac­centuate that web 2.0 is characterized by a strong participation of internet users (cf. Ahrens and Dressler, 2011, pp.52-55). The classic mass media used to send messages to customers. Thanks to social media, which emerged as part of web 2.0, an exchange could take place for the first time. Internet users have the power to choose which information they want to receive (cf. Urchs, 2010, p.17f.). They are able to create user generated content (UGC) and share information with others. The term ‘prosumer’ describes this new form of consumers producing content (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, pp.5-7). Additionally, attitudes of consumers toward classic me­dia changed dramatically. A study conducted by Defacto (cf. 2008) (n=1,220, Germany) found out that people become increasingly skeptical and confused. A fourth of the interviewed persons stated that they lose track over the mass of in­formation distributed by advertisement. The authenticity of messages published by other consumers is perceived as way higher (cf. Parise and Guinan, 2008, p.1). Word-of-mouth (WOM) - recommendations by other people - always well- trusted by consumers, becomes even more relevant nowadays as a source of in­formation for buying decisions. Not only WOM received by family and friends but also eWOM received online, e.g. via digital opinion leaders. The ‘Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising survey’ (cf. 2015) found out that 66% of consumers trust opinions that are published in the internet, which makes it the third most trusted form of advertising after recommendations from acquaintances and brand­ed websites. People trust digital influencers because they are perceived as authen­tic, credible and trustworthy experts in the area they talk about (cf. Kimmel and Kitchen, 2014, p.6f.). Another important driver of influencer marketing is the in­creasing usage of mobile phones. People spend more time surfing online on their mobile devices and are ‘always-on’. Hence, it is possible to check online reviews or recommendations on social media even when not being home (cf. Schaefer, 2012, p.24). Especially younger people tend to use social media and mobile phones as a predominant source of information (cf. Hulyk, 2015, p.32).

The root of scientific research about social influence is the book ‘The People’s Choice’ by Lazarsfeld, Berelson and Gaudet (cf. 1944). In their study they tested the influence some persons had on others during the American election from 1940. The main takeaways from their work were the development of the opinion leader concept and the two-step-flow of communication. The opinion leader con­cept says that: “in every area and for every public issue there are certain people who are most concerned about the issue as well as most articulate about it “ (Laz- arsfeld, Berelson and Gaudet, 1944, p.49). These individuals influence their peers with their opinions. As the term ‘opinion leader’ is established as a synonym for influencer, it will be used in this thesis, too, even though it is only one type of influencers. The two-step-flow of communication says that opinion leaders func­tion as catalysts between mass media and less interested people. They consume information, process them and distribute them to others. Even though the com­monly used model in communication science is nowadays the multiple-flow of communication, this study was the basis for pursuing works (cf. Potthoff, 2016, p.34). Additionally, Katz and Lazarsfeld (cf. 1955) proved that personal influence and opinion leadership exists in every area and amongst every social group.

Another important theory is the social influence theory by Kelman (cf. 1961). It says that opinion change includes three processes: compliance, internalization and identification. Compliance means that individuals are concerned about social con­sequences a certain behavior has - influencers have power over them by control and surveillance. The other two processes are more relevant for influencer market­ing: identification means that influencers have impact on individuals due to attrac­tiveness - persons adopt their behavior to be like them. Internalization means that influencers have impact on individuals due to their credibility. Individuals trust opinion leaders and adopt value systems of them to avoid value incongruence.

The main goal of influencer marketing is to turn influencers into brand ambassa­dors which are people deeply connected with a brand, which they make popular to the public in a trustworthy way (cf. de Diesbach, 2012, p.231). According to a study by Alimeter, Traackr and TopRank Marketing (cf. Solis, 2016, p.10) (n=102, brand strategists of global companies) main goals are to improve brand advocacy (94%), raise brand awareness (92%), reach new targeted audiences (88%), increase share of voice (86%) and improve sales conversion (74%). An­other study showed that the top four scenarios where companies collaborate with influencers to reach mentioned goals, are product launches (35%), events (33%), content promotions (25%) and corporate announcements (7%) (cf. Launchmetrics, 2017, p.5).

Summarized, influencers have the role of credible and trustworthy orientation help for customers. Due to the sheer amount of decisions people have to face, consumers are more vulnerable to rely on recommendations of influencers than ever to have a shortcut in their decision-making-process (cf. Schaefer, 2012, p.22).

In the following chapter the different types of digital influencers will be outlined.

2.2 Types of digital influencers

One type of influencers are celebrities and popular personalities, which became famous in the offline world e.g. through music or sports or because of their status and expertise, e.g. journalists or politicians. Many of these traditional opinion leaders have accounts on social media platforms and transfer their offline popular­ity and influence into the digital world. When companies use stars as brand am­bassadors it is called celebrity endorsement. On the other hand there are influenc­ers which became popular in the social web - especially amongst younger audi­ences - and are known as social media stars. These digital opinion leaders emerged with social media and became popular because of the content they pro­vide on these platforms (cf. Kilian, 2016, pp.96-98). As a study of Iconkids & Youth (n=700; German teenagers between 13 and 19 years, 2015) shows, social media stars are perceived as more authentic, credible and approachable than ce­lebrities whereas celebrities are more popular and admired (cf. Paperlein, 2016, p.1). The new digital influencers are seen as ordinary people who became popular - 'citizen influencers' as Schaefer (cf. 2012, pp.5-15) named them - and that it is possible for everyone to achieve the same. Hence, social media stars can be even more powerful digital influencers, especially amongst younger audiences (cf. Hulyk, 2015, pp.32-34).

In general there are three roles of digital influencers that are established in the literature: virtual opinion leaders, early adopters and internet mavens (cf. Ahrens and Dressier, 2011, p.59 and 84). Early adopters are people which are highly in­terested in product innovations and buy and use them earlier than other people. Therefore, they have a knowledge advance and impact other consumers as persons giving valuable advice (cf. Dressler and Telle, 2009, p.18f.). Market mavens were introduced by Feick and Price in 1987 as a type of influencer which has knowledge about the market and products across categories (cf. 1987, p.85). They are motivated by the high involvement they have for activities happening on the market (cf. Walsh, 1999, p.424; cf. Feick and Price, 1987, pp.109-122). The in­ternet maven is happy to use the internet and to have a higher knowledge than others about this media (cf. Belch, Krentler and Willis-Flurry, 2005, p.570). Opin­ion leaders are consulted for advice and actively give advice. Their knowledge is often limited to a certain area or product (cf. Dressler and Telle, 2009, pp.10-13). Digital opinion leaders have the same role in a digital world (cf. Ahrens and Dressler, 2011, p.85). The following table 1 which was developed by Walsh (cf. 1999, p.424) clarifies differences between types:

Table 1: Differentiation of digital influencers, own visualization based on Walsh (1999, p.424)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Apart from these categorizations, digital influencers can be generally classified as macro influencers or micro influencers. Micro influencers don’t have a very high reach, but engagement rates and influence on their followers is high. They are defined as: “individuals within a consumer’s social graph, whose commentary, based on the personal nature of their relationship and communications has a di­rect impact on the behavior of the consumer.” (Brown and Fiorella, 2013, p.123). Macro influencers have a higher reach, but engagement and influence on individ­ual followers is not as high as the one of micro influencers. They can be efficient tools due to their high reach. They are defined as: “individuals, businesses, or media, with a large, active social following comprised of people with whom they have a loosely defined or unknown relationship.” (ibid, p.122). Whereas some marketers call people with 100,000 - 200,000 followers micro influencers, other companies call opinion leaders with 10,000 or less followers micro influencers (cf. Bauer, 2017).

In the following figure 2 the different types of digital influencers are visualized:

The types of digital influencers that are subject of this thesis - due to their outlined relevance - are social media stars with a high reach (macro influencers). In the following subchapter the different social media platforms and their relevance will be underlined.

2.3 Social media platforms

Kreutzer says that the term social media includes: “[...] Online-Medien und - Technologien [...], die es den Internet-Nutzern ermöglichen, einen Informations­austausch online durchzuführen, der weit über die klassische E-Mail- Kommunikation hinausgeht. “ (2014, p.338) . The main characteristic of social me­dia is that users are able to share thoughts, information and other content with each other. This UGC can be created easily and for free on social media thanks to low entrance barriers and simple software. There are various unique points that distinguish social media from traditional media e.g. content can be updated in­stantly, unlimited and real-time comments can be made and sharing and interact­ing is encouraged (cf. Stokes, 2011, p.334). Users can communicate on one hier­archical level with other users and companies. Digital opinion leaders are per­ceived as everyday consumers that are on the same level as users (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, p.341).

According to a study conducted by Faktenkontor (cf. Heintze, 2017) (n=3,500, internet users), 76% of people in Germany are active on social media platforms - within the age groups of 14-29 even 94%. This underlines the relevance of social media platforms in Germany, especially amongst younger internet users. Current­ly 73% (n=639) of German firms use social media (cf. Bitkom, 2017). A study conducted by Statista (cf. 2017a) (n=848; at least 18 years old) found out, that one third of German social media users already have bought a product that was rec­ommended by others on social media. Furthermore, a study of SevenOneMedia (n=1.231; ages 14-69) investigated average daily usage times of selected social media activities in Germany. Out of 14.7 minutes in total, 2.4 minutes are spent to gather information about products and brands. This is the second highest value after looking at/commenting pictures and information of other users with 8.6 minutes (cf. SevenOneMedia, 2017b, pp.24-25). These insights underline the im­portance of influencer marketing: social media users are actively searching for information about products and brands and many of them are willing to buy rec­ommended articles of other users.

In general there are three categories of social media channels (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, p.341):

1. Channels that are primarily focused on communication, e.g. blogs and mi­cro blogs, social networking sites (SNS), forums and communities
2. Channels that are primarily focused on the cooperation of users, e.g. wikis, rating-, and review platforms
3. Channels that are based on sharing of content via media sharing platforms

The following chapters will explain the most important channels for digital fitness influencers.

2.3.1 Blogs and micro blogs

The term ‘blog’ is the short form of weblog and can be seen as an online diary or notebook. Blogs play an important role as information sources for private individ­uals and companies (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, pp.357-362).

Newer forms of blogs are micro blogs which are characterized by short text mes­sages that are limited to a certain number of characters - often below 200 (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, p.367). The most popular micro blogging platform is Twitter, which became an important marketing tool in recent years especially for instant customer service (cf. Stokes, 2011, pp.350-352). When companies engage opin­ion leaders on successful micro blogging services, it is possible to trigger power­ful viral effects (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, p.368).

2.3.2 Online forums and communities

Online forums are the oldest form of social media (cf. Zarrella, 2012, p.182). They are a virtual place where people exchange and store ideas, opinions and ex­periences. Online communities are characterized by deeper relationships between members and goals that exceed the mere exchange of information. Often they are collaborating to solve problems or generate new ideas (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, p.425f.).

Since online forums and communities are nowadays important platforms for con­sumers to gather information about products, services and brands during the pur­chase decision process and to review consumed goods and services after the pur­chase - it is important for marketers to engage on these social media platforms (cf. Gropp and Rösger, 2008, p.348; cf. Ahrens and Dressler, 2011, p.56f.). Firms can collaborate with opinion leaders, often the moderators, that are active in virtu­al communities and forums (cf. Ahrens and Dressier, 2011, pp.55-58).

2.3.3 Social networking sites

SNS are platforms that allow users to get and stay in contact with business part­ners or private persons. The most popular SNS platform is Facebook. Businesses can collaborate with influencers within the appropriate SNS (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, pp.378-399). The easy sharing of content - which is a main characteristic of many SNS platforms - predestinates these platforms for seeding information (cf. Lammenett, 2017, p.339f.; cf. Kreutzer, 2014, p.392f.).

2.3.4 Media sharing platforms General information

Kreutzer (2014, p.410) states that: “Media-Sharing-Plattformen [...] es Unter­nehmen und privaten Internet-Nutzern [erlauben], Inhalte wie Videos, Fotos, Prä­sentationen und Audio-Dateien im Internet hochzuladen und damit anderen inte­ressierten Parteien zugänglich zu machen. “.

This underlines the main characteristic of these channels: uploading media which can be seen by other users. These can share, comment and like or dislike the post­ed content. The most popular media sharing platforms are YouTube, where users can upload videos and Instagram, where photos and videos can be posted (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, pp.410-417).

The next chapter deals with Instagram as a platform for influencer marketing. It will explain it in detail and will underline the reasons why it is examined in this paper. Instagram

Instagram was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in October 2010 as a platform for sharing photos and videos (Instagram, 2017b). In August 2012 it was acquired by Facebook for US$ 1 billion. In the beginning Instagram was only available as a free app but since 2012 it is possible to access Instagram on desk­tops (cf. Faßmann and Moss, 2016, p.14). To use Instagram a user account has to be set up. Afterwards it is possible to post pictures and videos and to like, share or comment on content provided by others. Users can follow others which means that every post of the followed person appears on the start page. It is not possible to post hyperlinks on Instagram but hashtags (#). These hashtags are linked to certain keywords and allow users to find content easily. Another option is to cre­ate an Instagram story - a video that consists of edited pictures or videos and is accessible for 24 hours. The focus of Instagram is on sharing pictures and videos which is highlighted by the limitation of text to 2,200 characters and 30 hashtags (cf. Faßmann and Moss, 2016, p.14).

For businesses Instagram serves as a channel to present the brand, product or ser­vice in an emotional and aesthetic way to a young target group (cf. Faßmann and Moss, 2016, p.40). There are basically four dimensions in which companies can use Instagram (cf. Nufer and Lenzen, 2017, p.4):

1) Setting up a corporate profile
2) Active content marketing, which means posting high-quality and interest­ing content on a regular basis via the company profile
3) Displaying paid advertisements marked as sponsored ad
4) Cooperation with influencers

When cooperating with influencers, fitting users are chosen as brand ambassadors for the company. These digital opinion leaders produce UGC which gives a boost to the credibility of messages (cf. Nufer and Lenzen, 2017, p.8f.). Before it was possible to display ads, engaging influencers was the only way for companies to advertise on a broader scale via Instagram. That is one of the reasons why it comes to mind first when people talk about influencer marketing (cf. Woods, 2016, p.10f.). Especially amongst younger people Instagram becomes increasingly important: as a study of the Bauer Media Group from 2016 (n=697; ages 10-19) stated, it is ranked third regarding social media app usage with 52% of the re­spondents saying they use it frequently. YouTube (56%) is on rank two and WhatsApp (91%), a chat messenger, on rank one. Furthermore, the usage of In­stagram is increasing (49% in 2016) whereas it is decreasing for other social me­dia apps like Facebook and Twitter (cf. Bauer Media Group, 2016). The platform had 15 million users worldwide in the beginning of 2012 and over 800 million users today (state December 2017) (cf. Aßmann and Röbbeln, 2013, p.26; cf. In­stagram, 2017c). In Germany Instagram has over 15 million users (state August 2017) (cf. Allfacebook, 2017). Another study conducted by SevenOneMedia (n=6,151, ages 14-69) (cf. 2017b, p.40) investigated that daily usage times of In­stagram are increasing - especially rapid amongst the group of users aged between 14 and 29 - from 6 minutes in the third quarter of 2016 to 17.1 minutes in the second quarter of 2017. Instagram was developed as a mobile app and images and videos play a vital role. As mobile usage is increasing, platforms that are ‘born mobile’ have an advantage in targeting consumers that have a high affinity for mobile phones (cf. Aßmann and Röbbeln, 2013, p.26; cf. RhythmInfluence, 2016, p.10). Images and videos trigger emotions, tell stories and are easy to compre­hend. Therefore, they are predestinated for eWOM (cf. Aßmann and Röbbeln, 2013, p.286f.; cf. Kreutzer and Land, 2017, p.13). Additionally, images present an easy way for companies to make the own brand more human and to motivate oth­ers to interact with it (cf. Schaefer, 2012, p.67). The focus on this type of media and the simplicity to share content with others on Instagram might be the main reasons for the success of the platform amongst users and as a tool for influencer marketing.

Social media stars in Germany are primarily active on YouTube (36% of investi­gated active social media stars) and Instagram (35%) (cf. Kilian, 2016, p.97). The importance of Instagram for influencer marketing is also underlined in the study of Launchmetrics (cf. 2017, p.9) in which interviewed marketers named Instagram most frequently as the preferred platform for campaigns with digital influencers (25% of respondents).

This chapter showed the relevance of Instagram for influencer marketing. In the next chapter success factors and limitations of influencer marketing campaigns with a focus on influencer-/brand fit will be presented.

2.4 Success factors and limitations of influencer marketing

In order to achieve desired outcomes, success factors and limitations of influencer marketing need to be taken into consideration. There are mainly eight critical suc­cess factors that can be identified when scanning the recent literature about influ­encer marketing (cf. Booth and Matic, 2011, p.7; cf. Fay et al., 2013, pp.3-7).

The following chapter will give an overview of these factors for successful influ­encer marketing and its limitations.

2.4.1 Overview of success factors and limitations

It is critical to integrate influencer marketing adequately in the structure and the marketing mix of the company. Firms need to figure out, where they want to use influencers and clearly define in which structural department the responsibility for influencer marketing lies (cf. Solis, 2016, p.8f.). Promotional posts on Instagram are a form of advertising and therefore influencer marketing is understood as a social media communications tool in this thesis (cf. Baltazar et al. 2014 pp.6-8).

The second success factor is that the responsible team has to set clear goals and objectives, define a clear budget, a clear strategy and a clear target group for in­fluencer marketing campaigns. This has to be done while aligning it to overall goals, strategies, budgets and target groups of the company (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, p.356; cf. RhythmInfluence, 2016, p.7). It guarantees, that the campaign is in sync with the whole enterprise, the firm is consistent and most efficient (cf. Booth and Matic, 2011, pp.185-188). Furthermore, key performance indicators (KPIs) have to be defined for every goal to measure it after the campaign (cf. Aßmann and Röbbeln, 2013, pp.118-120).

To monitor where people are talking most frequently about the company is a third success factor. Monitoring includes searches for certain keywords regarding brand, products, services, rivals, or the whole market (cf. Booth and Matic, 2011, p.188f.). Firms can do a simple web monitoring, for instance via Google Alerts, social media monitoring or blog monitoring. Most importantly the company has not only to monitor where the keywords are mentioned but also in which tonality (cf. Kreutzer, 2014, p.70f.; cf. Booth and Matic, 2011, p.188f.).

Once the company knows where internet users talk about them, they can define on which platforms they want to engage influencers. It is important that the platform is targeting the right consumer group, the brand, product or service should already be a relevant topic, the platform and content itself has to be in sync with the com­pany and enough people should be reached via a digital opinion leader on the plat­form (cf. Monica and Bala§, 2014, p.6).

To identify and select suitable influencers on the chosen platforms plays a vital role for influencer marketing. Relevant KPIs for the identification and selection of digital opinion leaders are reach, resonance and relevance. The reach measures how many followers the prevailing person has and resonance measures the en­gagement rate of the followers - which means average number of views or likes, of comments and of content shares. Relevance measures how well the potential influencers and their audience fit to company, brand, products, services, values and target groups (cf. Simply Measured, 2015, p.5; cf. Brouwer, 2017, p.1; cf. Hulyk, 2015, p.35). As this step is essential for influencer marketing campaigns and plays an important part for this thesis, it will be explained in detail in the next subchapter. Influencers can be either identified manually, with a tool, or with the help of an influencer marketing agency or network (cf. Kreutzer and Land, 2017, pp.214-218; cf. Schüller 2015 pp.123-125;cf. Woods, 2016, p.9).

Once the company has identified and selected suitable influencers, these have to be approached and motivated. Opinion leaders have to be contacted politely, with paying respect to the community they managed to build up and with appraisal of their work (cf. Lange, 2010, p.156f.; cf. Schüller 2015 pp.124-126). It should be defined what the company expects from contacted influencers, but enough free­dom should be left for them to keep their own authentic voice (cf. Booth and Matic, 2011, pp.186-189; cf. Rhythminfluence, 2016, p.12f.). Additionally, it is important that businesses understand what motivates influencers (cf. Simply Measured, 2015, p.16f.). As digital influencers are getting more professional, they are increasingly focusing on payment as the study of Launchmetrics (2017, p.10f.) proved: whereas in 2015 the main motive was to increase reach and grow audi­ence (55%), in 2016 42% of the surveyed influencers stated that they expect mon­etary rewards, followed by valuable content and information to share with their communities (32%). The same study showed, that monetary compensation is common nowadays, with only 18% of surveyed companies never paying influenc­ers.

Furthermore, it is mandatory to respect legal restrictions. In Germany, every post that publishers got monetary or materially compensated for and that is focused on products or brands of a company, has to be marked as advertisement (cf. Deutscher Fachverlag GmbH, 2017, p.5). On Instagram it is mandatory since 2017 to mark advertisements as branded content (cf. Instagram, 2017d). Only put­ting #ad or #sponsored between other hashtags, which was and still is common, is surreptitious advertising and not allowed anymore. If companies do it anyways, it can get expensive: the drug store Rossmann was sentenced recently for not mark­ing sponsored posts adequately. If they do it another time they get sanctioned with up to 250,000 € (cf. Rest, 2017).

Lastly, it is vital to measure the success of influencer marketing campaigns. When step one and two were done appropriately by the company, clear KPIs were de­fined to measure the success of predetermined goals. These KPIs like engage­ment, quantity and quality of audience reached or impact on sales can be meas­ured. Nevertheless, marketers still see measuring return on investment (ROI) as the main challenge (cf. Launchmetrics, 2017, p.14f.). According to Mark Schaefer, the author of ‘Return on Influence’, this is because marketers do not understand that most of the benefits of collaborating with influencers are qualita­tive and therefore have to be made measurable by connecting them to discrete quantitative variables (cf. Bell, 2012, p.4f.).

A limitation of influencer marketing is that a company loses a big deal of control when collaborating with digital influencers in order to keep content authentic.

When firms try to win back control by telling the influencer what to write or how to present the product, they risk losing the authenticity of the opinion leader’s post (cf. Booth and Matic, 2011, p.18; cf. Schögel, Dörr and Herhausen, 2010, p.30f.; cf. Woods, 2016, p.17f.). Furthermore, if digital influencers are getting too com­mercial, consumers won’t follow and trust them anymo re (cf. Monica and Bala§, 2014, p.163). There is also the risk that consumers lose trust in digital influencers due to the reason that they get paid (cf. Kreutzer and Land, 2017, p.223). If the engaged influencer does something negative or already did something negative in the past that comes up, it damages the reputation of the firm as well. This is be­cause the prevailing influencer is seen as a brand ambassador and is connected to the brand (cf. Woods, 2016, p.18). Additionally, marketers have to understand that influencer marketing is no magic instrument. If a product, service or content is bad, influencer marketing campaigns - even if implemented carefully and by respecting the success factors - won’t be able to change that fact (cf. Kreutzer and Land, 2017, p.27).

A detailed overview of the current state of research about digital influencers is attached in annex 4. The author does not claim that this table is complete.

2.4.2 Influencer-/brand fit

To understand what influencer-/brand fit means, the term brand has to be defined first. Kotler et al. (2011, p.600f.) define brands as: „ ein Name, ein Begriff, ein Zeichen, ein Symbol, ein Produktdesign oder eine denkbare Kombination aus die­sen, die dazu verwendet werden, Produkte und Dienstleistungen eines Anbieters oder einer Gruppe von Anbietern zu identifizieren. “. Nowadays, brands play an important role as an orientation within the mass of available information (cf. Kreutzer and Land, 2017, p.14).

When digital influencers and companies cooperate, they are partners. As such it is essential that they fit to each other (cf. Kapitan and Silvera, 2016). Companies should collaborate with influencers that show passion about a subject that tightly is in sync with the brand and their values (cf. RhythmInfluence 2016 pp.8-11).

The Deutscher Fachverlag GmbH (cf. 2017, p.2) states that influencer-/brand fit is even more important than reach. It is essential for building a link between mere attention and the real intention to buy a product.

The topic has not been examined scientifically for influencer marketing yet but there is existing literature about celebrity endorsements, sponsorships and brand alliances. Particularly the research about celebrity endorsement can be transferred to influencer marketing but as the collaboration of companies and influencers can be seen as sponsorship and digital influencers are brands themselves, examina­tions in these two areas can also be transferred. Fit is the degree of congruence that customers perceive between two parties in a collaboration. The core of litera­ture about celebrity endorsement fit is the match-up hypothesis. According to it, a high fit between celebrities and advertised products will lead to a higher effec­tiveness for the endorsed brand (e.g. cf. Kahle and Homer, 1985; cf. Kamins, 1990; cf. Lynch and Schuler, 1994; cf. Solomon, Ashmore and Longo, 2013). In their study about the impact of celebrity-/product fit, Till and Busler (cf. 2000) (n=212) examined that a celebrity - in their case a fictive athlete - is perceived by consumers as more matching to certain products - in the study to an energy bar - than to other products - in their case a candy bar. Furthermore, they found evi­dence that a higher perceived fit leads to a more positive attitude toward product and celebrity and higher purchase intentions. Other studies supported these find­ings (e.g. cf. Kamins and Gupta, 1994; cf. Choi and Rifon, 2012; cf. Premeaux, 2005). An overview of existing literature about the concept of fit is in annex 5. The author does not claim that the list is complete.

This chapter underlined the relevance and importance of influencer-/brand fit. The following chapter gives an overview of the German fitness industry and German fitness influencers on Instagram.

3. Digital fitness influencers in Germany

3.1 German fitness industry

Fitness became an increasingly important topic in the last decades. As a conse­quence, the sports, fitness and health industry flourished. According to a study of Deloitte (cf. 2017) the German fitness and health market is the second biggest market in Europe after the United Kingdom - referring to number of memberships even the biggest. 2016 was an outstanding year for the industry in Germany: with ten million members of fitness clubs and more than five billion € in total reve­nues, new records were set. 12.3% of the German population is member of one of 8,684 private fitness clubs. The importance and relevance of fitness in Germany is shown as well by the fact that 69% of the people that are active in sports state that they go to the gym several times per week according to a study of Statista (cf. 2016a) (n=476, aged between 18 and 69). Whereas fitness clubs can be described as the core business of the fitness industry, there are various businesses belonging to it. These include sport clothes and sport shoes for fitness training, supplements, fitness beverages, sports- and fitness gadgets, fitness snacks, fitness apps and online subscriptions. A study by Statista (cf. 2016b) (n=1,005, people active in sports) showed that 86% of German people bought fitness accessories within the last 12 months. Out of these respondents 76% said that they bought sport clothes, 72% sports shoes, 28% supplements, 20% fitness beverages, 19% sports and fit­ness gadgets and 17% fitness snacks. Additionally, 42% stated that they spent more than 200€ (cf. Statista, 2016c).

Different studies showed that the internet in general and social media in particular are popular places for consumers to search for information about fitness related products and the topic fitness (cf. Frimming, Polsgrove and Bower, 2011; cf. AGOF, 2016). As such, fitness related topics like diet and exercise plans and gen­eral attitudes and comments about fitness became popular issues on social media (cf. Teodoro and Naaman, 2013, p.611).

As it is mostly common that influencers on Instagram promote brands providing products in the area of fitness equipment, clothes and nutrition and supplements, these kinds of products are primarily relevant for this thesis.

3.2 German fitness influencers on Instagram

In the German fitness industry, it is already common to collaborate with fitness influencers. The reasons are obvious: especially young people can be reached eas­ily and authentically. Because particularly young individuals are active in fitness, they are the main target group for most of the companies operating in the fitness industry (cf. IFD Allensbach, 2017, pp.44-60). Hence, influencer marketing is a useful social media communications tool for these brands. Fitness is a lot about aesthetics. Unsurprisingly, many of the German social media stars that emerged in recent years are involved in fitness sports - especially on social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube, where aesthetics can be presented in videos and photos. In the following, examples for digital fitness influencers on Instagram are given and examples for successful collaborations between fitness brands and German fitness bloggers are presented.

Via images and videos, fitness influencers are able to present their well trained bodies and reach broad audiences. The most popular fitness influencer in Germa­ny is Pamela Reif. On her Instagram profile she has more than 3.3 million follow­ers (cf. Instagram, 2017a). She started documenting her training routine on Insta­gram when she was 16 years old and is nowadays one of the most popular targets for companies in the areas fitness, lifestyle and fashion (cf. YouTube, 2016). She has already cooperated with many fitness companies. The type of cooperation varies: with the German sports brand Puma she has a long-term cooperation, cre­ating her own line of fitness and sports clothes and promoting it on a regular basis on her profile (cf. Instagram, 2017e), with the German nutrition and supplement manufacturer brand HEJ Natural she has a long-term cooperation promoting vari­ous of their products with her own promotion code for which people can get dis­counts (cf. Instagram, 2017f). Albeit there are no documentations of the success of these campaigns, companies keep cooperating with her, so it can be supposed that they are satisfied. Other popular German fitness influencers on Instagram are aliana_hillt with 0.94 million followers, flyinguwe with 0.39 million followers, louisadellert with 0.33 million followers, wolfdeutschland with 0.19 million fol­lowers and maaren_xx with 0.18 followers (cf. Iconosquare, 2018; cf. Instagram 2017g). A recent example for a successful campaign is the alliance between the sports nutrition and supplements manufacturer brand Prozis and the German fit­ness influencer Patricia Kraft. This campaign resulted in engagement rates of 30.15% and was the most successful influencer marketing campaign in September 2017 regarding engagement rates (cf. Brecht, 2017). The most popular sports brands Adidas and Nike are investing in digital fitness influencers as well. An example is a campaign of Adidas from September 2017. They were main sponsor of the ‘Tegernseelauf’ and cooperated with three digital fitness opinion leaders - Julia Breuing (98,100 subscribers on Instagram), Roxana Strasser (124,000 sub­scribers) and Elena Bulkowski (109,000 subscribers) - to participate in the run and visit the Oktoberfest together afterwards. The whole campaign was accompa­nied by Instagram posts of the three women tagging Adidas and reporting about these two events. The six posts reached almost 57,000 likes and 500 comments (cf. John, 2017).

This chapter introduced the German fitness industry and showed that it is already common to collaborate with influencers on this market. The next chapter will ex­plain how these digital fitness influencers impact the purchase behavior and how it can be measured.

4. Purchase decision process and advertising impact of influencer marketing in the German fitness industry

As the objective of this thesis is, to find out whether influencer-/brand fit has an impact on attitudes and purchase intentions of Instagram users, it is necessary to outline the factors that influence the purchase behavior and explain where digital fitness influencers have potential influence during the purchase decision process.

Promotional posts on Instagram are a form of advertising and therefore it is neces­sary to measure their impact to find out whether they are an effective marketing communications tool for the German fitness industry (cf. Zhu and Tan, 2007). Hence, the concept of advertising impact will be introduced and a model to meas­ure it for promotional posts of digital fitness influencers on Instagram with respect to the objectives of this thesis is presented.


Excerpt out of 102 pages


Fitness Influencers. Impact on Purchase Intentions and Attitudes of Instagram Users
Berlin School of Economics and Law
Catalog Number
ISBN (Book)
fitness, influencers, impact, purchase, intentions, attitudes, instagram, users
Quote paper
Ben Schiefer (Author), 2018, Fitness Influencers. Impact on Purchase Intentions and Attitudes of Instagram Users, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Fitness Influencers. Impact on Purchase Intentions and Attitudes of Instagram Users

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free