Initially a social media fad, influencing has evolved into a legitimate marketing phenomenon that brands from every industry can’t ignore. A new series of influencers are leveraging everything from beauty and fashion to virtual reality and esports, reflecting a broader change in brand awareness and reach.

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VS Collective Press image, courtesy of Facebook
  • Athlete activists. Victoria’s Secret’s Angels have fallen, and will be replaced with the VS Collective in June. The new group of seven female role models famous for their sport, abilities, and achievements—including Megan Rapinoe, soccer star and gender equity campaigner—reflects the company’s remodeled attitude to “stop being about what men want and to be about what women want,” according to chief executive Martin Waters.
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VIVE top 100 VR influencers. Left: Nano. Right: Drumsy. Courtesy of Instagram
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  • VR influencers. In April, VIVE released a list of their top 100 VR influencers. These “ones-to-watch are helping to propel VR from a relatively niche technology towards a future where we can imagine a VR headset in every household, workplace and classroom,” said Yu-kai Chou, Head of Digital Commerce at HTC VIVE. The YouTubers, gamers, and TikTokers are globally recognized, informing and inspiring their millions of followers about the possibilities of VR. Their popularity and growing following “shows that the popularity of VR is increasing everywhere, not just in certain markets.”
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Martin 'Rekkles' Larsson for G2 Esports
  • Gamefluencers. Ralph Lauren joined the #G2Army in June as the esport brand’s exclusive designer. League of Legends star Martin ‘Rekkles’ Larsson is one of the first gamefluencers to sport the brand when he was featured in the Ralph Lauren Wimbledon campaign.
  • Streamfluencers. Journalist, comedian, mom of two: Ellie Gibson is a unique—though not unusual—streamfluencer who represents a growing class of Twitch streamers whose talents and audiences reach beyond gaming. What began as a fun distraction for Gibson in January has turned the Guardian contributor into a Twitch streamer, comedian and podcaster with almost 2,000 followers and counting.
  • Mental health mavericks. In a reversed series of events, the meditation app Calm pledged support for Naomi Osaka in June of this year after the athlete refused to participate in press conferences for the French Open for mental health reasons. Recognizing a natural social advocate, Calm embraced the opportunity to influence Osaka’s fans who supported her decision to prioritize her mental health, generating a make-shift, one-time influencer in support of a topic at the core of the brand’s offering.

Why it’s interesting:

Brands are embracing the chance to step away from typical influencers and towards a new form of influencer marketing that more closely aligns the company’s values—as well as the values of its targeted audience. This new class of influencers reflects a brand push to connect with consumers on a more meaningful and authentic level.

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