Netflix’s viral series CHEER is a master class in influencer marketing

Kelsey Formost

18 Feb 2020 · 2 min read

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Fans across the globe have fallen in love with the cast of Netflix’s docu-series, CHEER. But the show’s reach goes far beyond the world of professional cheerleading, and even beyond the massive industries of content streaming and documentary film.

The most incredible takeaway from this show is what a masterclass it is in influencer marketing.

Soon after its release, CHEER the series, as well as its participants and stars, went viral on social media and beyond. In a world where quality content is constantly being released by multiple major streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and now AppleTV+ and Disney+, what makes a show like CHEER rise above the noise?

There are two answers to that question: authenticity, and influencer marketing.

CHEER’s narrative leans heavily on its participant’s personal lives, giving viewers a window into heartfelt, authentic stories of perseverance, heartache, grief, trauma, and challenges. In terms of what’s working for audiences on social, authenticity and genuine connection is consistently out-performing “perfect”-seeming aspirational content.

After analyzing a wealth of data, it’s abundantly clear that accounts that foster genuine connection with their followers and give viewers a behind-the-scenes look into their lives have a much higher engagement rate than those who don’t. It’s also the reason why brands that cultivate a long-term partnership with influencers see better results. Establishing an ongoing, personal relationship with viewers builds trust.

Authenticity creates connection, and connection creates conversions.

Now to the element of influencer marketing that was not only present but highlighted throughout the series. One of the stars of CHEER, Gabi Butler, came to the series with a massive social media following. Instead of simply using her Insta-fame to promote the series, the director chose to highlight her experience as an influencer as part of the show’s overall narrative story.

In Gabi’s personal footage, viewers get a glimpse into what it really takes to be a top-tier influencer. The endless hours spent creating quality content; from the surface-level things like 2+ hours in hair and makeup, to a more in-depth look at planning campaigns, scheduling appearances, juggling contracts, and shooting late into the night to get the perfect shot.

It’s a brilliant move because it shows an authentic side- there’s that word again!- to the polished branded content we’re used to seeing from influencers like Gabi. It makes us feel like we know her, and we’re therefore moved to follow her story beyond the show.

The “influencer effect” has extended to other cast members as well; Jerry Harris, the underdog who won viewers’ hearts with his positive outlook and motivational “mat talk”, was so popular on YouTube that he was hired by Ellen Degeneres to be her Oscars Red Carpet correspondent. His Instagram following is now over 1M.

La'Darius Marshall, a talented athlete with a huge personality, shared intimate details about childhood trauma and sexual abuse. He has since become an advocate for survivors, and his voice is being amplified. In under a month after the show’s release, La’Darius’ following skyrocketed from 49,000 to 457+K.

The biggest lesson that marketers can take away from this viral phenomenon is that authenticity and genuine connection are the most important feelings to cultivate in your audience. Emotional storytelling is the strongest form of content we can create.

If you want your campaigns to have a lasting impact, cultivate trust and an emotional connection with your viewers.

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