An Evaluation: Leveraging Social Influencers to Recruit Bowhunters

The ATA worked with MeatEater to help state fish and wildlife agencies recruit hunters through digital content.
Photo Credit: MeatEater

Author: Cassie Gasaway

Using social influencers is an excellent way to grab the attention of potential future hunters, according to a recent influencer content campaign aimed to increase hunting awareness and hunting license sales. The campaign was conducted by the ATA and MeatEater from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, and benefited all 50 states.

The ATA worked with MeatEater to post digital ads that targeted new audiences and encouraged them to purchase a hunting license through their local state agency. The ATA and MeatEater worked closely with seven test state fish and wildlife agencies and also posted content for the remaining 43 organic state agencies. The seven pilot state agencies, including Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Tennessee, provided a click-through link to a webpage. Most states directed viewers to a hunter education page or to their hunting license sales.

MeatEater ran ads on their Facebook page. Photo Credit: MeatEater

The digital ads were on the MeatEater podcast, Wired to Hunt podcast, Cal’s Week in Review podcast, MeatEater website, MeatEater YouTube channel, and MeatEater Facebook account. Some ads were posted organically for MeatEater’s nationwide, built-in following. Other ads targeted MeatEater’s followers in the seven states. The ads focused on making bowhunting accessible and approachable because many newcomers view it as challenging and intimidating.

The campaign measured the reach of each social post, as well as license sales numbers with state agencies, based on the influencer promo code used during the license purchase transaction.

A multistate grant program funded the coordinated effort. The program was supported by federal excise taxes paid by manufacturers on the first sale of firearms, ammunition and some archery equipment through the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, created in 1937. Originally, the P-R Act earmarked $3 million to pay for high-priority conservation efforts and couldn’t be used to promote or advertise hunting. The Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, aka the P-R Modernization Act, passed in December 2019, added an additional $2 million to the grant program and eliminated that restriction, allowing states to use funds for recruitment, retention and reactivation.

With the recent decline in bowhunter numbers and an increase in the popularity of digital platforms and social influencers, it was advantageous to merge the two concepts to recruit new hunters. An analysis of the campaign results showed that individual MeatEater ads received lots of attention and engagement, but state agencies didn’t have many license sales conversions. In other words, people saw the MeatEater ads and clicked through to the state’s designated webpage but didn’t click again to buy a license.

They also ran ads on Instagram. Photo Credit: MeatEater

Important Takeaways

1. Pre-roll podcast ads performed consistently better than ads that appeared mid-podcast.
2. Targeted ads (with a specific CTA and geographical location) performed 104% better than the organic posts viewed by people in the 43 non-tested states.
3. The campaign exceeded national benchmarks for ad performance on Facebook. Working with an influencer on a national scale still performed 81.1% better than the standard Facebook social conversion benchmark. The Facebook ads on the seven test states performed 268% better than the standard Facebook social conversion benchmark.
4. Banner ads, on average, received one click per 612.7 impressions. Use this number as a benchmark for future campaigns.


Recommendations for Individual ATA-Member Marketing Efforts

The ATA recommends its members consider using social influencers to help their business. Social influencers can improve brand awareness, reach new target audiences, generate leads, establish brand credibility and boost search engine optimization. It’s also often a cost-effective marketing strategy.

If you want to explore your options, watch “Making Money in Small Towns,” an ATA Trade Show recorded seminar by Korbin Williams, owner of Korbin’s Archery in Texas. He suggests teaming with social-media influencers who support your business with endorsements or recommendations. Williams discussed how to find and work with good influencers and how they can elevate your brand in the seminar.

They even ran the ads within their website to include those that don't use social media. Photo Credit: MeatEater

Please also follow these recommendations:

  • Run your influencer campaign at the beginning of the year or in spring. Recruit new hunters before turkey and big-game seasons. The MeatEater marketing campaign ran in October, November and December, which was too late to allow beginners to educate themselves and gear up for the hunt.
  • Make the most of your budget and money. The ads that targeted a specific location performed better in the MeatEater campaign. Use your funds wisely and concentrate your ad spend on people in your surrounding area.
  • Ensure each ad has a specific call to action and directs people to an easy-to-use landing page. If you want people to view your products, make sure the page is easy to navigate and understand.
  • Consider the “Marketing Rule of 7,” a concept that states a potential customer must interact with a brand at least seven times before making a purchase. If your budget is limited, narrow the geographic circle of your ad to ensure people will view the ad multiple times.
  • Check in with your influencers throughout the campaign. It’s best to establish weekly or biweekly calls when you create a contract or agreement. Use the time to discuss ad performance and any potential updates or changes you’d like to make to the ad content.

If you have questions about the campaign, please contact Allison Jasper, ATA’s senior director of marketing and communications, at (507) 233-8136 or

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