ERSP makes yoga apparel company hit the mat

 Pretzel Logic

If you’re considering taking up yoga for the first time, and you’re easily intimidated by other people’s strength, flexibility and stamina, brace yourself for the Alo Yoga Instagram feed.

It’s practically overflowing with badass yoga practitioners, all of them, presumably, wearing Alo Yoga’s signature workout clothes and using its yoga accoutrements. The number of impossible poses being struck is endless. It’s enough to make a person take up fencing instead. Seriously – look at this couple. Is this their first class?!

In Plain Sight

Alo Yoga’s feed is complemented by hordes of users who laud Alo’s products by tagging @aloyoga and other accounts owned by the company. The #aloyoga hashtag alone has more than 500,000 related posts.

According to the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP), an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation, however, influencers are scattered among this throng – influencers who allegedly promote Alo Yoga products but fail to disclose their material connection to the company in their posts.

ERSP was just minding its own business, going about its ongoing monitoring program, when it spotted 60 or so Instagram accounts that endorsed Alo Yoga. ERSP believed these posts may have had a material connection to the company, although the posts lacked any information indicating that they were advertisements. In response to ERSP’s inquiry, Alo Yoga confirmed that most of the Instagram posts that ERSP identified in its review did in fact have a material connection to the company, such as “monetary payment or free products in exchange for posting on Instagram.”

ERSP found that these posts constituted endorsements, thus requiring disclosures of the material relationship between Alo Yoga, the marketer and the influencers posting on Instagram. ERSP recommended that Alo go back over its posts and ensure that each of its paid influencers clearly and conspicuously disclose their material connection with the company in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guides.

The Takeaway

In a telling anecdote for social media marketers, ERSP claims that Alo protested ERSP’s conclusions by noting that its standard-issue “Alo Yoga Ambassador Program Guidelines” had been built around the FTC’s Guides. The company maintained that copies of the guidelines were handed out to every influencer in its stable.

That’s very nice, ERSP seemed to say. While it “appreciated the marketer’s efforts, [ERSP] reinforced to the marketer that the FTC Guides place responsibility not only on influencers, but on the brands that partner with them.”

Pay attention and get engaged – a contract is not enough.

Additionally, the Program outlined the elements of a robust and successful influencer training program – and we’re not talking about warrior pose or downward-facing dog. ERSP wants companies to take responsibility for self-monitoring and asks that they “explain to members of the network what they can/cannot say about the products; instruct members of the network on their responsibilities for disclosing their connections to the advertiser; periodically search for what members of the network are saying; and follow-up if there are questionable practices.”

Tough love from the electronic retailing yogi; better get in shape!