Unleashing The Power of Influencer Marketing to Stimulate Prosocial Causes

There are growing concerns around the impacts of global challenges such as natural or humanitarian crises, technological disruptions, or social movements. These challenges often cause uncertainty and require the support of the public to implement effective response strategies. A lack of communication and engagement with key stakeholders could have serious implications—especially during acute and unprecedented crises. Influencers can play an important role in stimulating prosocial behaviours (Shin & Mattila, 2021). For example, the UK government successfully applied influencer marketing to promote their Test and Trace program (Bolat, 2020). However, sponsors are still hesitant to employ influencer marketing as a communications tool, as best practices remain to be explored, and its outcomes are often unclear. Influencer marketing may also cause backlash and may be received with scepticism if sponsors are not careful enough in their influencer choice (Dodgson, 2019).    

The success of an influencer marketing campaign is determined by several factors such as the profile of an influencer, the characteristics of the sponsoring entity, and the media vehicle-platform. Moreover, to achieve greater efficiency and synergy, it is important to target the right audience segments (types of influencer followers). Due to the novelty of the phenomenon, there is a paucity of research that assesses the effectiveness of influencer marketing in stimulating pro-social behaviours (Halder et al., 2021). Furthermore, virtual influencer is an emerging trend in influencer marketing (Appel et al., 2020) which actually might address concerns (e.g., reputational risks) around using real influencers.  


This project aims to fill above research gaps by extending the current knowledge on conditions where influencer marketing can be most effective in promoting prosocial behaviour to address the climate change emergency. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this project brings together a team of Social Science, Engineering, and Environmental Management researchers from Sheffield, Leeds, and York to decode complexity of influencer marketing in stimulating prosocial behaviours against climate change.


  1. To provide a space to critically discuss the role of influencer marketing in tackling societal and ecological challenges (climate change);
  2. To critically explore the opportunities and risks of employing UK influencers with the aim of driving behavioural changes, and informing key beneficiaries such as government, NGOs, marketing practitioners ;
  3. To advance the current knowledge of influencer marketing by empirical assessment of role and type of influencers (i.e., warm vs. competent and real vs virtual influencers) and sponsor type (i.e., NGO vs. government) in triggering prosocial behaviours;
  4. o measure and compare the engagement of the people of Britain in response to the prosocial campaigns in the UK context;
  5. To build research capacity by involving early career researchers (ECRs) on co-developing research outputs and co-delivering the expected outcomes.

Lead Academics at Lead Institution:  
Hossein Olya, (Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Marketing, Director of Research Development for Marketing & CCI at Management School, University of Sheffield)

Lead Academics at other two universities:
Maximilian Gerrath, (Lecturer in Marketing, Business School, University of Leeds)
Hamed Ahmadi, (Lecturer in Intelligent Communications and Networks, Department of Electronic Engineering, University of York)

Other staff

Josko Brakus, (Professor of Marketing, University of York)

Nadina Luca, (Lecturer in Marketing, University of York)

Mahnaz Arvaneh, (Lecturer in Brain-computer interface, University of Sheffield)
Ranis Cheng, (Lecturer in Marketing, University of Sheffield)

Other partners:
Caroline.Woffenden, Communications Consultant, MK Public Relations, Sheffield.  
Axel Klenert, Associate Director at Service Science, London.  
Zahra Shah-ECR in Influencer Marketing (UoS) 
Sophie Bishop: ECR and Lecturer in Social Media Marketing (UoS). 
Fraser McLeay, Professor of Marketing (UoS). 
Tadhg Blommerde- ECR in marketing and technological transformation (UoS)  
Christine Gemmell, PhD Researcher Stockholm Environment Institute Department of Environment and Geography (UoY).  
Babak Taheri, Professor in Marketing, Heriot-Watt University. Scotland. 
Madeline Powell, Lecturer in Public Service Delivery (UoY). 

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