Purpose Influencers market products for tobacco companies on social media. This is the first study to systematically examine leading cigar brands’ use of influencers on their brand Instagram pages.
Methods We identified 24 leading cigar brands, using July 2017–June 2018 US retail data. We identified cigar brands that had official appearing Instagram pages, with at least one influencer in the past 20 posts. We coded characteristics of the past three posts from each of five brand pages that contained influencers, such as setting and what the influencer was doing. Finally, we described influencer characteristics.
Results Approximately one-third of the 24 brands had official Instagram accounts with at least one influencer in the past 20 posts. We identified 28 influencers, typically people of colour from the hip-hop music industry, some with millions of followers. Influencers included Bella Thorne (@bellathorne), Shaquille O’Neal (@shaq) and T.I. (@troubleman31). Brands’ posts that contained influencers showed the influencer using/holding a product, wearing branded merchandise or appearing in photos with a brand watermark. Three brands’ pages posted sponsored event photos (ie, concerts and events using branded backgrounds).
Discussion Cigar brands commonly use influencers to market their products on brand Instagram pages. Results are consistent with previous findings that cigar companies’ marketing may target younger African Americans and highlight the potential utility of education campaigns that similarly engage influencers.
- tobacco industry
- advertising and promotion
- surveillance and monitoring
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Contributors MN, EO, OG, and LH all contributed to the development of the manuscript. MN, EO, OG, and LH all contributed to the methods and results. MN and OG were the two coders of the qualitative data. MN, EO, OG, and LH contributed to the editing of the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.