Blogs are helpful for keeping in touch with your customers and for finding out who your customers are and what they are thinking about. One ways of doing it by creating crowdsourcing blog on the websites of the athlete you have sponsored. Crowdsourcing refers to asking readers of the blog located on athlete’s website for feedback on your product and service that athlete is using.

Starbucks Coffee has done used this approach with its My Starbucks Idea blog.

Starbucks blogged to its customers both online and through stores to visit the blog site and provide suggestions for making Starbucks better. If they had owned other web properties and had endorsed any athletes, those channels would probably be used as well to send that message.

Visitors were able to comment on others ideas and rate popularity of the ideas. Companies could increase their response rates if the athlete they have sponsored is actually the one asking online questions to his fans. The number of ideas for Starbucks reached almost 10,000 ideas. The end result is that Starbucks got new sources of inspiration from the crowd (therefore the term “crowdsourcing) at no extra cost and have engaged their customer base better.

Entire businesses are built around crowdsourcing, such as InnoCentive. InnoCentive is an online company that publishes “challenge problems” in a number of areas, from engineering to math to life sciences to business. Their business model is to ask anyone in the crowd to solve problems and promises cash prizes to solvers who meet the solution criteria.

Imagine Nike had website for Michael Jordan (which they don’t) and they have sent the similar challenges about their Nike shoes to MJ’s fans. What do you think the response rate would be from millions of loyal MJ fans? How will the shoes look like if they had interacted with their audience and got feedback in real-time via MJ’s website? Would they sell more shoes? Would customers be even happier?

The challenge with crowdsourcing is critical mass. Companies need to get enough people to both respond to them and give them enough feedback. The best way to do it is to use the athlete’s properly built websites and have athletes tap into their fan base to get those answers.