What is a brand ambassador?
A brand ambassador (or brand advocate) is a person who represents and promotes a company in a positive way. They’re used by businesses to build trust with an audience of potential customers, ultimately to bring consumers closer to their products.
Who are brand ambassadors?
There are two types of brand ambassadors: the first are famous or influential people who are paid to promote a brand. In broadcast terms we would also call them third party spokespeople – the people who we put in front of the microphone and cameras for television and radio interviews.
The second type are fans of the product who choose to promote it freely. You might even call them “die hard” fans, they love the product so much they actively plug it without receiving any payment. That said brands may think to reward these brand ambassadors with freebies or online engagement.
Brand ambassadors are seen as gold dust by most companies because their association not only gives a brand additional visibility it adds a level of trustworthiness too.
What is expected of a brand ambassador?
When searching for a celebrity brand ambassador, businesses must find an influencer their consumers can relate to. That means sharing the same beliefs and values. The goal of a brand ambassador is to represent the brand in a positive way and build trust with their audience.
In order to find the right brand ambassador, companies should look for someone who has an established online presence, an understanding of marketing and a passion for building and maintaining relationships. Critically, before agreeing to any partnerships a brand must truly understand the influencer’s audience ,in order to decide whether this is their desired demographic too.
From a broadcast perspective the brand ambassador must be willing and available to speak to broadcast media and not have a reputation for lending their name to multiple campaigns as this devalues them as a potential spokesperson. The ambassador must also NOT have participated in radio and TV interviews for at least 4-6 weeks before the campaign. However high profile they are – if they were on a show recently the producer won’t want them back too soon.
The benefits of having a brand ambassador
When done correctly, the benefits of having a brand ambassador are vast as such spokespeople are able to humanise a product and boost brand reputation. As well as building trust in existing customers, brand ambassadors are a great way of driving new customers towards a product. From a journalistic perspective they may be paid for spokespeople but the fact they’re not directly employed by the business they’re promoting does take the commercial sting out of the story.
But back to those shared values and beliefs… Last year, Nike chose a brand ambassador who sparked controversy with buyers around the world. Nike released an ad with NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, who is a well-known sports figure after refusing to stand during the national anthem.
Kaepernick’s refusal to stand was a protest against the police killings of African Americans and other racial injustices in the USA. Two months later, the NFL passed a rule that all players must stand for the national anthem and then refused to allow Kaepernick into the league.
Nike’s ad read, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It.” The sacrifice is a reference to Kaepernick’s protest and a way for Nike to align themselves with the protest. Nike have been both praised and criticised for the campaign, with those disagreeing even resulting in burning their Nike products and sharing their anger online. In spite of that, Nike stood its ground and CEO, Mark Parker, claimed the ad drove a “record engagement” and helped boost sales.
Kaepernick proved a divisive choice but Nike were happy to deal with the repercussions as it was authentic to their brand.
Potential dangers of brand ambassadors
With new Instagram guidelines in place, brands and their ambassadors are expected to be transparent with their partnerships which makes disguising a sponsored content post virtually impossible.
It is important for brands to work together with their ambassadors in order to create content for their channel which is authentic. If not, partnerships can appear lazy and several influencers have been caught out after copy and pasting emails from their sponsors straight into a post.
Naomi Campbell fell victim of this when she posted a picture of herself with Adidas trainers and the caption below it read, “Could you put something like: Thanks to my friend @gary.aspen and all at Adidas – loving these Adidas 350 SPZL from Adidas Spezial range. @adidasoriginals”
Those who follow celebrities and influencers on social media will know that most of them are involved with a number of sponsors and partnerships at a time. Consequently, Instagram feeds are clogged up with #ad posts which begin to look more like spam. With this in mind, brands must ensure it is believable that their ambassadors use their product.
Brand ambassadors can do brilliant things for business but with so many around, it’s crucial that their values and style align with the brand in order to truly make an impact.