My belief is that ambasadors still provide enormous value to brands—but only if they're carefully selected and genuinely involved with the brand. The world needs heroes, and brands can still effectively and authentically tie their products to strong influencers, allowing them to charge a premium for their wares.
The right brand ambassador can not only add credibility to your offering but also strengthen the reputation of your brand, allowing it to flourish when economic times are tough. When times are good, the ambassador can support and grow your business through additional strategic partnerships.
Building a strong brand requires the ambassador to feel bonded to the corporate brand and they must understand their role in turning brand aspirations into reality.
A brand’s success lies in how selective you are in choosing your ambassador and the requirements you place on them in both a personal and contractual capacity. Even then, a brand needs to be ready to teach and coach an endorser to be the ambassador they expect of them. As the brand, you must educate your ambassador on the brand and how to live the brand so they can learn from your example. The ambassador needs to be the voice of the brand not just pay lip service to it. PR and public speaking training is an absolute must. A stuttering ambassador could cause a stutter in sales.
Brands must select athlete personalities that closely align with the brand’s values and marketing objectives. It doesn’t matter how marketable an athlete or influencer is if their personality and actions don’t align with a brand’s message. Some brands enjoy rebellious, outspoken athletes, Nike never dropped Kobe Bryant or more famously, Tiger Woods, while others benefit those who influence through a gentler behaviour such as Peyton Manning.
A brand must first understand how an athlete appears and make sure the brand or product they are endorsing represents that same personality.
To build a strong brand, you need brand ambassadors who are thoroughly engaged, connected and committed. In an ideal world, the ambassador will be motivated not only by the financial benefits of the relationship, but by belonging, esteem and self-actualization, traits proposed by the American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, as far back as 1943. When an ambassador is clear about who they are and what makes them exceptional, then and only then, can they apply their unique skills and expertise to activate a brands goals.
Tool up, team up and encourage innovation
Make sure your ambassador knows what assets he has access to promote your brand to the best of their ability. Engage them in the design process. There have been thousands of innovations that have stemmed from solving an athletes problem. When this happens you have such an amazing story to tell.
On top of this you should collaborate and design around their personal likes. Creating a limited edition or signature series is a great way to both build loyalty with an athlete and establish a brand association.
Like any partnership, the relationship that is cultivated between an endorser and brand is key and this is the area where I see most brands fall short. Just because a contract exists doesn’t mean the endorser will always act in ways that favour the endorsee. A brand has to build a loyal relationship with its backer and be very clear in what is expected. Too often a brand enters into an agreement and expects an endorser to know what they want, or at least they expect the endorser’s management to do so. You must know the athlete personally and be very clear in your expectations.
It is also important to make sure any potential ambassador understands that they work for the brand and not vice versa. Athletes who believe they are benefitting a brand more than the brand benefits them personally is the worst scenario of all to find yourself in.
Imagine crafting an ad campaign around an endorser only to see that endorser show up in public wearing a competitor’s brand! It happens frequently and can really derail the authenticity of a brand.
So, is it still worth recruiting brand ambassadors despite all these caveats and potential pitfalls?
Definitely. Get the right people on board and they will keep your brand right through thick and thin, whatever the marketing climate.
Scott Bowers is the chief brand officer with Factory Design Labs.