Ambassadors & endorsements - is it a load of bulls**t? 10 ways to select the right people
Updated: Jun 17
Anne Brillet on how to choose the right ambassadors for your business.
Having worked in the outdoor and cycling industry for over 12-years, for some of the biggest brands such as Specialized, Sigma Sports and Snow + Rock, we can say we have seen our fair share of sponsorship proposals. People requesting just a few inner tubes to help them conquer the world, to others wanting the world to provide your brand with...well, not very much.
From selecting the new faces of a brand campaign, to launching the Specialized UK women's ambassador program, we have experienced many successes and failures, but as per usual, learned a whole load along the way. So, here's 10 ways to make ambassadors work for you and your business.
Justin Williams - Andrew Richardson ©ndrewr Media
1. Look at your business objectives and what you want to do before selecting ambassadors
Seems like an obvious one, but you would be surprised at the amount of times we have worked with businesses who have onboarded ambassadors, who are simply wrong for their strategy and out of focus. Ambassadors are experts at selling themselves and telling you that they are the next big thing, however, if your business is focussing on gravel, adventure and MTB, sponsoring a triathlete isn't quite the right fit. So, set up your business objectives and look for the right person to fulfil them.
2. Identify the motivations behind the ambassadorship
With the rise (and fall) of multiple social media platforms, many individuals will be attracted to the prospect of becoming an ambassador. One of the first steps in selecting the right person is to ask why they wish to become an ambassador for your business. Stay well away from anyone who's in it for the free stuff and has no interest in supporting you and your company. Be sure that they love your brand and that they have not sent the same copy/paste proposal to all other brands and businesses in the local area. They must genuinely care about your business.
Alec Briggs - Andrew Richardson ©ndrewr Media
3. Be transparent about your needs
Honesty and transparency is key. You must be honest from the get go on what you need your ambassadors to do for you. You cannot blame the ambassador for not "doing their job" if you haven't been crystal clear on what you want them to do. Content, photography, word of mouth, leading rides and events? Discuss together what is achievable and what isn't and ensure that you maximise each opportunity, but also that the exchange is fair (don't ask the world if you're not prepared to part with products or cash, discount on products = discount on content...).
4. It's not all about race results and social media following
Race results are great. They are the testimony of the fact your ambassador is a strong rider, but beyond that, unless they're racing in the tour or coming top of the Red Hook Crit podium, it's not a huge amount of use to small businesses. The race scene is full of other sponsored athletes, none of which are in the market to purchase products. If your racer is providing you with quality race photography and behind the scene content, as part of a fuller ambassadorship program with ride leading and in-store evenings, you've got yourself a winner. If all they're interested in is the cheap/free product to race with and don't provide you with much else...better pass.
When it comes to social media, authenticity is key. Authenticity is a word that's been flying around a lot lately, but what do we actually mean? It's simple. Does the ambassador reflect your values as a business or a brand and do they come across as genuine or just jumping on the bandwagon? Here's a simple example: if you wish to attract more women customers, does your ambassador come across as a strong image of women's empowerment? or are they posting content designed for their male audience?
Look at their social posts, are they heavily product led? Are they sponsored by 15 other brands?Audiences are becoming increasingly tired of over sponsored content full of "unboxing" stories and "Thanks *insert brand*". Yep, you guessed it, that's inauthentic.
Katy Curd - Andrew Richardson ©ndrewr Media
5. How do they make a difference in the world?
With social responsibility becoming an increasingly important part of business, does your ambassador embody your true values? How do they make a difference to the world around us? Do they support groups of disadvantaged youth? Do they work with initiatives to get more women on bikes? Do they promote riding and talking to bring awareness to men's mental health? Which leads onto our next point:
6. Personality makes all the difference
Are they overall a nice person? Are they someone you can easily communicate with and discuss projects and plans? This person will represent you and your business, so a kind and open personality is key, as they will need to communicate with the public on your behalf, leading rides, hosting workshop clinics, manning events, as well as communicating digitally with people and their followers. If they are a nice, genuine person, it'll make the experience a whole load easier and more fun.
Helen Gaskell - Andrew Richardson ©ndrewr Media
7. Don't take friends' recommendations for gospel
If the potential ambassador is your mechanic's best friend and a "sound guy", always make the decision for yourself and never feel pressured into saying yes. If there is one piece of advice we have for you, it is to meet the person yourself before making any promises. This links back to the previous point. It is very hard to get a true understanding of someone's personality through a recommendation, a public profile, few emails and a phone call.
8. Have you got time for me?
Being open with expectations is key, as is being realistic. Discuss with your ambassador what they have time to do for you and adapt your level of sponsorship commitment to the activations. Are they leading weekly rides, hosting events, providing you with monthly images to use in your content feed, promoting your business though their channels and word of mouth? Probably worth getting a new bike every year (on rotation of course!). But, be realistic, a triathlete with 3 children and a full time job, training for an Ironman, isn't going to be able to support your store in the right way.
Kriss Kyle - Andrew Richardson ©ndrewr Media
9. Connection with the local community
It is important for independent businesses that your ambassador is connected to the local community and that they have an influence on the people around them. Have they taken part in the local Breeze club? Do they just seem to know everyone in the community?
10. Public confidence
Your ambassador needs to be able to speak confidently to the public and needs to be at ease in front of a crowd. They might need to give a briefing before a long ride, support with your local events, man your workshop clinic and take part in Q&As...For that reason they need to feel happy conversing with people they don't know, in front of people they don't know, and yes, that's still quite nerve racking for everyone.
11. (Bonus) Are they just f*cking cool?
That's it really. Cool can't be faked. Cool can't be taught. Cool just is.
Ambassadors we love:
All photography Andrew Richardson ©ndrewr Media http://ndrewr.co.uk/