What is a Brand Ambassador and How Does a Brand Ambassador Program Work?

January 24, 2013

A brand ambassador is someone who is genuinely interested in your brand and is willing to spread the word for you. Brand ambassador programs can be structured differently according to goals. For startup companies the brand may want to use an ambassador program to spread the word about the brand itself. For larger companies brand ambassador programs are used to launch a new product or to target a new consumer market. For some companies they may want to add one to simply add more content to their site. There are many possibilities for use.

I’ve asked some of the brand ambassadors I work with at ICEdot to share some of their thoughts on the different brand ambassador programs they’ve been involved with and how they work.

This first guest post is from an amazing running advocate, Nicholas Norfolk. It was really helpful for me to read his perspective.

Brand Ambassador, Nicholas Norfolk

What is a Brand Ambassador Program?

It’s a program that recruits individuals to represent a brand. Brand ambassadors are an extension of the mission and values of the brand. The relationship between brand and ambassador are crucial to the success of the program. This is accomplished by promoting the brand and creating positive experiences for the ambassador and those the brand is trying to reach and connect with. Brand ambassadors may be paid with money, services, products, or resources. Payment of any kind is not imperative for one to be a brand ambassador.

Why Do You Want to be a Brand Ambassador?

I want to be a brand ambassador for the same reason that I consider myself to be a running ambassador. It’s my way of showing support to a brand that has been beneficial and/or supportive to me. Although not official, I would say I’m a brand ambassador to many products whether knowing or unknowingly. If I don’t agree or use a product, I wouldn’t dare want to be a brand ambassador. I’ve been offered ambassadorships before, but graciously declined because I didn’t use the product. It doesn’t mean it was a bad product that didn’t do what it claimed to do. It wasn’t for me and not every product will be.

What many have to be cautious of is applying to be ambassadors for the wrong reasons. If you think you’re going to be paid a large sum of money, you should think again. Most of the brand ambassador programs reap the benefits of their ambassadors by virtually giving them nothing. Sure, you may get to wear a nice kit with logos plastered on it. Ambassadors wear it to events and people soon start to affiliate them with the brand. Some immediately trust the brand because they trust the ambassador or because they recognize a familiar face.

Ambassadors distribute products for brands that otherwise would probably fall on deaf ears. They have a connection with people and that’s why they are vital to a successful brand ambassador program. You think a marketing director could hand out a product if they’re not part of that community? They can, but will it be well received? Now, put that product in the hands of someone with clout and your margin for success increases dramatically.

I see a number of brands that have too many ambassadors. Quantity doesn’t equate to being better. Make it a grassroots campaign. That will be more effective in my opinion. Get a core group of ambassadors and allow them to run wild. Allow them to build a community with the communities they are already a part of.

What’s Been Some of Your Rewarding Experiences as a Brand Ambassador?

From my experience, most brands don’t truly value their ambassadors. As I stated earlier, you can do more with a small group than you can with 200-500 people. If you’re worried about quantity versus quality, be sure to pick great people. They exist. I know this because I’m one of them. That’s not an arrogant statement, it’s the truth. If I were a brand, I’d love to find a person like me. I may think I was a little intense, but we can channel that intensity.

With the boom of social media, find people that are genuinely excited and passionate about what they do. When they post, tweet, pin, or share, people listen. That’s not it. They engage and create dialogue. They cultivate relationships with people that may have never thought about trying a product. Now, they will at least give it a try. They may not like it, but they have been exposed to it. Who knows, they may in turn tell someone else about it.  One of the things I like to say is borrowed from Greg McMillan.  “We are an experiment of one.” It basically boils down to what works for me may not work for you.

Without sounding biased, one of my best experiences has been with ICEdot. Steve’s locker room idea has been great! It’s brought me closer to the group. If I were over a brand ambassador program, I’d highly encourage this. There will be someone in the group that thinks like this, but I was part of a program that frowned upon this type of thing. It was like they wanted to monitor us or something. We just wanted to get to know each other.

Ultimately, it’s about the people you meet. The relationships you create can last a lifetime. You will always have ambassadors that will stand out. Programs need to find a way to show them they are appreciated. Who doesn’t like good exposure? There are some ambassadors that have more of a reach than brands think they do. Let’s pick on me for a minute. I’m a runner that embraces not only my local running community but also my state, region, and nation. I have numerous networks that I’m a part of and it’s not for the sake of promoting anything. It’s because I want to be there.

I write about races, volunteer at races, and promote races that I think are for a good cause or because I had a great experience. I’m always increasing my network because I never know when I may be in a position to help someone along the way. Maybe a runner I met at a race could benefit from one of my contacts.  Oh, you want to put on a race? I know exactly who you need to talk to. Let’s rally the troops!

In addition to being one who networks, I’m one who doesn’t wait on things to happen. I wanted to see my running club make a positive change, so instead of talking about it, I decided to run for president. I’ll be part of the solution as opposed to only complaining about the problems. Let’s not go into all of the people I associate with on social media. If someone does right by me, I won’t forget it.  We create cycles.  It’s up to us to decide if they will be cycles of mediocrity, disappointment, or success.  I chose the latter.  How about you?

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