Brand Ambassador Definition
What is a Brand Ambassador? Loosely speaking, a brand ambassador is someone who represents your company in a positive light, generating increased brand awareness and, ideally, increased revenue.
With social media, brand ambassadorships have increased exponentially. However, there are many types of brand ambassadorships, and they’re not equal.
I’ve been a long-term unpaid ambassador for one brand (AFAR) and a paid brand ambassador for Travelocity, Universal Orlando, Mizzen+Main and Thomson Family Adventures. I have one more coming up as well that I’m very excited about.
But I’ve turned down (or ignored) hundreds of brand ambassador offers. Why? Because they weren’t well-structured programs. Based on my experience, this is what I look for:
Elements of a Successful Brand Ambassador Program
1. It’s a paid brand ambassadorship
I’m great being an unpaid ambassador for AFAR given that it was the first ambassadorship I accepted and there aren’t recurring deliverables, but since then I’ve only accepted paid brand ambassador roles. If I’m working to market for a company I expect to get paid monthly for that. And my revenue shouldn’t be based on affiliate programs or otherwise tied to sales. It’s fine if there’s a bonus for sales I generate, but so much brand promotion now is on platforms like Instagram where I’m creating brand awareness without direct purchase links, or there’s a slower sales cycle where someone will see my post now but not make a purchase for months, without that revenue being tied to my promotion.
I’ve seen brand ambassador roles for travel influencers anywhere between $500 and $5,000/month depending on deliverables and the reach of the influencer/ambassador. Obviously celebrities can earn far more.
2. There are firm deliverables
A company should require set deliverables, including monthly social posts and periodic blog posts, either on my site, the brand’s site or both. Universal Orlando had us attend and promote attraction/park openings as well, and Travelocity flew us to Mexico several times to brainstorm the program and our roles and to promote resorts at the same time (with additional pay).
3. There are a limited number of brand ambassadors
I want a program to feel exclusive. If you make bracelets and you’re sending out thousands of DMs offering ambassador roles whereby you send the “ambassador” a free bracelet and they agree to do social posts, that’s not really an ambassadorship. There’s no long-term obligation, and the hundreds of people who accept your offer aren’t going to feel a particular bond to you. A good brand ambassador program should have 10-15 people max, all of whom love your brand and have different niches, so that the monthly promotion is as wide as possible. Give your group of ambassadors a name. Bring everyone together in person at least once a year. Make it fun.
4. It’s an exclusive relationship
If I’m getting paid monthly by a company to be a brand ambassador, they should expect me to be exclusive and not promote direct competitors. In the example I gave above about a bracelet company, there wouldn’t be any expectation of exclusivity – not for a free bracelet. But I want to be closely associated with any brand where I’m an ambassador and for that to come across in my social bios and in everything I do and post. If I’m an ambassador for T-Mobile, for example, I’d make sure that I’m only using T-Mobile, and T-Mobile would even be seen on unrelated screen shots on IG Stories. If I’m not passionate about T-Mobile, I shouldn’t be an ambassador for them.
In a case where absolute exclusivity doesn’t make sense, such as with a Middle Eastern airline that can’t transport you domestically, at the very least don’t do posts while flying other airlines and don’t agree to promotional agreements with other airlines. If you feel like it’s risky to accept exclusivity because you think a better/cooler partnership could come along, then price that exclusivity into your contract. I’ve had five different contracted campaigns with Capital One and, although never officially an ambassador, I was exclusive to them for over two years. I turned down several other credit card campaigns during that time, but I never regretted my exclusivity – after all, it kept leading to additional contracts.
5. A brand ambassadorship is long-term
I usually contract for six-month ambassadorships, with terms for extending them six months at a time. I’ve also had one-year initial terms, which is even better. If I like a company and they like me, I want that relationship to last as long as possible, and a long-term mutually-beneficial partnership is always going to be better than a one-and-done partnership. Your followers will notice when you’re consistent long-term in who you recommend, and they’ll also notice when you’re inconsistent.
Advice to Companies
If you’re thinking of developing a brand ambassador program, I’d encourage you to:
- Interview potential ambassadors and choose a group that will work well together. You want a cohesive group, and you want your ambassadors to mutually support each other even outside of your deliverables.
- Have a one-year budget large enough for everything you want to do.
- Expect to significantly increase brand awareness and be prepared to accept that as a primary program benefit. It could be hard to tie revenue gains directly to your ambassadors, but they can play a major role in long-term company growth as part of an integrated marketing program.
- Send your ambassadors cool things. Everyone likes to get fun and/or practical swag. And when people get things in the mail, they’ll do additional posts for you and integrate those items into their lives and travels. My 18-inch Travelocity Roaming Gnome has been in the background of many Zoom calls this past year.
- Have an out. Although I like six-month or one-year agreements, make sure that you can terminate an ambassador if you think someone will represent you negatively, or if one person doesn’t get along with the rest of your group.
- And promote your ambassadors! The more attention you bring to them, the bigger they get, and the more it benefits you. It really is a two-way street.
“How Do I Become a Brand Ambassador?”
Most of my brand ambassadorships came about from in-person networking. Per my post on Advice for Travel Bloggers, networking is vital. I attended several AFAR events around the world before they asked me to be an ambassador. I met with Travelocity and Universal Orlando at multiple events. The Thomson Family Adventures ambassadorship came out of a hike during the ATWS conference in Alaska. And if a brand that I really like reaches out to me, I’m willing to be bold and propose an ambassadorship.
Feel free to send an outbound pitch to a company that you like, but a lot of things need to come together for your pitch to be successful: the company needs to have a budget; an ambassador program needs to be something that they’ve thought about or that they can integrate into their current marketing plan; and you need to be the perfect fit. In your pitch email make sure you emphasize your history with the brand and how they can benefit from partnering with you.
Brand Ambassador Best Practices
Have you been a brand ambassador, or have you managed ambassadors for your company? What am I leaving out above that could be considered a best practice?