Brand ambassadorships aren't just for Nike

Nike’s ability to generate and sustain brand equity through ambassador partnerships with the world’s biggest athletes is unparalleled.

Since their humble beginnings in 1964, Nike have gone on to revolutionise the world of athlete ambassadorships. As a small business from Oregon, USA pivoting from the importation of Japanese running shoes toward the production of their own, Nike recognised the need to have premier athletes wearing their products.

Nike’s first ever brand ambassador was long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine, an Oregon native and pupil of Nike co-founder and legendary athletics coach Bill Bowerman. Prefontaine perfectly embodied Nike’s dynamism and innovation through his graceful running style and dominant performances on the track, showcasing the now iconic ‘Swoosh’ logo across America and the world.

This initial ambassadorship paved the way for Nike to attract sporting superstars like Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, LeBron James and Christiano Ronaldo early in their careers to represent the company. Each has embodied the Nike ethos of bringing inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world, and continue to grow the brand and its global reach.

As a company with a net worth in excess of $30 billion, Nike is a prime example of how harnessing the power of brand ambassadorships can prolong sales, create lasting loyalty, and establish a triangle of trust between a company, its ambassadors, and their target audience.

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Serena Williams, Christiano Ronaldo and Michael Jordan for Nike

Ambassadors work for all businesses

However, you don’t need a budget the size of Nike’s to effectively utilise brand ambassadors for your business and benefit in the same ways that Nike has.

Aligning with the right star and having clear deliverables for your brand ambassadorship can land you a valuable star you can leverage through campaigns to sell your brand story.

The world of ambassadorships is all relative. A global mega-company like Nike could provide a brief to a superstar such as LeBron James with the same deliverables as a small company seeking to partner with a local celebrity and achieve the same positive outcomes of building brand equity and trust, and increasing sales. The only difference is budget.

How ambassadors impact businesses of all sizes

Small businesses are perfectly positioned to benefit from a brand ambassador. At a reasonable budget, they’re able to add a relevant star with cut-through in their target area and audience to help sell their brand story, build trust and drive sales.

Adding a recognised sports star or celebrity to your brand over a long period creates a genuine trust and engagement in your business through repeat content on the star’s social channels and using their image in marketing campaigns and on your website.

They can also be used to attend events, surprise and delight valued customers and engage staff.

Finding the right brand ambassador

There are a few questions you need to ask about your business to determine the type of star you need.

Is your business local, national or global?

This is a great starting point to determine the type of star you need. If you’re a local plumbing business with clients across the east of Melbourne, someone with a presence in that area is perfect, rather than a global star like Adam Gilchrist.

What attributes does your ambassador need to have?

A watch brand might look for someone who is all about precision. It could be a sharp-shooting netball star or someone from a military background. Consider the key attributes for your business and align your star with those attributes.

Does your ambassador need to use your product?

A national insurance business won’t necessarily need their ambassador to be heavily involved in insurance. They want someone who can add trust to their brand. A known name across the country who oozes reliability. But if you’re a razor company trying to break into the market, you’ll ideally want your ambassador to be someone who uses razors.

Gro’s example of growth

Take Melbourne hair growth specialists ‘Gro’ for example.

With a focus on NSW and Queensland, Gro were looking for a star with male pattern baldness aged 25-50 who was willing to be the face of their business, undergo a hair transplant procedure and produce a content series to follow their journey.

The team at Gro settled on rugby dual-code legend Mat Rogers to be their brand ambassador due to his visibility across a wide range of supporters, his passion about breaking down the stigma of hair loss and hair transplant procedures, his prior experience of working in front of the camera, and his general likeability as seen through his appearance on Celebrity Survivor.

The resulting series of content gained a lot of traction and resulted in a sharp uptick in calls, bookings, and revenue for Gro.

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Mat Rogers and Gro

TASCA’s mission to build awareness

Victorian based not-for-profit Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Australia (TASCA) provide an additional example of how brand ambassadors can allow smaller organisations to raise awareness in their local communities and create dialogue around a certain topic.

TASCA, whose focus is on supporting patients with genetic blood diseases, chose Aussie Olympic runner Peter Bol as their 2021 ambassador. As he prepares for his tilt at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, he will be able to use his established social media following to promote TASCA’s cause, and to use his image in association with the organisation.

Peter’s timely promotion will allow TASCA to achieve their goals of raising awareness of their cause and generating discussion around the rare blood conditions of the patients they support, their specific medical needs, and the most effective ways to support their families.

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Peter Bol and TASCA

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