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Ultimate Guide to Brand Ambassadorships in 2021

The What

What is a brand ambassador?

Brand ambassador definition:

A brand ambassador is a person, especially a celebrity or sports star, who enters a paid partnership with an organisation to endorse their products or services.

Brand ambassadors have become increasingly important in the digital age where trust is harder to gain.

Effective brand ambassadors add credibility to a business and can actually shift perception of a brand.

Why would my organisation need a brand ambassador?

Having a brand ambassador as the face of your organisation is an effective way to build credibility and tell a brand story.

Brands harness the passionate following of well-known celebrities and sports stars to drive awareness and sales.

Isn’t a brand ambassador just an influencer in disguise?

There are things a long-term brand ambassadorship can achieve that a short-term marketing or influencer campaign definitely cannot.

You can access more talent with a brand ambassadorship. Many sports stars and celebrities avoid doing one-off posts promoting brands or events for a variety of reasons, including scheduling challenges and protecting personal brand reputation.

Generally the budget for a brand ambassador will be higher than a one-off, short-term campaign for an influencer. But you’ll get very different results and drive very different outcomes.

Influencers and ambassadors can actually work very well as part of a balanced marketing mix. But the ambassador approach to building brand is often overlooked for the short-term, tactical approach of using influencers.

Building Brand

When you consider how organisations approach their marketing spend, there are several approaches marketers will take.

  1. Invest only in bottom of funnel
    This is a very typical approach for brands, especially smaller ones. Leaders want to know the exact ROI they’ll get on every campaign. Which is understandable. But it doesn’t fuel growth. Top of funnel campaigns are harder to track, but they’re absolutely vital in achieving growth.

    Byron Sharp and the industry-leading Ehrenberg-Bass Institute have done extensive studies on how brands grow and found that brand campaigns are vital to continued growth. (Byron Sharp, How Brands Grow, 2010)

  2. Spend a lot on brand advertising
    This approach takes time, but it’s effective. Consider some of the biggest B2C brands in the world. Coca-Cola. McDonald’s. Nike. It’s taken time, but they’ve invested heavily in brand advertising campaigns over years and years. They do that because it works, not just because it makes their marketing managers feel good.

    This approach is obviously mixed with short-term tactical campaigns, but a majority of their spend is on brand.

  3. Accelerate brand growth with a brand ambassador
    For new brands, challenger brands and established brands, investing a well-aligned brand ambassador accelerates brand growth. For new and challenger brands, a good brand ambassador builds trust and equity in a brand. They accelerate the process of building your brand.

    For established brands, a brand ambassador can increase market share or help them re-position within the market. Whatever the goal, a brand ambassador and the personal brand attached to that person turbo-charges brand growth.

The Impact on Purchase Consideration

Consider the example of a solar panel company, let’s call them Solar Plus.

Solar Plus runs campaigns saying their solar panels are the best, the most efficient and the easiest to maintain.

The problem.

So does every other solar company in the market.

Solar Plus are newer in the market, so they haven’t got the same brand equity some of their competitors do.

When a consumer is considering installing solar panels, they do their research and see Solar Plus in amongst a number of companies. The consumer has no real way of differentiating these companies. But a competitor, let’s call them Solar Smart, has been in the market for years running brand campaigns.

The consumer chooses Solar Smart for no reason other than they know the name.

Now consider Solar Plus adds a well-known sports star as a brand ambassador. The sports star posts about Solar Plus on their social channels because they’re passionate about clean energy. They appear in a few news articles talking about the partnership. And they’re the face of the brand on their website.

They’ve added credibility and trust to Solar Plus.

Now the consumer approaches this same purchase differently.

They do their research and see the sports star, a well-respected and honest personality, is endorsing Solar Plus. They’ve instantly got an affinity for this product. The sports star’s face is across the website. They’ve done videos explaining the benefits of going with Solar Plus. And they’ve explained why they’re passionate about clean energy.

This point of difference and trust is enough to push the consumer into going with Solar Plus over the more well-established brand in the market.

Lebron Nike
LeBron James and Nike. Photo: Hypebeast

About you

What do you want to achieve out of a brand ambassador?

We’ve explained what a brand ambassador is and what they can do, but what do you want a brand ambassador to achieve for you?

Do you want a brand ambassador to help you re-position in the market?

Are you a new brand looking to accelerate brand growth?

Do you want someone who can test your product with their expertise and also be the face of the brand?

Do you want someone who can open doors into other organisations because of their gravitas?

Spending time determining asking the right questions and being crystal clear on exactly what you want to achieve by engaging a brand ambassador will help set the foundations for a successful partnership.

Know your brand

This is a key question to answer before you decide who you want to be your brand ambassador.

Actually, this is just a key question to ask any business.

And if you don’t have a mission statement and brand values, you should engage branding professionals to create them for you. Yesterday.

We spoke to Frame Creative who refreshed the Pickstar brand and brand values about why this is so important.

Knowing your brand values and being able to clearly articulate them will make it easier for a potential ambassador to decide whether their values align with yours.

Short-term tactical campaign vs a long-term brand-building exercise

These two things don’t actually need to be mutually exclusive.

But it’s important to know what your priority is.

Every organisation needs to find a balance between short term marketing campaigns and long term brand building.

Many brands tend to focus on the short-term activations predominantly.

But extensive studies from Les Binet and Peter Field have found the most effective mix of short term tactical and long term brand building is about 40% short term and 60% long term. (Binet & Field, The Long & The Short of It, 2013)

Most organisations, especially those in the B2B sector, skew far more towards the short term activations.

It’s important to sell internally to your leaders and shareholders how brand campaigns actually increase the effectiveness of short-term activations.

Brady Tag
Tom Brady and Tag Heuer

The Scope

Local, national or international

This is a great question to further 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.

Where you’ll be using the talent’s IP makes a difference to the budget too. Running ads in a local paper and the cost associated with it can vary greatly compared to running a national TV campaign.

If you don’t know exactly where you’d use a brand ambassador, you can check out our guide to building a brief for a brand ambassador. It’s full of great considerations that’ll help you get closer to securing your ambassador.

The length of agreement

It’s typical to begin with a 12 month or 18 month agreement with an option to extend.

And most sports stars and celebrities prefer longer term deals. Some, in fact, will only accept long term 12+ month deals.

It allows the talent to build a real relationship with the brand they’re working with and gives them a clear idea of exactly what is required over the course of the agreement.

And the longer the deal, the better. It gives brand and talent the opportunity to create real engagement around the partnership.

If you’re concerned about the budget required for a long-term deal, there are payment plans available for most agreements like this.

The deliverables

This is perhaps the most vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to brand ambassadorships.

Do you want your star available to complete webinars to engage clients?

Do you want guest speaking at events from them?

Which marketing campaigns will you use them in?

How many times do you need them to post on social media?

An example for a 12-month ambassadorship could look something like this:

  • 12 x social in-feed posts
  • 12 x social story posts
  • 3 x video/photo shoots (full-day)
  • 3 x in-person appearances (2-3 hours)
  • Use of IP on website
  • Use of IP through advertising

Budget will be impacted by the number of channels, the frequency of use and the reach of those channels. The more clear you are here, the smoother a brand ambassadorship will run.

Remember, the IP of the talent is the major thing you’re getting when you engage a brand ambassador. Talent are understandably protective of this IP as it’s highly influential to consumers.

Not sure what channels you’re planning to use? No problem, we can pitch the ambassadorship at different prices based on different deliverables.

The value of IP

You’re not just paying for your brand ambassador to post through their social channels, attend events and complete brand photo shoots.

You’re paying for someone who builds trust, has influence and can accelerate your brand’s growth.

Celebrities, sports stars and experts spend years building their personal brands - much the same as a business does. These personalities want to protect their brand and will only align with organisations who have similar values to them.

The personalities who do this best have such a strong personal brand, that the IP you’re paying for is worth a significant amount.

Think of their personal brand as a finite resource. If a high-profile personality has hundreds of brands they endorse, they start to diminish their personal brand and the IP that comes with it. Align with a poor or shady company, their personal brand takes a hit.

Given this finite number of brands a sports star or celebrity can work with, each deal will carry significant weight.

But don’t think of the dollar value you’re paying for when you engage a brand ambassador. Quite often, the higher the value, the more authentic the partnership you’re able to build as the star has protected their brand.

Barty Vegemite
Ash Barty and Vegemite. Photo: B&T

The Talent

What Talent Want to Know

A sports star or celebrity who is considering working as your brand ambassador will vett your business.

They’ll want to know things like:

  1. What impact will this partnership have on my brand?

  2. Do I believe in the brand and their product or service?

  3. Is the brand sustainable?

  4. Is the brand innovating and growing?

  5. What are others saying about this brand?

  6. Does this align with my personal brand?

  7. Does this align to a cause or purpose I’m passionate about?

The information and questions will change depending on the brand, the talent and the deliverables, but consider these questions a starting point.

Aligning with a Cause or Purpose

Finding a sports star or celebrity who is passionate about clean energy and pitch them an ambassadorship opportunity about working with a solar company and you’re likely to get a very positive response.

Finding talent who are passionate about a cause or purpose your company is linked to can help not only find well-aligned talent, but it can also have an impact on budget. Stars are more likely to work at a slightly reduced budget for something they’re passionate about.

In the solar example above, it means you can leverage the talent’s passion about a cause and talk about the impact on the environment using solar energy can have, rather than just getting them to promote a sale.

Scheduling Impact

Sports stars, celebrities and experts have busy schedules and need to be comfortable the deliverables - and the timing of those deliverables - works in with them.

Consider an athlete training for the Olympics. They’re going to struggle to attend events in the months leading up to the games, but they’ll likely have downtime after the games are over.

Talent will want to be confident they can deliver on the requirements of the partnership, so factor in their scheduling when you’re considering stars and building your brief.

The Budget

A Typical Budget Range

As we’ve outlined throughout this guide, there are a number of factors that impact the budget for a brand ambassador.


The scope section goes into detail about this, but to give you a ballpark figure to start with, here’s our budget guide:

  • Less than $25k - charities and some not-for-profits may be able to secure a brand ambassador (sometimes without pay at all), based on the alignment and cause. But for brands and businesses, a budget of less than $25k is more suited to shorter term tactical approaches.

  • $25k-$50k - talent with a strong reputation in a part of a local market. Unlikely to be nationally recognised, with a social following that is engaged but focused predominantly on a single market.

  • $50k-$200k - talent who will be recognised in multiple markets with a solid following

  • $200k-$500k - a very-well recognised national identity with a strong brand reputation and significant social following

  • More than $500k - an instantly recognised household name with a highly engaged following

Justifying Budget to Leaders

Understandably, most businesses don’t have $100k spare in their marketing budget ready to go. But consider the following factors:

  • There is flexibility with payment terms. It might be a portion up front, a portion at six months and the balance after 12 months. So you’ve actually realised the value of the brand ambassadorship before you’ve paid the full amount.

  • Brand ambassadors accelerate brand growth and amplify your other campaigns.

  • There is no quicker or more effective way of building trust in your brand than having a well-respected brand ambassador be the face of your organisation.

What now?

Think a brand ambassador might be right for your business? Or just want to understand more about how a brand ambassadorship works?

Pickstar’s dedicated Brand Partnerships team is here to help you.

Contact Agency Partnerships Director Tarquin Samuels or Chief Growth Officer Loren Renton.

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