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Sharers of the Love: A Primer for Brand Ambassador Programs

Presidio Sports Management has helped several brands in the endurance space set up their ambassador programs and in that process we’ve come up with some best practices that can help brands get all the benefits of brand ambassadors without the dreaded “trying to herd kittens” marketing problems.

In this post, we will outline a better way to set up ambassador programs that will help brands maximize the marketing potential and allow for brand staff to better keep track of the ambassadors’ activities.

Why Ambassadors in the First Place?

Ambassadors are awesome! Not only can they be as effective (or more effective) than pro athletes in raising awareness about the brand, they can be more relatable than a genetically gifted professional might be. (We love Pro’s too. Their marketing value as leaders and inspiration for users or potential users of brands is obvious. See any commercial with Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Michael Lewis and other Michaels.)

In our experience, ambassadors are generally stoked to receive product in lieu of salary or stipend and love to be seen as affiliated/sponsored by a brand and reciprocate this by working hard and being fiercely loyal to the brand. Finding willing and able ambassadors has not been a problem that we’ve experienced. Management of an ambassador program (as with management of pro athletes) is the difficult part.

Herding Kittens is Hard!

We’ve found that most ambassador programs that we studied while creating programs for our clients fall into two camps: either highly ineffective or highly disorganized. Ok so maybe that’s the same camp…but two camps sounds cooler. At any rate, the main problems we see is in the visioning of the reasons for a brand having an ambassador program in the first place and how to properly administer an ambassador program to achieve the vision of the brand in the second. Without clear visioning an ambassador program is doomed for mediocrity.

Clear Visioning

The most important part of designing an ambassador program is figuring out what it is that the brand wants to achieve. Being super honest with yourself is the best place to start. Want to enter a new market? Ok. Want to start new (or invigorate and existing) social media marketing? Ok. Want to evangelize your followers? Ok. Want to make a million dollars? Hmm, maybe. Having a clear answer to what a brand wants to achieve sets everything else up for success.

Design an Ambassador Program that Makes Your Life Easier, Not Harder

Once the vision is clear, setting up an ambassador program that can help achieve the brand vision is easier than you’d think. Setting up clear expectations, having a clear incentive structure for performance and having ambassadors sign a contract that explains the expectations and incentives are key. Once all this is set, brands should reward ambassadors for meeting their expectation after meeting their expectations, not before. In addition, by asking ambassadors to report when they’ve achieved whatever markers are met for the brand in order for them to receive their incentives, the herding kittens problem is solved.

Anyway, without sharing too much of the secret PSM juju for ambassador program design, we hope that this blog helps brands think about how ambassador programs can work for them. Feel free to reach out if you’d like more information on how we can help you build something awesome.