Brand ambassador, player appearance, behind the scene’s access…whatever you want to call it, can be such an invaluable benefit or ‘string in your bow’ for both a rights holder or brand. Only if used, however, strategically with some clearly identified objectives.
During my time as a commercial manager at a right’s holder, I was lucky enough to work with some brands that were open to new ideas and we created a great relationship through a number of meaningful interactions. Now, because of my role, I get to see some fantastic activations, creative content and some truly engaged partnerships that our clients deliver.
There is one thing, however, I wish I had have utilised a lot more in the past; brand ambassadors. Whether you are a rights holder or brand, activating the strategic and meaningful use of a great personality, player or team, is a really simple, but influential way, to achieve specific objectives. For rights holders, brand ambassadors aren’t just about helping the brand, they can also give your own organisation a huge boost.
So, what are four key steps to utilising this invaluable benefit properly?
When deciding if you would like to work with a brand ambassador, or if you should include it as a core element of a partnership proposal, consider the objectives this benefit will help achieve. Typically, the objectives that a brand ambassador can be activated to help achieve include:
- brand positioning;
- relationship building;
- community engagement;
- building an audience; and/or
- generating sales.
The number and variety of objectives that can be achieved outline the huge potential that the strategic use of ambassadors offers. If any of these are important to a brand, then discussing the benefit of an ambassador should definitely be considered.
2. Available Talent
Whether you are the brand or a rights holder, consider the individual players, the team as a whole or even coaching staff, that you could or would want to utilise. All can be successful but the appropriate choice will usually be determined by:
Do you have enough budget to access a whole team or the biggest personality?
Will an individual player reach a substantial share of the market you are trying to engage? How far away (geographically) is the audience you trying to reach? An individual player may limit this.
Do you have access to players or teams with sufficient ‘character’ or appropriate ‘social awareness’ to ensure your brand is well represented? Utilising an individual player may give you more control over certain situations, however, the use of a team may allow you to access a variety of different characters and representatives.
3. Time Frame
Consider the time frame for when you would want to utilise an ambassador. Obviously, in-season use of the ambassador is likely to create some creative content, however, their availability will most likely be limited.
On the other hand, the ability to access the ambassador out of season may open the door for some really creative and behind-the-scenes content and may help your brand stay top of mind and engage an audience in-between seasons.
Furthermore, consider the length of time you want to utilise the ambassador. Results show that a longer relationship allows for better brand alignment and the creation of a more meaningful connection with target markets (think of Mark Taylor and Fujitsu Air). When considering this, both the ambassador and brand should be open to ways they could work together post the career of the athlete. Many brands have worked really well with ambassadors during their career and then go on to create an even more meaningful connection once they are no longer competing (Pat Rafter and BONDS come to mind).
4. Mutually Beneficial
Possibly the most important consideration when thinking about utilising brand ambassadors is to ensure that the relationship is mutually beneficial. That is, the brand, right’s holder and team or individual, all receive sufficient benefits out of the execution. This is key to ensure:
- the brand’s image isn’t damaged by an athlete feeling taken advantage of;
- the rights holder is not setting a poor example of how to use a really powerful benefit; and
- the athlete or team are open to working with the brand in a flexible and engaging manner.
We all probably have an example of a brand ambassador that hit the mark (and a few that didn’t). After consideration of the steps above, however, we should all be in a better position to utilise the really powerful ‘string in the bow’ that is a brand ambassador.
What great examples of brand ambassadors come to mind for you and why were they great? Or even some that missed the mark?
Sam Irvine // Territory Manager – Australia & New Zealand
Sam is passionate about helping organisations maximise their sponsorship programs and has worked with brands and rights holders at all levels. Sam is always looking for ways to improve himself and loves working with people who give as much as they take.
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