Guide: How to Build a Plan for Your Brand Ambassador
Structuring a detailed plan for your brand ambassador will ensure return on investment and make sure expectations are clear for both you and the talent, writes PickStar's Head of Marketing, Andrew Montesi.
(NOTE: This blog is written from the perspective of engaging an athlete ambassador, but the concepts will apply to all ambassadors)
Many brands, charities and organisations partner with sports stars for all kinds of ambassadorships and campaigns.
Athlete ambassadors bring many benefits to their partners, including:
Leveraging the athlete’s personal brand and image for marketing purposes
Utilising the athlete’s public influence for credibility and endorsements
Alignment with an athlete’s values and “trademarks” (what they’re known for, eg toughness, resilience, being the best in their field etc.)
Utilising the athlete’s social media audience
When you’ve decided to start the process of partnering with an athlete brand ambassador, there’s an important series of steps required before you’ll be in a position to get a deal done.
The first step is to get clarity about the strategy for your ambassador. What will the ambassador enable your organisation to achieve? How does an ambassador fit into your organisation’s broader strategy?
It’s not enough to say that you just want an athlete to promote your product, service or event. Be clear in your own mind about why you want to work with an ambassador and, as you’ll read below, be specific about what you want the athlete to do.
In a recent episode of the Off-Field podcast, AFL legend Matthew Pavlich explained:
"In my dealings, it's often about sitting down with their (the partner's) creative people, their marketing guys and saying 'well what do you actually want to achieve out of this? What's your objectives? Where do you see using me?' And that might be above the line, TV ads, billboards, print advertising etc. but it also might be, and more traditionally the ones that I've been involved with, more client-based (and about) adding value, talking about leadership, high performing teams. You know, sitting in a board room lunch, those sort of more personal connections."
A key part of the strategy is defining the metrics of success. How will you track and measure the performance of your ambassador campaign? What goals will need to be achieved? Ensure your KPIs are measurable, and ideally you should be able to review performance monthly.
PIC: Athlete ambassadors are a big part of Swisse's marketing strategy
Build a wishlist of ideal sports stars
Where possible, don’t get your heart set on one athlete. Putting together a shortlist of options is important, because there are many factors that prohibit athletes from partnering with organisations, such as conflicts with existing sponsors, availability and budget. A list gives you flexibility.
Get creative with your selections. Booking the biggest names does not necessarily guarantee bang for buck. Who is an emerging sporting talent? Who has an engaged social media following (not just a heap of inactive followers)? Who has a personality or skill set that is a good fit?
Find out if any athletes already have a link to what you do. For example, an athlete might have a passion for a cause, issue or industry that goes hand in hand with your organisation.
Most importantly, ask yourself:
Is there an alignment with the sports star and the product, service or event you are promoting?
Does the athlete share the same values your organisation?
Your wishlist might initially be key points about an “archetype ambassador” without any names. You can take these key points to a company like PickStar, who can give you guidance and build a list of options for you to consider.
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What will you want from your ambassador?
It is very important to be as specific as possible. Athletes and their management representatives will not be interested in ambassador programs that have vague or ambiguous requirements.
Provide a broad overview of what you hope to achieve from the ambassador program
Here are some key considerations:
Utilising the athlete’s image
Most brand ambassador deals require the use of the athlete’s image. The athlete will want to know exactly where the images will appear, and how long you plan to use them in your marketing promotions.
You will also need to take responsibility for producing these images by booking your own photographer or videographer. And in doing so, you will need to consider a creative brief and the type of imagery required, how long the athlete will be required for the shoot and location.
Most ambassador deals include some social media promotion. It is important to be clear about the expectations here, as there is a commercial value on every social media post by a high profile athlete.
Come back to your strategy:
Will your athlete drive online sales, sign-ups, engagement, brand awareness, competition registrations etc.?
How many posts the athlete will need to make (eg weekly, monthly etc.)
They type of content they will be required to post
Will you be providing the content?
Will you be asking your athlete to appear in person at one or more events? While you might not have the specifics of the events locked in, provide an indication of expectations, such as:
City where the event/s will be held
How long the athlete will be required to appear
What the athlete may be required to do
The audience the event will be pitched to
Athletes and their representatives understand the need for flexibility
PIC: International cricketer Ed Cowan, netball star Sharni Layton, Paralympic gold medallist Carol Cooke and Red Bull big wave surfer Mark Matthews talk business at Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit 2016
It can be tough to know where to start with budget. As a starting point, work out the most you could afford to pay for the best available talent.
Don’t be clouded by your own perceptions about whether you have a big budget or “not enough”. You may be surprised at the calibre of athletes interested in your opportunity. Athletes make their decision on more factors than just money, and passion is a key motivator.
If your budget is too low for one of your desired athletes, ask for feedback, modify your offering if need be, and move on to another option from your shortlist.
Prepare your brief for the athlete
Elite athletes are very particular about who and what they align their personal brands with.
The athlete (and their agent/manager, if applicable) will want as much information as possible, including:
Information about your organisation, including purpose, values and key staff
Company timeline; key milestones, especially those that are linked with your ambassador plan
Detailed information about the product, service or event you are asking the athlete to promote
If you are promoting the product, the athlete will want to test it (ensure you have test products or prototypes available) and ensure that it is something they will be proud to put their name to
What you require of your athlete (as listed above)
What you are offering the athlete (budget and other incentives if applicable)
Find their commercial representative or contact
Utilising a sports star marketplace like PickStar will enable you canvas your options from more than 900 athletes past and present. This makes it much easier to see who is available, build a list of options and pitch to the athletes. The process is easy and you’ll only have to deal with one point of contact.
Alternatively, you’ll need to spend some hours on Google looking for athlete managers or agents. Their clubs or leagues may be able to help (but not all will), or you may be lucky enough to have people in your own personal network who could make the required introductions.
As you go through the process, there will likely be some back and forth between the athlete, their representative (if applicable) and you, as you work through the details. Where possible, be flexible and understanding of the complex nature of an elite athlete’s world.
Set it out in a contract
When you and your ambassador have agreed to terms in principle, put it down on paper. Depending on the level of your ambassador program, you may need the assistance of a lawyer to help you put together the contract.
A contract ensures that everyone involved in the deal is clear on his or her obligations.
It may also include details of a schedule outlining that payment will be made as the athlete makes good on their commitments throughout the term of the deal.
Build a relationship
The contract should just be a formality. It is important to build a personal relationship with your athlete from the outset. Authenticity is key, and the better your athlete knows you and your organisation, the more genuine the relationship will be.
Have regular meetings with the athlete, ask for feedback, ask if there are any other ways your organisation can help them - for example, you may be able to help the athlete with work experience and network introductions as they plan for life after sport.
Most athletes will go above and beyond for their partners, even more so if a strong relationship is developed.
How can PickStar help?
PickStar is Australia's largest marketplace to book sports stars, giving you direct access to 800+ sports stars, and a network of 3000+ athletes
PickStar enables you to build an extended shortlist of athlete options, and works directly with the athlete or their management on your behalf
PickStar provides advice about your ambassador offering and access to legal services if required
It’s free to build a shortlist and explore your options with no obligations until your deal is confirmed
Get in touch