Making the decision, as a brand, to collaborate with a sporting ambassador is something which must not be rushed. These partnerships are sought in an effort to drive a multitude of benefits for the brand. They can enhance consumer awareness and reach new audiences to drive online conversation and sell product. So, when it comes to choosing the right sporting ambassador for your brand, which factors should you consider in order to ensure that your investment is wholly worthwhile?
We ask the eight questions which any brand should consider before they sign on the dotted line of an ambassador contract.
Which brands are they already associated with?
Take a look at which brands, if any, your potential ambassador is already associated with at present, or in the past. Have they appeared in marketing collateral or advertisements, or promoted a brand or product within the media? It may be that there is a potential conflict of interest between your brand and those which this individual has been, or is still, associated with. It may be that you would not feel comfortable with your brand being aligned with your ambassador’s partner brands, meaning you wish to discount this person as a viable ambassador. Conversely, it may be that your brand, and the brands which this individual is already associated with, create a positive synergy. If this is the case, this individual may be well worth your consideration.
Are they over-exposed?
When you appoint a brand ambassador the partnership should create some form of impact. If your potential ambassador has been featured widely in the press before or been part of a high-profile campaign, this could have reduced media, and indeed consumer, interest in that individual. Consider whether a partnership with this individual could genuinely offer the media – and your target audience – something new and interesting to discuss, or would it simply add to this person’s already high level of exposure? Remember, that the last thing you want to do is to confuse the consumer. If this individual has recently fronted a major campaign, how easy will it be for the consumer to distinguish between the previous product the celebrity has promoted, and yours.
Are they likeable?
Does this individual have the likeability factor? Will your target audience respond well to them? Of course, public opinion will almost always be split and it is impossible to please everyone. But choosing a person who is perceived largely positively in the public eye will go a long way towards encouraging your target audience to actually buy into this person and, ultimately, your brand.
Any negative exposure?
Consider too how this individual is perceived by the media and amongst your established target audience. Have they been featured recently in a negative headline? Have they been involved in a story which could have a detrimental impact on your brand? Ultimately, this person is going to be representing your business; if they are in any way connected to a negative story, this could directly impact your brand.
Is it believable?
This partnership needs to appear organic to the consumer. It is very easy for a brand to cough up huge sums of money for a sports star to front a campaign. However, more is needed for that partnership to actually get the target audience to sit up and listen. Integrity and synergy should be at the forefront of a brand’s thinking when identifying an ambassador who will actually add value in a partnership. Consider whether the involvement of this potential ambassador would actually encourage the user to purchase the product. Can you envisage this individual wearing your clothes, consuming your drink or using your equipment? If you can’t, then you can bet that consumers will struggle to make the connection too. Organic connections are crucial; otherwise, you have little more than an athlete waving a product in the air and hoping that someone will pay attention.
Do they have the expertise?
Depending on the remit of the campaign you are looking to undertake, your ambassador may have to go on the record in support of your brand or product. If this were to happen, would they be well placed to discuss it? Do they have the necessary expertise?
If they need to demonstrate a sports product, are they in the necessary shape to do so? If you are marketing a children’s sports product, aimed at parents, consider whether your ambassador is able to speak from personal experience. Likewise, experience in paramount for incident specific products, such as those for aiding recovery or training. Without basic expertise in the relevant area, it becomes difficult for consumers to make the link between ambassador and brand.
While the ambassador you appoint can, of course, be fully briefed and media trained well in advance, possessing a level of knowledge on the subject matter is always a big bonus. An ambassador who is effortlessly knowledgeable on a campaign or product is immediately more believable and influential to the consumer. Remember, knowledge is power, and all the media training in the world can’t help someone who simply doesn’t know the first thing about your industry or target audience.
Do they have the power to influence?
Consider not only the profile of this individual in the media landscape, but their social media profile. Do they post regularly? How many followers have they attracted? Is their content engaging and insightful? Who are their fans and followers? Are they part of your target audience? Very often, an ambassador might not be the right option for your brand in terms of media opportunities or traditional advertising, but they may be just the right person to help engage your target audience via a digital medium.
Are they newsworthy or a star of tomorrow?
Often, the timing of your approach can be as important as the person you are choosing to bring on board. Consider the events calendar and try to look several weeks or months down the line. Is this person about to be involved in an event, competition or campaign which may boost their reputation? Are they about to appear on a major TV show? Is it likely that they will win a coveted prize? Bringing that individual on board just before they reach a turning point in their career could be the key to securing your perfect brand ambassador (and at the right price!)
Over the years we have seen major brands forge high-profile, hugely successful partnerships with sporting ambassadors. Some of our recent favourites include:
- Lacoste & Venus Williams
In February this year, Lacoste announced seven-time Grand slam champion Venus Williams would be their new brand ambassador – embodying the new fashion-sport silhouette created by Creative Director Louise Trotter who is the first female design lead in the brand’s history. The idea behind the new line is to cater to women’s contemporary lives.
Venus Williams has championed the fight for equal pay and equality throughout her career, so her values align with the efforts of the Lacoste Foundation, which have been working internationally to promote equal opportunity since 2006.
Welcome to the #TeamLacoste, @Venuseswilliams! As one of the greatest athletes in the world, Venus embodies off the court all the ambitions of the new fashion-sport silhouette created by Louise Trotter. #Lacoste #FashionSport @voguemagazine pic.twitter.com/IeDWJ8PvD3
— Lacoste (@LACOSTE) March 2, 2022
- Nike & Emma Raducanu
This Nike advert sees tennis superstar Emma Raducanu batting away criticisms she’s received since winning the US Open in 2021, with words like ‘fluke’ and ‘one hit wonder’ being projected onto the walls behind her. However, she ignores them and remains unaffected as she keeps playing. At the end of the advert, she gets ready to face the next point with the tagline “World off. Game on” flashing on the screen.
In an Instagram post Nike wrote “Bromley’s own Emma Raducanu has started her first full year on tour. Her plan? Same as it’s always been. Shut out the noise and take on the opportunity of each challenge.” The advert was published as a way of welcoming Emma to her first full year on the WTA tour.
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) January 13, 2022
- Under Armour & Trent Alexander-Arnold
Under Armour’s new advert sees Liverpool and England start Trent Alexander-Arnold overcoming his doubts with a strong mentality. The advert features a voiceover of the star as he talks about his failures – notably referencing his Euros omission – as he pushes himself through his training regime, concluding how the pressure he’s put under has helped him develop into the person he is today. His mindset shows determination for success.
— Trent Alexander-Arnold (@TrentAA) February 24, 2022
All three of these partnerships are great examples of brands that have successfully used ambassadors to create a timely and engaging campaign. Whilst other brands may not have the ability to call upon such highbrow sporting stars, planning ahead in conjunction with the sporting calendar as well as some calculated decision making can yield the desired results out of a potential partnership, without paying above and beyond to get them.