What is a Brand Ambassador Program? + Top Examples To Take Inspiration From
A brand ambassador program is a marketing strategy that harnesses the voices of influential people – such as celebrities, influencers, customers, and employees – to increase brand awareness and sales. Depending on the size and scope of the program, ambassador involvement can include everything from sharing content on social media to hosting and promoting events, supporting the creation of new product lines and taking part in PR stunts.
As a subset of influencer marketing, brand ambassador programs can be a great way for brands to reach a particular audience, by partnering with people their target customers are inspired by, or can relate to. For example, while fashion brand Aerie chooses to recruit ambassadors with smaller audiences who are deeply aligned with the brand’s mission, Under Armour has opted to partner with one big-name celebrity, in the form of a long-term brand ambassador program with The Rock.
Targeting smaller online audiences with influencer-generated content allows Aerie to build trust and awareness within its target audience, as the message is coming from a voice they can relate to, feeling more like a recommendation from a friend.
Alternatively, Under Armour’s partnership with The Rock targets a much wider community of fitness enthusiasts (and not to mention Dwayne Johnson fans), with a multi-faceted campaign that spans entire new websites, Instagram channels, and product lines.
The main differentiator between influencer and brand ambassador campaigns is that ambassadorships tend to focus on the long term, with ambassadors embodying the brand and often becoming an extension of the marketing team. This can be achieved through training days and engagement events to educate ambassadors about the brand’s products and services and encourage new ambassadors to get involved.
The benefits of a brand ambassador program
There are plenty of reasons brands are turning to ambassador programs. According to research, 71% of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing—a figure that’s represented in the 52% of brands that are already running brand ambassador programs to build deeper, more genuine relationships with customers and creators.
From satisfyingly low CAC to hyper-relevant messaging, brand ambassador programs come with a wealth of perks:
- Create a community: Ambassadorships establish a connection between the brand and buyers and foster a sense of belonging—almost like an exclusive membership.
- Increase brand awareness: The more ambassadors you have shouting about your products and services, the more visibility you’ll generate for your brand.
- Secure trust and loyalty: Consumers trust their peers more than the brands themselves. Having a group of ambassadors that look and act like your customer base adds an instant layer of trust.
- Humanize your brand: Long-term ambassador programs give your brand a face and help consumers make a connection with a person rather than a faceless entity.
- Encourage word-of-mouth marketing: Ambassador programs cultivate passion for a brand and increase engagement. This leads to increased word-of-mouth marketing (which is still one of the most effective forms of marketing).
- Reduce costs: Brands that employ ambassadors often see a lower CAC, like EF English, which reduced CAC by 40% with an ambassador program.
- Hyper-relevant messaging: Brand ambassador programs help you speak to the right customers at the right time with the right words.
Brand ambassadors vs influencers: What’s the difference?
Brand ambassadors and influencers share some similarities—they both advocate for a brand and share products and services with their networks, but there are also some key differences.
The different types of brand ambassador program
Like any other type of campaign, brand ambassador programs come in different shapes and sizes. These are the most common types:
- Employee ambassador program: The best ambassadors are ones who share the same values and missions as the brand, regardless of follower count. This is why existing customers and employees are often first on the list. According to an Edelman Trust Barometer study, employee social media posts generate 8x more engagement than executive posts. An employee ambassador program promotes posts and content by your employees about your brand to raise awareness and increase visibility.
- Customer ambassador program: Partner with existing customers and encourage them to share user-generated content (UGC). Consumers are more likely to listen to other customers, so bringing on board your most loyal customers is a great way to spread a positive message about your products and services.
- College ambassador program: Colleges are a great place to source Gen Zers with a large network. Take Red Bull, who partnered with college students to hand out energy drinks on campus to reach a younger demographic.
- Affiliate ambassador program: Affiliates earn a commission on every sale made. Providing ambassadors with a personal affiliate link adds another incentive to the program.
- Celebrity ambassador program: Partnering with well-known celebrities can boost brand awareness on a huge scale. Leveraging the celebrity’s fame, these individuals typically become ‘the face’ of all marketing activity and embody the values and personality of the brand. Dior Sauvage’s long term ambassadorship with Johnny Depp is a great example.
- Expert ambassador program: Bringing experts onboard as ambassadors is a perfect way to add trust and credibility to your brand messaging. Their credentials and experience will give your customers bags more confidence that your product or service will deliver on its promise.
- Social media ambassador program: More closely linked to traditional influencer marketing campaigns, recruiting social media ambassadors is a powerful way to spread awareness and raise demand for your products within super targeted online audiences. Plus, their ability to generate huge amounts of influencer-generated content gives your brand a library of high-performing content to power your own marketing channels.
How to run a brand ambassador program
Ready to run your own brand ambassador program? Here’s how to get started.
1. Set your goals
Consider what you’d like to get out of your ambassador campaign—more sales? More followers? A bigger market share? Knowing what you’d like to achieve will help you figure out what type of ambassadors you need to partner with and will help you determine the success of your program.
2. Select your brand ambassadors
Now it’s time to choose which ambassadors you’d like to bring on board. Look out for ambassadors who share your values and mission and who either match your target audience or who have a following that matches your target audience:
- Look at your customer base, employees, and people who have previously advocated for your brand
- Find aligned ambassadors on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube (specifically people who have engaged with you in the past)
- Ask your audience to apply to become an ambassador
3. Invite them to your campaign
Send a message to potential ambassadors outlining your program idea, why you’ve chosen them, and what they’ll get in return (check out our email templates)
4. Brief them on your campaign
Showcase your vision for the campaign. Share your brand story, outline your creative ideas and give your ambassadors a taste of what their involvement will look like. This is also your change to share brand guidelines to ensure all content and messaging is bang on brand.
3. Empower and incentivize
Provide training for new ambassadors about your products, services, missions, and values to ensure new recruits are sending out the right message. Arming them with the info they need will make it easier for them to promote your brand. Determine ambassador incentives too—how much will ambassadors be compensated? When will they get paid? Will you offer an affiliate link?
4. Monitor results
Track the performance of your ambassador program and monitor your Key Performance Indicators (these will depend on your initial goals). Regularly check follower count, engagement levels, conversion rates, and sales, and report back to your ambassadors on their successes.
5 inspiring brand ambassador program examples
Learn from these brand ambassador examples and get inspired by their creativity.
Activewear brand Gymshark partners with expert athletes to promote its clothing. It cherrypicks influential sports stars who advocate for the brand on social media through posts, Stories, and videos.
Bumble recruits “Honey Ambassadors” from colleges to promote the dating app. Users can apply to become ambassadors and are encouraged to spread the word about their swiping experiences through campus events, activities, and social posts.
Starbucks taps into its employees’ 370,000 followers for its ambassador program. As part of the Employee Partner program, team members can create an account and share their pictures, stories, and in-store conversations with their audiences.
Sephora encourages its customers to join the Sephora Squad, an inclusive and diverse community for its biggest fans. Each year, the brand partners with a handful of customers on paid partnerships. They’re encouraged to create content and share it under the hashtag #SephoraSquad.
Carla Kristina is part of the Sephora Squad, a paid partnership between ambassadors and the brand.
Lululemon’s brand ambassador program is extensive. It boasts three different types of ambassadors: Global Yoga Ambassadors, Elite Ambassadors, and Store Ambassadors. Each type of ambassador promotes the brand in a different way, whether it’s through hosting live in-person events, posting on social media, or encouraging in-store sales.
3 tips for a successful brand ambassador program
Now you’re ready and raring to go, here’s how you can make the most of your brand ambassador campaigns and ensure they’re a raging success.
1. Establish your presence on socials
It’s all well and good working with a collection of amazing ambassadors, but if they’re linking to a barren brand profile, you’re not going to get the results you want. Make sure your social profiles reflect your brand personality, post regularly, and share the content your ambassadors are promoting.
2. Create internal resources
Give your ambassadors everything they need with a library of internal, supportive resources. You can offer training, freebies, messaging ideas, and prompts to get them started, and share some of the most successful content to date.
3. Focus on the long-term
The best brand ambassador programs are long and fruitful. Spend time fostering a deep connection with your ambassadors and work with them long-term to turn them into successful brand advocates. The longer you work with ambassadors, the more traction you’ll generate, all of which will result in increased brand awareness over time.
Check out our complete guide to ambassador marketing for a deeper dive.
Create your first brand ambassador program
Brand ambassador programs are an excellent way to celebrate your existing customers and employees while reaching new customers in the process. The key is to choose ambassadors whose missions and values align with your own—then, give them a helping hand so they can do their best work. Provide training, resources, and support every step of the way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your program.
Ready to go? Start ambassador marketing with Aspire.