Quite a lot has occurred in advertising & marketing since 1985, when Michael Jordan first endorsed the Nike shoe and revolutionized the concept of celebrity endorsements. It proved to be an inflection point for this brand of partnership marketing. The perfect fusion. Everything Michael Jordan embodied was consistent with the image Nike wanted to portray. The same is true for Gatorade with “Be Like Mike”. It was just as much an endorsement of the celebrity by the product as it was the celebrity’s endorsement of the product, and that is the point. Before getting too excited or swept away in the allure of any public figure who might enhance your brand, understand the investment and inherent vulnerability.
People want celebrities to support their product, brand and causes, but that’s not always a good idea. I once lead a voter registration initiative for the Hip Hop Summit Action Network. The concept of engaging this generation of artists in the political arena was “new”. During this time, entertainers remained neutral about social causes to enhance mainstream appeal. We were so excited that we forgot to ask if they themselves have ever voted or were even registered. No knocks against the artists, but even good people aren’t always the right people when partnering with a brand and an ambassador.
Quite a lot has occurred since learning this lesson for us. We have learned from those experiences, enough to have thoughts to share. Here are the top 5 Tips to Select the Right Brand Ambassador:
- Rule 1: Your Values should be their values.
We can disagree, but we can’t conflict, especially on social media.
- Rule 2: Project an Authentic Synergy
The best ambassador is already aligned with your brand, image and cause. If this cannot be seen in their life or work, even if they BELIEVE in the cause, they are not the right ambassador. A campaign supporter, yes. A surrogate? An adviser? No.
- Rule 3: A Name with No Capacity, is Lame
Sometimes when a big named celebrity agrees to work with you or support your cause, it is easy to be enamored by them, but keep your business needs front of mind, always. Ask the right questions up front. Do they have the capacity to do what you need? Time, voice, level of engagement (intensity of representation), credibility with target audience? You can’t be too intimidated to ask for you need, or paid for.
- Rule 4: Recruit Action Oriented Ambassadors
Someone can have 2mil followers, but 1.5 mil want to be entertained by them, not led. On the flipside, someone may have 350k followers, but when they ask their “people” to meet somewhere they show up, to hold politicians to account…they push send. You want an ambassador with influence in both the social and commercial spaces.
- Rule 5: YOU LIKE THEM.
Can you work with your new partner? Are your partners and stakeholders comfortable with them? Do they have a voice that inspires or motivates you? Does that energy carry over to your followers? Do your followers already follow them? This is essential to in building a strong and long-term alliance.
Whether engaging celebrity as a brand ambassador is the right strategic marketing move for you, is a vetting process in and of itself. If you are searching for a brand ambassador, know that you don’t have to have LeBron James or Serena Williams (although nice) to raise awareness. You need a clear strategy and a sober perspective on who you engage and why.