Ambassadors and endorsements – is it a load of rubbish?

By Jack Davey, Unearth Marketing

As someone running a business in the cycle trade, the chances are you’ve been approached – either in person or over social media – by a rider looking for equipment or funding in exchange for representing your brand.

If you’ve previously dismissed the idea, under the assumption that you’ll be handing out stock in exchange for a couple of Instagram posts, it’s worth thinking again. A well-organised ambassadorship programme can pay dividends and provide a toolset that may otherwise be unavailable to your team.

Bike shops are busy places, so some projects from the nice-to-have list may fall by the wayside. Want to run shop rides or out-of-hours events but can’t spare the staff? Feeling the pinch when it comes to generating original content for your website social media channels? A shop ambassador could cover this.

Choose someone who fits your marketing plan
An effective ambassador needs to be the right fit for your brand, and their specialism should tie into your marketing strategy. If only 20% of your customer base rides off-road, there’s little benefit to blowing your marketing budget on a local downhill racer, even if they can do backflips. An ambassador programme should support your 360 marketing campaigns.

Undoubtedly you will want an ambassador to be putting the word out over social media, but remember that the size of their following is worth only so much. You must examine a prospective ambassador’s output on its own merits. Is the quality of photography/copy high enough? They don’t need to be David Bailey and Margaret Atwood rolled into one, but the basics should be covered.

Do they have existing relationships with other brands that may dilute the focus they can give you? It’s best to avoid the trappings of influencer culture, as audiences become more and more fatigued with inauthentic “gifted product” content.

For a bike shop, many benefits to an ambassador programme come offline and these may require different skills and experiences. Look for someone local (natch), sociable, and engaged with the riding community that you’re catering to.

Will they be up for speaking in public? Have they led group rides before? Are they actually approachable? How do they interact with potential customers? An ideal ambassador for a shop is almost certainly going to be a regular customer, so you’ll most likely have this part covered already.

Perhaps most importantly of all, you should get to know your candidate. Spend some time reading through their social feed and talking in person, and consider whether this person shares your brand’s values. Social responsibility is an opportunity for you to differentiate your brand from a competitor. Does your potential ambassador make an impact on the world that you would be happy to sign your name to?

Negotiate a transparent agreement
Once you’ve identified what you’re hoping for an ambassador to provide, and you have some potential candidates, start talking specifics. Discuss what you want to achieve, and what they have time and skills to provide. Be realistic: nothing in this world is free, and that goes both ways.

If they’re going to be supplying you with regular content, hosting events and rides, and pushing the business through their own channels you should be prepared to part with stock or cash. Be specific: if you want three social posts per month and your Instagram handle in their bio, say so. An honest, transparent and fair agreement will lay the foundation for a successful long-term relationship.

There’s no getting away from the fact that setting an ambassador programme up involves some work, but play it right and it’ll help your shop to engage with the local riding scene, reach new customers and increase interest in your brand.

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