Equestrian PR and marketing consultant Rhea Freeman offers her advice about becoming a brand ambassador — and making the most out of the opportunity
Have you seen the increase in people calling themselves equestrian brand ambassadors? It’s a term that has definitely risen in popularity in recent times and one that, along with other variations, is probably here to stay. Could you be a brand ambassador? Would you even want to be?
Do you remember when there were merely sponsored riders? These people, usually at the top of their game, would receive products and sometimes money to help fund their sport.
And then brand ambassadors appeared. This seemed to coincide with the explosion in social media and the ability for anyone and everyone to develop their own brand and their own following.
On social media, everyone has the opportunity to become what marketing bods like to term ‘an influencer’. Influencers have usually developed their own following and people follow what they wear and do with interest.
These people might not be at the top of their game sport wise, but they still hold value for brands that they like and promote and use. And these people often become brand ambassadors.
What does being an equestrian brand ambassador involve?
Generally, a brand ambassador doesn’t get paid, but they do receive products. Brands tend to have a number of brand ambassadors (or, at least, have the potential to), and even though money doesn’t change hands (usually), the rider is still expected to provide quality exposure for the brand.
This should ideally be through a number of different ways, across different platforms, and should also appear naturally. If you’re a brand ambassador for an equestrian apparel company, for example, it would be good to wear that brand in your pics, so your following get to see you do actually like the product.
How should brands pick riders, and vice versa?
Which leads to something that is pretty fundamental. If you’re a brand – pick people who are already advocates. And if you’re a rider, work with brands you actually like.
“We look for someone who is active on social media, is already a fan of our brand and who understands themselves as a brand,” said Emma Warren, MD of Hiho Silver, who works with Emily King and Abi Boulton.
“By that I mean that if they are representing us, then we need to fit in with their online image and life and sit nicely alongside what they post — or it will look forced to the viewer.”
Huge followings alone don’t mean you’re instantly brand ambassador material — this is an important element, but there’s actually a more important point — engagement.
What makes a good brand ambassador?
If you’re a rider just after growing huge followings in order to get free stuff, please stop. What really matters is how engaged your following is. And how genuine it is.
Equally, the authenticity, the tone and the quality of the content. Brands like content they can share and use on their own social media, that aligns with their brand.
“When looking for ambassadors we first of all look for a rider who truly understands and appreciates the Ariat brand and the ethos,” says Melanie Selman from Ariat, which works with Nicola Wilson (pictured above), among other riders.
“We want somebody who believes in the products and can see our vision for the future. They must be passionate about what they do, a true athlete who is dedicated and professional.
“Communication is the imperative ingredient. Not only because we need to know what our riders’ plans are, but with the growing importance of social media it enables us to give up to date information, which our Facebook and Instagram fans love to hear about, and that unique insight helps ensure there is always a personal connection between the general public and our brand ambassadors.”
Standing out is not hard and yet the hardest task in the world because there are so many people who want to be brand ambassadors. It’s a long game; don’t forget that. Create genuine and authentic content around the brands you love and use. Be useful. Tag them in images.
Put effort into understanding what makes them tick. “We see our brand ambassadors as a very important part of our team, and are part of a long term marketing strategy, which means choosing and working with the right people is essential to relationship success,” said Claire Allmett from Saracen Horse Feeds.
“With a product as influential to performance as horse feed we need to be able to work with riders that understand Saracen as a brand and value the research behind the range, quality and nutritional management in the same way.”
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What are the pitfalls to avoid?
As someone who sees a lot of brand ambassador requests, it continues to blow my mind how people’s feeds are full of competitors’ brands, they have done zero to show me what they can do, they have a really dodgy following and then they ask for products. Put yourself in the brand’s shoes and make it obvious HOW you could help them promote their brand.
Victoria Brant – author of the Diary of a Wimpy Eventer – is an official sponsored rider for Blue Chip Feed, Voltaire Design UK, Point Two and Foxy Equestrian, but also promotes brands including Mojo Europe, Pearly Ponies, Vitality by Pegasus and Rudds Wellies.
“To me, being a brand ambassador means getting the chance to make a difference to a business I believe in,” she says. “I will actively go out of my way to help my following know more about a company I truly love. I will consider working with any brand who puts themselves out there enough to warrant my help.”
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