In the marketing world, the terms “brand ambassadors”, “brand advocates”, and “influencers” are often used interchangeably. However, there are a few distinctions between the three types of people. In this blog, we’ll define what a brand ambassador is, the similarities and differences between brand ambassadors, advocates, and influencers, and how brand ambassadors can help drive awareness for your brand.
To start, a brand ambassador is a paid person, often a customer or client but not always, who embodies and represents the core identity of the organization. Many brand ambassadors are hired because of their celebrity status or large networks, which companies leverage to connect with the wider public and enhance their visibility, brand awareness, and sales.
So, what is the difference between an ambassador, an advocate, and an influencer? A brand ambassador is different from a brand advocate in that advocates are generally unpaid, highly-satisfied customers who are self-driven to promote a company’s products. Ambassadors, while generally paid like influencers, are higher-visibility individuals who are meant to spread brand messages to the wider public, rather than just their personal networks.
Check out our graph below for a snapshot of the differences between brand ambassadors, brand advocates, and influencers.
Why do brands hire brand ambassadors? First, brand ambassadors usually have a large public following which brands are hoping to better market to. This means that brand ambassadors are often either celebrities or well-known experts in their respective industries or fields. Second, ambassadors help give brands a face, thereby increasing customer loyalty. Finally, brand ambassadors.
In the past few decades, brands have been inking bigger and longer deals, including locking up their top ambassadors to lifetime commitments. Lebron James, who recently signed a lifetime deal with Nike for an undisclosed amount, is making far more money off the court than he ever will on it. Other notable and well-paid brand ambassadors include Beyoncé ($50 million deal with Pepsi), David Beckham ($150 million lifetime deal with Adidas), George Clooney ($5 million per year with Nespresso) and Catherine Zeta-Jones ($20 million deal with T-Mobile). For the most part, these ambassadors have avoided large publicity disasters, which dramatically increases their value to brands and has yielded multi-million dollar deals.
One of the dangers of working with ambassadors is that because they are hired to be the face of a brand, any personal trouble they experience can reflect poorly upon their organization. For instance, Jared Fogle’s recent legal troubles led Sudway to scrub all mention of him on their website and marketing materials, and Tiger Woods initially lost many of his brand ambassador contracts when his secret lifestyle was revealed. Because brand advocates and influencers aren’t generally understood as embodying the company they are promoting, there is less impact to companies when they experience similar personal issues. Before investing in a brand ambassador, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of assigning so much power to one figure.
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