Seeing stars: the positives and pitfalls of brand ambassadors

by Lindsey Francy Jan 30, 2023 News
Seeing stars: the positives and pitfalls of brand ambassadors

Endorsements from famous faces can work wonders for brand awareness. Without proper planning and management, however, the reputational risks of a bad match will likely outweigh the benefits. Partner Nick Murrills, left, and legal director Rory Lynch, right, at Gateley Legal discuss how SMEs should approach the brand ambassador relationship and what to do if that relationship goes sour.

Marilyn Monroe endorsing perfume as the perfect alternative to pyjamas, for example, is just one of the many partnerships that have been common practice in advertising for decades. Gaining exposure of their products or services,unlocking new or wider audiences, and even enhancing brand credibility through the validation of a well-respected individual are some of the benefits of such partnerships.

Relationships with famous spokespeople can be beneficial for both parties. Gary Lineker fronts the Walkers crisps campaign. One of the UK's most well-known partnerships has seen the creation of more than 150 adverts featuring Lineker as spokesman and has spanned more than 25 years. Martin Glenn, the former Walkers marketing boss and FA chief, said that he wouldn't have thought it would last this long. It was a big risk, but it was the best thing we did.

Brand ambassadors are no longer limited to traditional celebrities. According to the State of Influencer Marketing 2022 Benchmark Report, the global market for influencer marketing has grown to $16.4 billion. More than 75% of brand marketers surveyed for this report intended to dedicate a budget to influencer marketing, which provides endorsement from someone who is more trustworthy than a celebrity. More than half of marketers were planning to increase their spend on influencer marketing.

Brand ambassadors have risks as well. Without proper planning and management, companies could find themselves tied to an individual who is not a good fit for the brand. The consequences of public scandals with which the individual may be involved could impact a brand's own reputation by creating long term associations between the brand and the actions of its ambassador.

It is always considered as a last resort to break up with an ambassador. It is necessary to find, manage, and remove a brand ambassador if necessary in order to harness the benefits of partnerships with celebrities.

There is a match.

It's important for brands to be sure why they need or want an ambassador. What could a particular person do to make a campaign better? Businesses need to justify how a brand ambassador fits into a strategy and what success should look like.

They need to justify the who after establishing the why. A brand's specialism, values, or history should be accurately reflected by ambassadors. Lineker was able to claim a sense of shared identity with Walkers.

Celebrity can make a brand seem desperate and willing to ride anyones coattails for the sake of exposure. Dairy Crest drew a lot of criticism for using Johnny Rotten in 2008. Fans of the Sex Pistols singer accused the company and singer of hypocrisy, which led to the singer defending his decision. Although Dairy Crest reported an 85 per cent lift in sales in the wake of the campaign, it's questionable if using an ambassador whose musical career centered around anti-establishment values was worth the risk in the long-term.

It's checking for history.

Businesses should consider the public reputation of a potential ambassador, as well as the suitability of a potential ambassador, when they conduct due diligence on their digital and media footprint. An analysis of any previous campaigns in which they have appeared should be included. It's easy for the public to spot celebrities who have also worked with a competitor.

A thorough review of an individual's social media accounts should be conducted by businesses. Although it is not always necessary for potential ambassadors to have a clean record, businesses should still be aware of any red flags. Awareness of this material will allow a business to plan for any issues that may arise.

Where possible, brands should avoid engagement with celebrities with a history of public scandals. The recent scandal involving rapper Ye has left many to question the rationale behind collaborating with such a controversial figure in the first place.

The contract has a clause in it.

It's tempting to rush the process for fear that a celebrity will change their mind or be diverted. Less established brands are more likely to agree to terms quickly. Negotiating a contract is important to ensure a campaign's success and mitigate any risks that a potential ambassador might bring. This process should not be rushed.

In addition to contractual details such as pay, schedules, and material required, discussions should be driven by the campaign's brief The ambassador should be able to understand the company's values, what it wants to achieve through the partnership, and how they will be expected to report on success.

Creative control will be dependent on how the campaign is delivered. If the company is creating content in which the ambassador will appear, they will be in control of what the ambassador does or says. Increasingly, brands are working with creators of their own content. Ensuring that the ambassador is aware of the correct messages is more important than ever. It is important to consider legal advice when trying to balance brand guidelines with the authentic voice of aninfluencer.

There was a break up.

As a last resort, severing ties with an ambassador should be considered. It is possible to avoid this by making the recruitment and onboarding processes clear and well defined.

People with lives and careers are called ambassadors. It is not always possible to predict what will happen in that individual's life.

If a brand has relied on an ambassador to front its story and values, they might be able to share that person's fall from grace. The management of any incidents should be done quickly and carefully. If a company terminates a contract based on a claim that is not proven, it could face a lawsuit for damages.

Once a brand is aware of an issue, it should gather as many facts as possible and prepare a holding statement that will communicate this to the public. Adidas was the first to learn of Ye's anti-Semitic posts on social media. The company's silence across all of its channels angered not only its customers, but its employees as well. The company's perceived lack of action led to the start of the #boycottadidas campaign.

One of the best ways to mitigate reputational risks is to have a crisis plan in place. When a partnership is terminated, a strategy should explore ways in which further damage can be mitigated. In the wake of an incident, brands may want to think about how to reestablish their values.

There is power in the stars.

Brand marketing will continue to rely on partnerships with celebrities and people on social media. The landscape is changing due to the influx of social mediainfluencers who are able to tap into niche audiences through a more authentic and credible voice. Content creation can be difficult if the brand's ambassador is in charge.

Whether opting for a celebrity spokesman or a popular personality on TikTok, brands need a robust plan and legal advice to maximize the benefits of a partnership.

Gateley has an app to respond to crises.