How to decide which brand ambassador is best for you

In a world of increasing audience fragmentation, Tym Yee believes the best brand ambassador strategies are those implemented with an eye on fit rather than trends

George Clooney – Nespresso. Jamie Oliver – Woolies. Curtis Stone – Coles. Tiger Woods – Nike. Sometimes brands and celebrities nail those lucrative endorsement deals.

Quality TV spots, positive associations and namesake products trail and out of this commercial symbiosis memorable campaigns solidify and clear ROI is celebrated.

Tym Yee

Real success in this realm of strategic comms can mean millions of dollars of added value for brands and, well, just plain millions of dollars for the stars.

But for every instant association between handsome movie star and capsule of Joe there is a plethora of slightly less convincing commercial collaborations.

Stephen Bradbury’s endorsement of James’ Home Services doesn’t exactly inspire me to grab a mop and start my spring cleaning anytime soon.

Stephanie Rice only confirmed my assumption that Jaguars are exclusively driven by rich, straight, slightly homophobic white people. And Michelle Bridges’ partnership with Sony failed to motivate me to jog to my nearest JB HiFi.


At their best, celebrity ambassadorships can launch a brand into the cultural zeitgeist. In most cases, however, they go largely unnoticed or are quickly forgotten.

This disparity leaves us wondering, in a world where marketing is increasingly reduced to hard digital metrics, are these glamorous names still worth our while?

Much of the popular literature on brand ambassadors says that celebrity endorsements do in fact prove their value. Hootsuite reckons ambassadors increase awareness in new markets. Forbes says they humanise your brand. American Express concludes that the gloss and glam of celebrity are actually signposts of authenticity.

The premiere kind of brand ambassadorship is an endorsement from a top-tier celebrity. They’re memorable, carry clout and leverage the celebrity’s beloved traits. They’re also ubiquitous and in the same way that we dismiss our favourite celebrities’ shortcomings in favour of our rosy admiration, we also typically forgive them for hiring their faces out to corporations.

This doesn’t mean an A-list star is always the best marketing strategy, however. The scales can start to tip when a brand with too many ambassadors starts to look a little bit like an illegitimate social hanger-on.

swisse celebrity ambassadors

One brand with big investments in celebrities is Swisse Wellness. Their list of ambassadors reads more like a table at a legends ball instead of a high profile bunch of faithful liver-detox advocates.

Nicole Kidman, Leyton Hewitt, Ricky Ponting, George Calombaris, Karen Martini, Liz Cambage and Ash Hart are all well-known personalities helping Swisse write the narrative that ‘good health should be fashionable’.

Unsurprisingly, last year the now-Chinese-owned multivitamin company expected its profits to drop 90%. New products and restructuring along with a heavy marketing budget were cited as expenses to blame, but is it too big a pill to swallow to suggest that one less ambassador would have been a healthier dose?

On the other end of the spectrum to the promiscuous brand is the opportunistic celebrity.

Fitness trainer Shannan Ponton presents an interesting case study of cross-brand alignment. Ponton has partnerships with Anytime Fitness, Asics, Nature’s Way, Personal Training Academy, Carnival Cruises, Suunto, Hurley, G-Shock, Fairtex, Spy and Britax, according to his website.

Here the added value of lateral relations paints a more holistic lifestyle picture. If your target demographic is fit fathers who work out round the clock wearing Thai boxing gloves, sunnies, board shorts and chunky watches whilst cruising the seven seas, then Shannan Ponton is obviously your man. If you’re selling an array of women’s sanitary products, he’s probably not.

Companies with limited budgets but a depth of products will likely have found a solution in the influencer marketing hype du jour. Despite muddy ethics, influencers have quickly made their mark in the world of brand partnerships.

Close up Two hand holding smart phone with Influencer Marketing word and icons, Digital concept.

Their word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer appeal is often cited as their UVP, which has made this young writer extremely excited about finally obtaining his summer rig thanks to all of the bikini body teas out there that I’m constantly told definitely, positively, 100% work.

The adaptability and reach of working with a wide range of smaller bloggers, vloggers and grammers is widely considered a more targeted way of talking to truly engaged niche audiences, even if the reporting is a little fluffy.

But the true advantage of working at this level of ambassadorship is that the pool is wide and deep, meaning no matter what product you’re launching, you’ll always find a good blogger with an audience. In some instances, audiences may be more inclined to trust a half-naked Instagram user over a cheesy household name.

So which general approach does your brand need: lots of high profile ambassadors, a single celebrity with inter-brand alignment or a scattering of smaller influencers with niche audiences? The question is one of consolidation versus fragmentation.

Regardless of which strategy you can fit into the budget, the most important part of working with any type of brand ambassador is to remember that like all trusted recommendations they earn their sincerity and become truly convincing over time.

Of course, if you can’t wait that long you can always just try your luck with a hashtag.

Tym Yee is a writer at Optus Small Business


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