It’s no secret that partnerships with social media influencers can help brands reach wide audiences around the world. Brand ambassador programs give companies the opportunity to work with social influencers, athletes, and more through a coordinated strategy.
When crafting a brand ambassador program, a company has to make decisions about which influencers to hire, how many to use, and what kind of content they want shared. Here, we’ll delve into four stellar brand ambassador programs from American Express, Lululemon, Red Bull and Maybelline.
American Express is one of the world’s leading financial service corporations. For Amex, brand ambassador programs have helped the company deliver practical product information, as well as win and retain customers. In recent years, the brand has developed a brand ambassador roster that includes travel and lifestyle influencers among the likes of Hannah Bronfman (@hannahbronfman) and Rocky Barnes (@rocky_barnes). By fostering long-term relationships with influencers who regularly showcase their luxurious experiences on Instagram, Amex has effectively targeted a large and widespread audience with a similar appetite for opulence, luxury, and comfort.
The execution of Amex’s brand ambassador program is largely characterized by influencers showcasing the benefits of using American Express services and integrating branded hashtags like #AmexPlatinum, #AmexAmbassador, and #AmexLife.
The long-term partnerships Amex chooses to pursue also frequently include macro-influencers who boast followings ranging from 400,000 to nearly 3 million. Ambassadors are primarily based in the United States but all engage a global audience, whether through travel or an international lifestyle. Jack Morris (@doyoutravel) jets all over the world and photographs his travels, and Natasha Oakley (@tashoakley) was born in Australia and currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Paris.
Partnerships with travel and lifestyle influencers are effective because Amex’s main services are most attractive to the social media users who admire the travel and lifestyle influencers they follow. For example, two perks of an American Express card include travel rewards and shortcuts in airport security. American Express uses influencers to create informative and engaging content that describes how Amex helps add luxury and comfort to its ambassadors’ lives.
Morris is one ambassador especially equipped to reach Amex’s target demographic of financially able, travel-enthused consumers. His feed is dominated by trips to exotic destinations and upscale hotels and resorts — the content audiences sign up to see when following him on Instagram. In working with Amex, Morris describes the various ways the brand strives to make travel easier, a benefit likely to appeal to his audience.
With access to such large and specific audiences like Morris’, American Express can generate engagement and impressions around the world among current and potential customers who are interested in pursuing lifestyles similar to the influencers they follow — full of travel, consumption, and glamour.
Canadian athleisure clothing brand, Lululemon, has also found significant success in using brand ambassadors. Its brand ambassador program aims to achieve similar goals of delivering information about its product, although the company’s strategy is vastly different from that of American Express. Rather than selecting just a few of the most glamorous macro-influencers, Lululemon partners with a large team of micro-influencers, elite athletes and yoga masters to assemble its brand ambassador program.
In total, nearly 1,600 brand ambassadors play a role in Lululemon’s marketing strategy. Across the large roster, nine are Global Yoga Ambassadors, 75 athletes are Elite Ambassadors, and approximately 1,500 micro-influencers are Store Ambassadors. According to Lululemon, “global yoga ambassadors bring invaluable knowledge and experience to our collective.” Professional athletes that Lululemon partners with range from soccer players and cyclists, to surfers and freestyle skiers and snowboarders, and thus attract an athletic audience. Finally, the Store Ambassadors are “influencers in their local communities who are passionate, both about their sport and about elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness.”
Lululemon’s multifaceted approach to its brand ambassador program allows it to build its brand both from the bottom up and the top down. From the top, The Global Yoga Ambassadors like Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts (@chelsealovesyoga) represents Lululemon across yoga communities, and the Elite Ambassadors brings attention to the Lululemon brand through the popularity of their sports. At the other end of the brand ambassador hierarchy, the Store Ambassadors serve as representatives for Lululemon in their own communities.
Because Lululemon was inspired by yoga and now makes technical athletic apparel and equipment for a range of activities, it makes sense that its brand ambassadors come from the world of yoga, professional sports organizations and local athletic communities. As a result of its partnership with this range of ambassadors, Lululemon has access to an audience that is equally diverse. Ambassadors include Lululemon messaging in their Instagram in a variety of ways, including using tags like @lululemon and @lululemonmen and hashtags like #AmbassadorLOVE and #TheSweatLife.
Jenn Collota — known on Instagram as @natures_expression — is a Store Ambassador. She has only 831 Instagram followers but frequently posts wearing Lululemon clothing, tagging both @lululemon and @lululemonhnl, the Honolulu affiliate. As a Yoga Instructor, her expertise, credibility and professional network make up for her relatively smaller social media following. Her work aligns with Lululemon’s vision to create a community centered around healthy living, so the partnership is both natural and valuable.
Since the Thai energy drink first hit western markets, brand promotion has been a central part of Red Bull’s business model. In addition to organizing spectacles like Stratos “Space Jump” and producing and publishing videos of action sports athletes, Red Bull has a brand ambassador program to promote the brand and its initiatives on social media. At the core of Red Bull’s brand ambassador program strategy lies a large group of athletes that compete in a wide variety of sports, including — but not limited to — air racing, basketball, chess, skiing, skateboarding, and BMX.
Red Bull’s brand ambassador marketing aims to create subliminal associations between Red Bull’s branding and exciting action. In addition to appearing in Red Bull Media House’s marketing content, the brand ambassadors create their own content that highlights their action-packed lifestyles. Using social media channels like Instagram, these action sports athletes share photos and videos promoting the Red Bull brand.
Red Bull’s brand ambassador program is unique because all of the participants are athletes that have relationships with the brand beyond the ambassadorship. The athletes are sponsored and often appear in Red Bull’s more traditional marketing content as well. For example, NBA star Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin23) appeared on a 2015 billboard on the side of a building in Los Angeles, and then shared a photo of the billboard tagging @redbull using the hashtag #givesyouwings.
Additionally, Red Bull’s brand ambassador program employs athlete influencers from around the world. Working with hundreds of athletes from 70 different countries gives Red Bull’s marketing content the global audience that it needs to succeed as an international brand. Because Red Bull works with brand ambassadors from so many nations, it has been able to gain impressions and engagement from people from all of the countries its athletes represent.
These athlete influencers have anywhere from thousands to millions of followers, so Red Bull can take advantage of the perks of working with both micro and macro-influencers. In the United States, micro-influencers like skiers Torin Yater-Wallace (84,600 followers) and John Collinson (60,000 followers) can advertise the Red Bull brand and products to its niche audience of skiers. At the same time, golfer Rickie Fowler (1.4 million followers), basketball player Blake Griffin (3.6 million followers) and skateboarder Ryan Sheckler (2 million followers) leverage their athlete and celebrity status to broadcast messaging to a much wider audience.
Red Bull’s brand ambassador program employs athletes from a wide range of sports and countries. Because of Red Bull’s dedication to the careers of its athletes through endorsements and sponsorships, it is able to integrate brand ambassadors seamlessly into its overall global marketing strategy.
Maybelline — an American cosmetics brand owned by French company L’Oreal — sells its products worldwide. To help generate engagement from active or potential customers around the world, Maybelline partners with various fashion, beauty and lifestyle influencers as brand ambassadors. On Instagram, Maybelline brand ambassadors post photos using the hashtag #MaybellineItGirls to their thousands or millions of followers.
There are ten Maybelline brand ambassadors — Maybelline It Girls — who help promote the brand’s inclusive values. In order to cater to differing beauty ideals and trends worldwide, the influencers hail from different countries, different racial and cultural backgrounds, and attract different audiences.This diversity helps promote global marketing and sales, and imparts the message that Maybelline is for everyone, everywhere no matter the way you look or where you are from.
For example, Gabbi Garcia from the Philippines has acquired 2.1 million followers on her beauty Instagram, to which she regularly posts with the hashtags #MaybellineItGirls, #MaybellinePartner and #MaybellinePH. On the other side of the world, Mexican lifestyle influencer Victoria Volkova gives makeup advice to her 918,000 YouTube subscribers and posts glamor shots to her 477,000 Instagram followers. Her YouTube videos and Instagram photos frequently include Maybelline branding.
In addition to the #MaybellineItGirls creating content independently on their social pages, Maybelline has flown its brand ambassadors to London. The ambassadors tested new products, and Maybelline used this as a marketing opportunity.
At the most basic level, brand ambassadors help to promote Maybelline by creating social media content that reinforces brand messaging and creates a social campaign using hashtags like #MaybellineItGirls. A deeper dive shows the strategic benefit of selecting a group of racially and culturally diverse women to represent a brand that caters to audiences around the world, and who understand different notions of beauty.