I spoke with those in charge of some of the most coveted ambassadorships in the equestrian world today to find out what they think makes a great brand ambassador, including:
- Averill Pessin, the owner and operation of My Barn Child.
- Kristy Lake, in charge of North American Sales and Marketing for Ogilvy Equestrian.
- Petra McGowan, the founder and president of EcoLicious Equestrian.
- Megan Wharin, who runs the Tack Shoppe of Collingwood‘s website and social media pages, as well as does all of the buying and ordering for the store.
- Alexa Skonieczny, the owner of Equestri Lifestyle.
Whether you are one now or are striving to be one in the future, these words of wisdom are sure to help!
What is a brand ambassador?
For those of you that don’t know what a brand ambassador is, it is an individual chosen by a company to wear and/or promote their product using word-of-mouth, social media, or other avenues of promotion. Some brand ambassadors are given discounts on the company’s products in exchange for the promotion while others are given free products. For those of you wondering whether this would be in violation of USEF’s rules for amateur riders, there is no clear answer. The Legal Equestrian reached out to USEF some time ago asking for clarification of whether being a brand ambassador would jeopardize one’s amateur status, but an answer was never received. Some are of the opinion that it would while others do not believe so.
What makes a great brand ambassador?
Pretty much everyone I spoke to agreed that a brand ambassador should genuinely love and use the company’s products. Because part of being a brand ambassador is creating a positive image for the brand and attracting more customers, using and knowing the product on yourself or your horses goes a long way in ensuring a successful ambassadorship. Oftentimes, a brand ambassador will be asked questions about a product, and if the ambassador can’t answer them, that won’t really sway someone to try the product if they were on the fence.
Averill also said that personality played a huge part in her selection of the My Barn Child Featured Riders.
“What makes them (Featured Riders) all great is their personalities,” Averill wrote in an email. “They are outstanding girls who will be noticed (and liked) in whatever circles they move in. If they are standout girls, what they wear will stand out.”
Kristy believes that a brand ambassador should be friendly, approachable, and helpful. She, along with Petra and Megan, appreciate when a brand ambassador is “creative” in their own way rather than just regurgitating what is posted on the companies’ social media accounts.
Alexa likes brand ambassadors that are “with it” on social media and that are super knowledgeable. She also likes someone that is willing to do anything and who is passionate about riding.
“They [brand ambassadors] are stylish, enthusiastic, and know how to help market your brand, and are always coming up with fun ideas and are game for anything.”
The “no-nos” of ambassadorship
Being an ambassador does come with huge responsibility. After all, you are representing a company that wants to maintain a positive image and keep selling products!
“I would suggest that brand ambassadors steer clear of two common pitfalls,” Averill said. “The first is forgetting that you are representing a company at all times. The second is over-doing your promotion of the business. A great brand ambassador falls in the middle of the spectrum: They are themselves, they are good examples of the brand‘s image and their promotion of the brand is genuine.”
Petra stated that she is fortunate to not have experienced any no-nos with her brand ambassadors but had a gentle reminder about spelling:
“I know ‘ecolicious’ is not the easiest to spell, but when we get tagged, it’d better be right.”
Kristy had a lot of input when it came to the no-nos of being an ambassador:
“People getting nasty with others, any sort of bullying, too much foul language, lewd photos, directly dissing competing brands, people who beg for an ambassadorship but then never do anything,” she said. “Basically, forgetting that by agreeing to be an ambassador, you forgo some of the ‘personal expression’ on your social media – everything reflects back to the company and if you are not mature enough to handle censoring yourself – you should not be an ambassador. I am not saying that my all ambassadors are perfect, you just learn from the hiccups and move on.”
It is worth noting that none of the individuals I spoke to said they had any negative experiences with their brand ambassadors, which is a great thing!
As someone who sees and interacts with brand ambassadors daily on social media, I find it to be a turn off when I see a brand ambassador bullying another equestrian or using extremely foul language. I have actually tweeted about this issue because I’ve seen quite a few brand ambassadors engaging in this behavior. While we are entitled to free speech, you also must remember you are representing a brand. If you are portraying yourself in a negative light, it does not reflect positively on the brand with which you are affiliated (no pun intended). When I see a brand ambassador engaging in negative behavior, it makes me think poorly of the brand.
Another no-no that Alexa identified is ambassadors that hop from brand to brand and seem to be an ambassador for every company. While it’s great to be loyal to so many brands, it can have its drawbacks.
“I think it’s a little strange when they hop around to millions of different brands and businesses- it’s like at that point what makes you different and how are you going to help all these businesses succeed if you are an ambassador for 10 different places,” Alexa said.
Additionally, if you are a brand ambassador for a few companies, it’s important to be cognizant of what each company sells and whether that will conflict with something another company you represent sells. Say you are an ambassador for two different saddle pad companies or two different equestrian jewelry companies that sell very similar jewelry, how will that look to your audience? Note, those hypothetical scenarios are 100% created by me, the author of this post, and were not brought up to me by any of the individuals I interviewed.
The appropriate use of social media
Using social media appropriately is a huge thing for brand ambassadors, especially because social media is so prevalent, and it is one of the main ways brand ambassadors are expected to connect with equestrians and promote the brand.
However, it is important to utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media websites in the right way. Not using social media properly can do more harm than good when representing a brand.
Averill said that brand ambassadors should be conscious of everything they do. She also gave some advice that she gives to her own daughter: “People can never judge you for what you DON’T put on the internet.” You can share with your audience, but be careful of oversharing, especially if those details may portray you, or your brand, negatively.
Being an ambassador is fun, of course, but it should also be treated like a real job!
“That company spent time and money on you, as well as chose you over other applicants. Respect them enough to keep your social media on point and drama free,” Kristy said. “If you can’t or find that you don’t want to keep your social media rated G, then step down and let someone else have a shot. I would personally have no hard feelings if that happened to me with an Ogilvy (ambassador) – it is a mature decision and I would respect it.”
Seamlessly integrating the brand’s values and products into one’s everyday equestrian life is key to good social media use. Don’t make your promotion of the brand tacky or annoying.
“I find the most effective and enticing posts are the ones where brand ambassadors integrate our products and values into their daily lives, through pictures and posts,” Megan said. “Also through sharing our posts about new products, sales or promotions is also a great way to use their social media as ambassadors!”
Alexa thinks that being positive is number one for utilizing the internet as a brand ambassador.
“Nobody likes people who are mean over social media,” she said.
And, of course, if you do partake in a negative post or online drama, you should never promote your brand shortly after doing so. Not only will your negativity and drama be associated with the brand, but you run the risk of turning people off from a brand you’re supposed to be representing! When a company takes you on as an ambassador, they are not expecting that choice to hurt them in the long run. Be respectful towards others and know that everyone can see what you do on the internet – unless your social media is private, though even then, all it takes is a screenshot.
Applying for an ambassadorship
We know you want to know how to become a brand ambassador for some of these great companies!
My Barn Child: Anyone interested in becoming a Featured Rider for My Barn Child can email Averill at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, My Barn Child is not looking to add Featured Riders to their team during this season and will be looking primarily in the spring. Also be sure to check out My Barn Child’s Instagram account for its Featured Riders.
Ogilvy Equestrian: Ogilvy will not be taking applications for social media ambassadors at this time. Kristy will be approaching individuals she thinks will best represent the brand herself. However, Ogilvy will be starting a “Street Team,” which Kristy described as a “tight group of exceptional equestrian competitors in North America.” The Team will be chosen based on skill and a few other qualities. If you are interested in becoming a social media ambassador or a member of the Street Team, you can send a full riders resume, show schedule, 2014 overview, 2015 tentative schedule and goals, high quality photos, and links to any social media to email@example.com. If you have references, you can also include those in your email to Kristy.
EcoLicious Equestrian: Those interested in becoming a brand ambassador for EcoLicious Equestrian should keep in touch with their social media page. The company will be adding more ambassadors in the spring. They will also be looking for ambassadors this winter at WEF and HITS.
Tack Shoppe of Collingwood: Those interested in becoming an ambassador for the Tack Shoppe of Collingwood should contact them through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through their social media pages. They will also be making a public announcement when they are looking for more ambassadors to add to their team.
Equestri Lifestyle: They are not currently accepting any applications for ambassadors but plan on doing so next year.
There are some other great companies that offer ambassadorships as well, including: