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Opinion: Why Brands Should Use Sports Ambassadors

Simon Dent, founder of talent management agency HERO, makes a case for using sports celebrities as ambassadors to help drive a brand’s marketing objectives.

2022 is upon us and it will be another massive year for sport, globally.

You could make the argument that it’s set to be one of the biggest years in sport, ever. Kicking off with the Africa Cup of Nations, followed by the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games before rolling into the Commonwealth Games, Rugby League World Cup, Women’s Rugby World Cup and finishing with the Football World Cup.

Brands are already briefing agencies on all of the above, whether they have status as an official partner or are looking to ambush one of the above events without a recognised accreditation.

Having sat on both sides of the fence, as a sports agent and creative agency owner, I am often surprised how little consideration is given to having ambassadors as part of a brand’s marketing mix. 

These conversations, of course, don’t solely apply to major events, but also to brands wanting to engage a sporting audience at any time. The use of talent, for brands, doesn’t simply have to see big wedges of cash thrown about at flashy ‘super star’ names. The best way for brands to make an impact with ambassadors is by asking one simple question… 

“Can sporting talent help us achieve our objectives and be the champions we need within the audiences and communities we’re looking to engage?”

There are numerous reasons for brands to use ambassadors from the world of sport. Below are a number of reasons why, I believe, having an ambassador is more useful now than ever.

HAVE YOU ALSO READ?: Opinion: Personalised Advertising is On the Horizon for Sport

Create attention
When a sports celebrity speaks (whether retired or still playing) the fans of that sport tend to pay attention. For how long, that really depends on the messaging, but you can be confident that content containing sports talent drives engagement and shares.

Product association
This is a big one for me. Ambassadors can do a lot of heavy lifting for a brand when it comes to explaining its brand values. A lot of time and money can be saved by using a famous face that is known to stand for something, especially for a new brand or product launch.

Drive new customers
An obvious but an important one. If you use the star as a face of your brand, you’re probably very quickly going to pick up fans of the personality as customers.

Humanise your brand
If done correctly (and creatively!) this can be very useful, specifically for certain categories that struggle to engage consumers on an emotional level. The world of tech springs to mind.

Encourage loyalty
For many businesses it can be more cost effective to keep existing customers than to recruit new ones. Brands can leverage an emotional connection that consumers have with talent and use it to drive an emotional connection with their brand, and in doing so reap the benefits of a stickier long-term relationship.

Media value on social media
The appointment of ambassadors can be a media buy for some brands, especially with the amount of data available on the talents’ social media following. Brands can get laser focused with the audience it’s after via social, much more so than buying traditional forms of media. This is incredibly powerful as the younger generation is showing signs that they don’t want to be ‘advertised’ to.

Culture, not comms!
This is a really interesting one for me as using sporting talent can allow the brand to become part of a conversation relevant to culture without barking advertising messages at its chosen audience. 

Build trust with the customer
If the talent trusts the brand enough to work with them, then, hopefully so will the consumer. There are some examples where this hasn’t been the case…but if the alignment with brand and talent feels authentic and credible, it goes a long way in driving consumer engagement.

It goes without saying that you have to choose the correct brand ambassador that lives and breathes your brand. One that has an authentic relationship with your product or service. When a brand finds the right talent to partner with, the talent can become a human manifestation of the brand.  Oh, and please don’t confuse an ambassador with influencers – they are worlds apart.​

Sport Industry Group
Sport Industry Group

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