Brand ambassadors, rather the brand crusaders have always added a great impetus to a marketing campaign. They are a credible voice for the advertising campaign, a brilliant engagement tool for key stakeholders and sometimes a delightful gratification for employees.
But how often do we explore the brand ambassador association for PR conversations? Or do they only belong to the paid campaign initiative versus for the benefit of real stories?
Brands such as Lux or Colgate showcase how well the brand ambassador can represent the marketing campaign. Be the face for the brand to mark a memory. But often these associations wouldn’t trickle down to any media interface, not as much as you would see them across TVC’s.
Honestly, this is not a battle of where should one be utilising an important asset. Instead it’s all about how they can add value. And if their presence can help create any stories, which audiences can really resonate with. Sometimes the ambassadors are signed on possibly for their recent achievements, instead of how they can actually add value.
John Abraham was associated with Castrol Power1 – the two-wheeler engine oil. And this partnership definitely helped create a synergy in messaging. John Abraham was always showcasing his passion for bikes and then for him to promote a brand that takes care of one’s passion – seemed like the perfect collaboration. Hence, every time John made an appearance at press conferences or met media to speak about Castrol Power1, it just seemed perfectly natural.
Choosing a brand ambassador, rather a credible representative for the brand should also be based on how closely their story can be married to that of the brand’s. Because this is what helps to create the quintessential PR stories.
For instance, how Milind Soman perfectly fits the bill to be part of a marathon brand or how we would want to see Deepika Padukone endorsing jewellery. For that matter, everytime a sport star associates with a fitness garment or shoe brand, its far more a relatable story. The big draw should be the synergy created in terms of virtues. The attributes that an ambassador stands for should be the same that the brand stands for. At the least.
But sadly, collaborations also have a flipside to them. One incorrect move by the brand or an inconsiderate action by the ambassador, can negatively rub off on each other. If brands work hard to create a seamless identity with the ambassadors, they have to work even harder to manage in case of any unforeseen controversies.
Beyond negative outburst, another key issue concerning partnerships is whether the ambassadors are rightfully using the brands they endorse, in their personal life’s. The famous faux pas where Robert Downey Jr was spotted using a Huawei’s P30 Pro smartphone, despite being OnePlus’ brand ambassador.
And it goes the other way as well, when brands land in a soup with unexpected errors. Just like Versace’s first Chinese brand ambassador, Yang Mi, closed her contract with the brand, because the T-shirt brand listed Hong Kong and Macau as a country, rather than a city.
It gets even more difficult when brands have to decide to disassociate with tarnished ambassadors. Could be for various reasons, cultural or morality, but again whatever be the decision, it needs to be part of the long-term strategy and not some knee-jerk reaction. And yet there have been times where the celebrity’s popularity and fan following are unaffected despite controversies or (proven) misconduct. Some examples that up straight up are Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja in cricket or Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt in cinema.
Call it weighing pros and cons or a double edge sword, or a new perspective, PR can work hand in hand when the need of a brand ambassador and their messaging is as close to the reality. Just as a wrong puzzle piece wont fit, an incorrect credible voice can be a misfit or probably never align with the brand. PR needs new fodder to create better stories, no doubt about that, but get us something that is a natural story and see the brand visibility grow.