Ambassador Program Review
How to promote your events - Ambassador Programs
Keen to promote your events but strapped for time, money and ideas? Why not look at creating an ambassador program for your event champions! You can’t buy much better promotion than word of mouth from the people that love to participate in your events!
Stephen Stubbs of Xcelsports Events in South Australia has spent the past 18 months developing an ambassador program a for his events and this season will finally get the opportunity to run the pilot project. Register Now caught up with Steve to find out what it’s all about and how it came to be.
How did you initially come up with the concept for the Ambassadors Program Steve?
Years ago - when I was much younger, I actually use to race in the elite division - traveling around the country and overseas I would alway see athletes acting as brand ambassadors for sporting apparel, gear and that sort of thing; so having a similar situation for my events has always been a lingering desire in the back of mind.
What are some of the key benefits of the program for you and the Ambassadors?
Well obviously one of the key benefits is that you’re not putting your hand in your pocket for promotional and marketing expenses! Plus word of mouth has so much more value than above or below the line activities for our events.
I also like being able to provide in kind value to ambassadors by giving them a race discount or for some of the athletes in my Top Gun program - a complimentary entry for the series!
But, I think, by far the biggest benefit for me really is that they’re out there in the triathlon community, talking about our events and how much they love them!
I also love seeing the younger athletes aspiring to be elite athletes beginning their journey in the sport - these rookies are scratching their heads wondering how to start, hoping to become elite athletes and thinking how on earth do I get there?
I think with this in mind it’s a really fantastic way to teach them some skills around PR work, they learn how to represent the brand, talk about racing and gain some really great learnings of what’s expected of an elite athlete.
“It’s a great pathway for the juniors, wanting to become elites.”
But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be looking for the best athletes on your books. It’s about having the more engaging, colourful athletes involved too - the kind of characters come from a different angle and create a bit of interest. You’ve got the have a balance so that all your participants (especially the first timers) feel comfortable in approaching ambassadors at events right?!
How much planning has it taken to get this program off the ground - obviously time is very limited for event organisers!
It’s been one of those things that I have been trying to get off the ground for the last few seasons and I thought if I don’t get to it now it’s just not going to happen!
I finally decided to launch it mid year and thought let’s just give it a go - it has been an 18 month planning process, so to see in action now is really great!
What were the steps in creating the program?
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, the initial pilot program is really simple, I basically just put some dot points together - the things that I expect from the athletes and then the things that I can do for them.
I could have gone into it in more depth, but I thought this is first year let's just keep it lean and clean and we’ll see how we go from there - it’s really an evolving document and based on how it goes we’ll set the program for the next season.
We initially met with the recruited athletes and gave them the opportunity to have their input and based on their feedback I’ve actually changed a few things. I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers - it's about putting it out to everyone as a team to create a program that suits everyone.
My intention with this philosophy is that everybody is a part of the program so that it evolves into a true collaborative experience and a positive community. There is enough negativity floating about the place, particularly in the event management world and you don't want to bring that vibe out amongst the crew, it’s about creating a really positive environment for them to grow as people and athletes.
How important is to have a written agreement?
Look this just adds to the piece around giving the ambassadors that learning pathway, especially for those younger juniors. It also gives the older athletes a bit of an opportunity to step up the ranks.
If they are looking to get involved our written agreement legitimises the role and contract, it’s all part of developing as an athlete and if you commit to something well then the expectation is that you deliver on your promise.
Down the track in their sporting careers, whether it is an endorsement for products. gear or anything that they’re repping well then they will need to deliver. I really believe that this is such a crucial part of the learning curve - which they will need to know how to handle if they do get to the top - at the end of the day everyone wants an ROI on their investment and I do too!
What do you look for in an event ambassador?
I look for a bit of diversity within my team members, obviously I want some elites, but I also look for regular crew that are passionate and show a bit more of colour in their character.
I have a few ambassadors on my teams, that are weekend warriors, they’re not especially focussed on being elite, they are just happy to be involved and be a part of the sport.
The best thing about these guys is that they’re just so devoted to the sport and they stand out because they are there every week, they go above and beyond and they are the kind of people that create a truly positive environment at events and make the sport so appealing to come back to each season.
What is the expectation of an ambassador?
The standard expectation is that they:
- Are passionate about events
- Interact with and recruit potential participants
- Create positive brand awareness - this can be through sharing pictures on social media, word of mouth, distributing marketing collateral and so on
- Obviously they need to follow us on our social media channels as wells as tagging posts
- They need to commit to the initial team meeting and launch of program
- Assist new athletes with hints and tips on race day
- Volunteer at races and clinics, prior to their own performance, help with bump in etc
What’s the expectation of them on the day at your events Steve?
The people that I’ve selected are super approachable. As an example if the average weekend warrior is coming to their first event our announcer will identify our ambassador crew during the race briefing so that if they are having any issues, or maybe feeling a bit nervous they can approach our ambassadors to provide them with a bit of extra support.
Not only are they there to help participants get across the line for their first race, but they may also be able to assist if someone is going out to get a PB. They’re also around to help if you have forgotten something - a rubber band for your paddles, a spare tube, goggles or whatever, our ambassadors will have spares and are more than happy to help with race equipment on the day. This part of the role is just as important, if not even more so, than the promotion and brand repping part of the gig.
What can an ambassador expect from the event organiser in return?
- 50% off or full event discount on all races in the season
- 10% refund back off the entry fee for any new athlete referred to a race
- Discounts on gear and supplies from local or national sponsors
- Access to private Facebook groups
- They are provided with their own branded apparel to be worn at events as their uniform.
Being the first year, how do you plan to evaluate the program?
I plan to do a three month evaluation - to prepare for this I look at social media posts, referral numbers and that kind of thing. Given that I’m also the event director and present at all events I always take the time to have a good look around, take a few notes on who’s performing and who is underperforming.
But look, it’s not like after three months if you’re underperforming you’re out. I give them a fair opportunity to make good. Sometimes it might just take a gentle tap on the shoulder and the suggestion that “I think that you should be doing a few more social media posts, what do you think” and put the onus back on them… It’s completely reciprocal - I am there to help them and they’re there to help me.
It is very clear in our discussions with Steve and even our own dealings with him as a client that his ethos is to go above and beyond for anyone that is involved in his events. Financial assistance aside, Steve knows more than anything the kind stuff is twice as valuable and goes so much further than just selling race entries, it’s about creating a real community around your brand.