5 Questions to Ask Before Applying as a Brand Ambassador
Horses are expensive! Right? You're already taking a bunch of pics with your horse. Taking pics with an equestrian brand's products and getting some free or deeply discounted gear or clothes sounds like an easy win. Becoming a brand ambassador can be a great scenario for both you and the brand, but before you apply you need to inform yourself about this type of relationship. We've put together 5 questions you should ask yourself before applying as a brand ambassador.
1. What type of brand representative do you want to be?
Before you start looking into specific brands to represent, you need to consider which type of brand representative role fits and suits your lifestyle and riding.
- Sponsored Rider: This is typically a professional rider competing at high level events. The brand could be sponsoring them in products or a combination of products and monetary contributions. The rider and the brand typically have a formal legal contract specifying the details of their relationship. This is similar to a sponsored professional athlete you see in many other sports.
- Influencer: Influencers have a large social media following and promote the brand on their various channels. Similar to a sponsored rider, the influencer may receive a product or combination of products and payment in exchange for their promotion. The details of these arrangements can be covered by a legal agreement between the brand and influencer; however, they are not always this formal. The arrangement could be for a one-time or short term promotion by the influencer (sometimes longer relationships cross over to a formalized version of a brand ambassador).
- Brand Ambassador: Often a brand ambassador is an amateur rider or junior, but could be a professional rider (generally this is a less formal arrangement than a sponsorship). The brand could provide free product, discounts, or both in return for social media coverage. Usually, the brand does not pay or financially compensate their ambassadors, although some offer the ability to "earn" additional discounts. These relationships are less formal and do not typically have a signed agreement (but there are exceptions). Many riders applying to be brand ambassadors do not have the same number of followers as an established influencer, but could be looking to grow their accounts with the goal of becoming an influencer. The role of brand ambassador is usually a longer term relationship with the brand, with most lasting a year or possibly longer.
- Brand Enthusiast: This is an even less intense relationship between rider and brand. Brand enthusiasts generally promote the brand to their circle of friends and riding community (possibly on social media). The brands will usually provide a discount as an incentive and might even provide some free products. There is no legal agreement between the rider and brand and the activities taken by the brand enthusiast are minimal.
- Product Review for your Blog: If you find that the brand relationships described above are not the best fit for you, consider offering to review a brand's product for your existing blog. You can reach out to various companies so that you're not tied down to one brand and can have more flexibility with your content. These situations typically need to be initiated by the blogger and it helps to have solid blog traffic stats to offer the brand visibility and engagement.
Think about your riding and current status. The type of social media presence you have and the content you like to post. Once you know which type of relationship is the best fit, you can start targeting and researching the brands you want to represent. There is a little bit of crossover and gray areas when trying to summarize the different relationships in general terms. It is a bit easier to see these differences when comparing the requirements of specific brand opportunities. While researching, be sure to read the details of the brand's expectations. The brand may label their program as a brand ambassador, but in reality the relationship is more of a sponsored rider scenario or vice versa. In the end, it doesn't matter what it is called as long as the relationship is a good fit for both you and the brand.
2. Will your competition status be impacted?
When did you go pro? If you show, you might be surprised that your role as a brand ambassador could knock you out of "ammy" status. Some horse show governing bodies will consider riders that receive compensation, goods, or discounts as meeting the threshold for receiving remuneration and crossing over to pro status. If your horse sport is governed by the USEF, you can read more in the USEF rulebook and also contact them via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions about your specific status. In many cases, this does not apply to juniors. To complicate matters though, each governing body may define junior/amateur/professional status separately, so be sure to read up on the rules provided by your horse show organization and don't be afraid to reach out to them for clarification since this is kind of a gray area. It's also important to mention that the brand your working with will usually not provide you with any guidance on this topic and you'll need to do your own research. If you're already a pro or not interested in showing - then no worries here, you're good to go!
3. Are you comfortable promoting a brand on your social media accounts?
Is your Instagram account private? As a brand ambassador, many brands will require that you have public profiles on your social accounts to be considered for their program. Does the lack of privacy make you uneasy?
Are you worried that your friends will feel like you are selling out or marketing to them too much? If you're worried about annoying everyone with your brand content every time you post an affiliated pic, then a brand ambassador program might not be a good fit for your social media style.
Are you aware of the latest practices for clearly disclosing that your posts are endorsed or affiliated content? In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that "influencers should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media". If you're not sure how to disclose this relationship, the FTC has produced a guide called Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers. Per the FTC, it's the responsibility of the brand ambassador (and not the brand) to make these disclosures, be familiar with the FTC's Endorsement Guides, and comply with laws against deceptive ads. Even if you're not located in the US, these disclosure practices will still apply to you if it is likely that your social media content is viewed by US users. Other countries (such as the UK) also have similar requirements. The key here is to learn what you need to disclose regarding your brand relationship and what satisfies the disclosure requirement. For example, a clearly placed hashtag might be all you need (but please read up on the details!!). If all of this makes you uncomfortable or is more than you bargained for, then maybe the free gear isn't worth it.
4. Do you have the time to create brand related content?
More and more frequently brands are looking for thoughtful content from their brand ambassadors and not simply tagging them in a post. Planning, creating, and posting meaningful content can be really time consuming. If you love this type of creative work, then brand ambassador programs are a perfect opportunity for you! If you feel yourself already complaining that this is starting to feel like too much work for the products or discounts you'll receive, then you might want to reconsider!
5: Do you have someone to help you?
Horse selfies are hard! They're also probably not the main content the brand is hoping you will share on a regular basis. You're gonna need some help. While many of your shots can be accomplished with a tripod (or robotic tripod like Pivo or Pixio), it's a lot easier if you have a family member, partner, or friend that is willing to take pictures or video of you and your horse. That's another tricky part. In many cases, this person will need to be willing to go to the barn to get these shots, where they might be a little bored (or possibly very bored) if they're not also into horses. If your parents are already there because they need to be on-site while you ride, then you have a captive audience and you've got it made. If you (like me) have to convince your partner (reluctant husband) to go with you, then this becomes a little more difficult. The best scenarios work out when you have a barn friend that also needs some help with their shots.