Rethinking Ambassadors: Programming with Passion

Written by Jen - Field Marketing Mogul

January 15, 2024


We called it "The Andy Factor." He was a Brand Ambassador we'd hired in New Orleans with a winning personality and a high-end spirits background. He was charming and enthusiastic on conference calls, but he had one BIG problem: he hadn't invoiced for any work done in the 90 days since we hired him. Yet, Louisiana was up 120%, and Andy was our only ambassador in the state. How could he be doing nothing while making such a measurable difference?

In this case, it took a flight to the market to solve the mystery. Andy was actually doing a whole hell of a lot of work, but he was having so much fun doing it that he never thought to charge us for it. Andy was a bartender at a local industry hangout, so instead of the typical buttoned-up sales calls and presentations, Andy was working the rail, weaving passionate brand stories and product knowledge into every shift as he served the bartenders who served New Orleans. Instead of a kitted event program, he was working with bar managers and coming up with creative support that worked for each account and his unique market. It didn't even occur to him to charge us. That wasn't "work" to Andy; it was just part of his everyday bartending gig. He was the right man in the right market.

No. We are not proposing a "work for booze" program, and not every ambassador will be an Andy—not every ambassador should be. Other successful ambassadors will excel in different but equally significant areas. But the force that drives this kind of success is the backbone of our lean, part-time Trade Ambassador Program: Brand Passion.


The term has become so broad that it's practically meaningless. Many ambassadors today are basically sales reps with laundry lists of brands they've worked with before. Others are "the demo ladies" you see at the liquor stores passing out samples with zero enthusiasm, connection, or understanding of the brand. The one thing usually unites these hired guns: a lack of passion.

For over a decade, we have developed a Brand Ambassador Structure uniquely suited for emerging brands. The Thoroughbred Brand Ambassador is a part-time, pay-for-performance industry professional, well known in their market and knowledgeable in spirits. However, most importantly, they are inspired by your brand. They work not as a replacement for but rather as a complement to your sales force, focusing on high-quality execution of what we call "The ABCs": Account Support Programming, Bartender/Trade Education, and Cocktail and feature Placements. This model gives us several key advantages over other, more traditional programs:

Lean: Pay for performance means your investment is going toward what you have identified as valuable in your market, eliminating the overhead of a full-time employee covering a giant territory or the uncertainty of your ROI in the market.

Nimble: Part-time contractors can be easily added or removed as your business grows organically

Bespoke: We are hiring specifically with your brand in mind. The candidates we select will reflect your brand's core values.


We work with each brand to develop a program with their specific objectives in mind. Each ambassador is vetted and trained alongside the brand. They are given basic POS, an agreed-upon budget, and a key accounts list within a targeted area, which becomes their activation universe. They are trained to execute different types of activations such as happy hours, staff trainings, and off-premise tastings, all of which have a set fee for achieving. From there, we empower the ambassador to manage their market. The better they can leverage the tools and training they've been given, the better return they (and your brand) will receive.


Passion vs. Paycheck: Over and over, the representative with the most genuine love for the brand is the most successful, regardless of their previous experience. Sometimes we find best results with bartenders who have never worked for a brand before and are excited to learn something new.

Keep It Fun: Because it's largely passion-led, they should love their job to be a great ambassador for you. We keep paperwork to a minimum, try to involve the ambassadors in roundtable discussions and brand strategies, and trust them (with supervision) to manage their expenses in a sensible way.

Learning Curve: Our recruits are sometimes new at this aspect of the industry, so it can take a few months for them to get their footing. The great news is that because it's an achievement-based program, expenses during this learning period are typically low.

Not a Sales Substitute: This program complements your sales structure, allowing the sales team to focus on areas like volume goals, placements, and chain relationships, while the ambassadors succeed by creating turns and engagement within a list of core accounts. They lack a professional salesperson's experience with cold calling or negotiating volume to seal large deals, which plays to everyone's strengths.


Maybe an Andy isn't right for your brand, but perhaps an Angie or André is. Every brand has different needs, and that's where we come in. Let's talk about your objectives and see if a bespoke ambassador program could help you find the right fit to amplify your brand message in strategic markets.

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