Persistence was the trait that secured Mohammad Al Redha his role as a brand ambassador for GMC. When the 36-year-old Emirati ordered a Sierra Denali from the company two years ago, his eagerness to drive his new motor was noticed by the vehicle manufacturer, and relayed to those in head office.
“I was nagging them every day about when my truck would be arriving,” says Dr Redha, the director of the executive office for organisational transformation at the Dubai Health Authority. “I then received a call from GMC saying they’d like me to become a brand ambassador. I don’t think they’d ever seen anyone waiting so passionately to receive a truck before.”
Since then, whenever one of Dr Redha’s friends wants to buy a GMC vehicle, they get a discount if they buy through him. “I’ve convinced about 12 of my friends to switch from their cars to GMC,” says Dr Redha. He also gets to drive a GMC car every day and to test drive the brand’s latest releases.
Mohsen Kassem, GMC’s regional sales and marketing manager, says Dr Redha’s “passionate yet rational” approach to his first GMC vehicle purchase inspired the car maker to make him a brand ambassador. “Not only is he an automotive aficionado, he embodies the GMC philosophy of ‘lead by example’,” says Mr Kassem. “He is an embodiment of the spirit of the brand campaign and the character of GMC’s products, which is tailored toughness; our cars are large, bold and project leadership, but cosset their occupants in complete safety and premium comfort.”
Finding the right ambassador can be a tricky task, as Maurice Hamilton, the global chief executive at the global rights procurement agency The SMC Group, knows. His company specialises in matchmaking brands with ambassadors. “For a start, not everyone has the same objective,” he says. “The brand and ambassador’s original thoughts very rarely align, leading to a string of compromises that sometimes negatively affects the relationship.”
For GMC in the Middle East, it was important to find the right individual who speaks to their target customer base, says Mr Kassem. “We have to build on that heritage of ‘Al Jims’ [as GMC used to be known in the UAE] and what that means to the people of the Middle East.”
Mr Hamilton advises companies looking for an ambassador to ask specific questions before entering a potential influencer relationship, such as: how will the success of this relationship be measured? And what things are we not willing to compromise on?
Knowing who does what and why is an important part of assessing any potential match, he says, adding: “If the success of your campaign relies heavily on PR, it’s essential that whoever you engage is enthusiastic about this aspect of the relationship. Our job would be to review their PR history and advise our clients on how active and effective they’ve previously been in this area.”
With most brand ambassadors carrying out their influencing online, a new automated platform, IndaHash from Dublin, is about to launch in the Middle East, which links brand campaigns with social media influencers.
Targeting “power users” – those with followings of 1,000 to 20,000 specifically – the platform enables companies to upload their campaigns and budget. Carefully screened influencers can then bid or apply for the campaign execution and can be live within hours.
But do brand ambassador endorsements really result in a boom in profit?
According to Instabrand, a company that connects brands with influencers, advertisers reported a return on investment of US$9.60 per $1 spent on influencer marketing in 2015, up from $6.85 per $1 spent in 2014.
For David Labouchere, a Dubai-based serial competitor in the Ironman World Championship, his success at his sport, coupled with a fairly sizeable social media following (4,403 Instagram followers and almost 1,000 Facebook friends) has led to him becoming a brand ambassador for activewear brands such as Lululemon and On running shoes, as well as Black Spade bicycle racing wheels.
“Sometimes I start using the products and then I let the company know, but mostly they come to me first,” says the 54-year-old Briton. In most cases, Mr Labouchere says he is given products, rather than cash, in return for being “rather noisy” about using something. With Lululemon, which has an advanced global brand ambassador programme, Mr Labouchere’s reward is a “generous budget” to spend in their stores. “My role at Lululemon is about being part of a very strong and large international ambassador community,” he explains. “We all work together doing events.”
However, Mr Labouchere says he does not like “being commercial”.
“I won’t come out and say ‘I wear Lululemon’. I’m doing my ambassadorial role because of what I’m wearing in the pictures, and the fact I’ve hashtagged them,” he adds, saying this keeps him within his ethical boundaries as a brand ambassador. “I have lovely clothes from a top brand, and I get them for free. In return I wear them, which isn’t a hardship. I don’t want to be thought of as someone who’ll do anything for money, so the balance for me is to live within my guidelines. I only attach myself to brands I use.”
Follow The National's Business section on Twitter