The role of a Brand Ambassador is a critical component in stimulating a product’s visibility in a nightclub, restaurant or bar. For the operator, having a Brand Ambassador in the house for an evening or two can generate “news” to share with loyal customers and potential patrons – thus generating traffic – and create a special night featuring education and special cocktails. While the Brand Ambassador’s visit can be a promotional event in and of itself, their presence also has tremendous value to the staff and overall sales goals by providing a resource to educate and train bartenders and servers. But, the Brand Ambassador must be more than a pretty face to accomplish that.
“If you have a category and brand that you’re interested in, chances are they have a Brand Ambassador,” says Mike Ginley, co-founder and partner of Next Level Marketing, based in Westport, Conn., a marketing and promotion agency focused on building beverage alcohol brands in bars, clubs and restaurants. Since 2006, Next Level has specialized in developing Brand Ambassador programs for large suppliers and small entrepreneurial companies alike, including recruiting, training and managing employees throughout the year. “We give [Brand Ambassadors] clear, concise goals that are aligned with the suppliers' goals,” says Next Level co-founder and partner Paige Seager. “We empower them to be managers, hold them accountable and reward them for achievement.”
Among Next Level’s employees is NYC-based Kristina Sutter, who serves as the only U.S. Whisky Ambassador for Bowmore, Glen Grant and Glenrothes single malt Scotches, along with Russell’s Reserve Kentucky Bourbon. “Essentially, I am the product specialist,” says Sutter. “I generally explain it to [venue operators] that the Sales Rep’s job is to get bottle there, and my job is to make sure the bottle gets poured.”
Brand Ambassadors are a tremendous asset to support promotion programming and staff training for a number of reasons:
1. Brands are built on-premise. “In any part of the industry, the on-premise is where people can sample,” Sutter says of her experience in the field. Brand Ambassadors work with bar managers to support not just their products, but entire liquor categories as a means of prompting consumers to sample what’s on the back bar.
2. Staff Training. Bars, clubs and restaurants are hard-pressed to get staff training, but Brand Ambassadors can train staff on a liquor category as a whole and offer tasting notes and tips on how to suggestively sell spirits to the customer. As a result, bartenders and wait staff “are comfortable in upselling the brands…and can impart knowledge on the guest, which can increase sales and drive bigger tips for the staff,” says Ginley.
3. Passion for the Industry. The characteristics companies like Next Level look for in a Brand Ambassador include being professional, engaging and passionate about the product category. “The relationship I have [with on-premise venues] is similar to having friends in my home and asking me about whisky,” says Sutter. “I’m a Scotch drinker first and an employee second.”
Brand Ambassadors are available to arm bartenders with the tools necessary to better serve their customers through training, traffic promotions, merchandising tools and knowledge on the latest industry trends.
If you’re looking to support a new liquor category or specific brand, work with your sales representative or distributor to be connected to a Brand Ambassador. “Every brand has a personality,” says Ginley. “At the end of the day, the Brand Ambassador is the one who brings the brands to life.” And that, in turn can bring your staff, your venue and your promotions to life!