In the past three years, I’ve had the honor of being an ambassador for the Route 66 Marathon (2019), Bibrave (2020-21), Brooks Running (2020-21), and Aftershokz (2021). At the beginning of each year, when my ambassador welcome kits arrive, I get a lot of messages from friends asking about how I became an ambassador and how they could become running brand ambassadors as well.
Becoming an ambassador for a running brand that you love has a lot of perks. Most people see the welcome kits we receive, but it’s way more than that. Running brands often cultivate amazing communities, and help you grow your own Instagram account. I’ve met some amazing people both online and in-person through becoming a brand ambassador.
Competition for brand ambassador slots can be fierce. How can you set yourself apart? Here are some of the tips I used when applying for ambassadorships:
Do your research on Ambassador teams
Take a look in your gym bag right now. What products do you use the most when you run? Are there any brands that you’re absolutely passionate about? Are there races that you run every year that you absolutely adore? These brands and races should be your primary targets for ambassadorships. Brands love enthusiasm and passion!
For example, I owned a pair of Aftershokz headphones for over a year before I applied to be a Shokstar Ambassador. They’re a piece of gear I never leave the house without and have been toting for safety long before I applied for their program. The company even commented on my posts fairly often! Applying for and becoming an ambassador for a product that you are already passionate about is a recipe that will help you be a great ambassador and brands recognize this.
Okay, so now that you know what brands you’re wanting to target, it is time to do some research. Does this brand have an ambassador program? What type of accounts are already ambassadors? If a brand is only using top athletes or mega Instagram accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, it might not be worth applying.
In the opposite way, if a brand has five thousand ambassadors, it might not be the type of program you’re interested in. (These tend to be more like fan clubs.) While this might be tempting to apply to get one ambassadorship on your profile, I tend to stay away from these. Some ambassador programs have thousands of ambassadors and don’t offer much to their ambassadors at all. In exchange for exposure on your platform, you don’t get much in return. One program I applied for, I found out after the fact that there were literally thousands of ambassadors, no perks, and was more of a fan club that the brand tried to sell to directly.
A good ambassador program to apply for should be somewhere between these two extremes; a solid number of ambassadors with accounts around the same size as your own who allow you the freedom to authentically be excited about their products.
Get Noticed by the Brand
Now that you have an idea of the brands that you would love to represent, it’s time to get noticed! Becoming a part of the community already is a great way for to gain some notoriety before ever applying. Have those brands know your face!
Tags: Whenever using a running brand in your post. Tag them in your photos (see right)
Hashtags: Does the brand use particular hashtags for fans of their products? Is it the same or different from their ambassador hashtag? (For example, Aftershokz has #ShokzSquad and #ShokzStar) When you’re using their products, make sure to use their hashtags.
Some brands go through their hashtags and tags often, sharing their favorites to their page or commenting on your posts. This gives you the chance of being recognizable when it’s time to apply for next year’s ambassador team.
Follow and Comment: There an ambassador team that you absolutely love? Follow their hashtag so that you can see everyone sharing it on your feed. Find the ambassadors whose content you love or inspire you and follow them. Make sure to comment on their posts. Well thought out and contributing comments help you become a member of the community. i.e. Don’t spam “Way to Go!” on every post you see. Which leads me to….
Grow your own Running Community: Be Authentic
One question I get asked a lot is “How do I grow my account?”. I wouldn’t call my own Instagram particularly big at around 6.5k followers, but it takes time to really build up a following and community. Community is SUPER important, as you just don’t want a number under followers. (And you definitely SHOULD NOT think of your followers as just a number!) I use Instagram as a social outlet, I want to engage with the people that read my posts, as well as engage with theirs.
Follow Back: When I get a new follow, I try to go scope out their account. If they’re into similar stuff, such as running, I try and follow them back. (If you’re reading this and I missed you, DM me!)
Respond to Comments: People take the time to comment on your posts. Make sure to respond to them. I love having more of a conversation online rather than just throwing content out into a vacuum. I’ve made some great online friends just by responding to great comments.
Don’t Follow/Unfollow: This is what is known as a dick move. Just following someone in hopes that they will follow you back, then unfollowing them later, is not as helpful as people think. Engaging with your audience matters!
Variety: No one likes being sold to all the time. Your account should be an extension of yourself. While I’m primarily about running. My posts will often include my other interests. And stories? I try to think of it as a window into my life, and another way to engage with people. Switch up your photos too. Try different angles, different locales and color schemes. Keep things interesting and be adventurous. Not every post is going to be the most amazing, but trying new things keeps your account fresh.
Apply, apply, apply
Now that you’re following ambassadors from your target teams, you’ll know when applications open! Often brands will announce open applications and encourage their current ambassadors to spread the news, so you won’t miss the deadline if you’re activing following these ambassadors. Plus, if you are commenting on their posts, they’ll have priority on your feed, so they won’t be lost in the shuffle of posts on instagram.
My last piece of advice is not to let rejection tear you down. Competition for running brand ambassador slots is fierce and the slots are limited. Even if you follow all my recommendations, you will be turned down often. Some brands don’t even let you know that you haven’t been selected. It can be demoralizing to see others announcing that they made the team when you never even heard back.
I’m hear to say, don’t let that get you down! Keep applying!! Most brands put the word out that they’re accepting applications in the fall. If you didn’t make the ambassador team of your dreams, keep an eye on their campaigns throughout the year, and apply again next year. You have a whole year to make your online space even more awesome!
I hope that this guide helps you gain a spot on the ambassador team of your dreams. In summary, be active in the online community. This is the best way to not only gain a following, but to find friends along the way. Remember, we’re all here to run and have fun!