“Who are these people and why are they at my event?”
I was 26 years old, touring with the largest sponsors of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. Each of our clients invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into their activations. It was my job to make sure that investment produced the highest returns possible.
My job duties included creating a booth design that brought the brand to life in a convention center and again at the finish line, a creative process made more complicated when you remember you have to ship the display from city to city. I helped ideate and execute running dragons, pop-up smoothie shops, and full-size bars.
I was also in charge of ensuring all sponsorship assets promised in the agreement were carried out. This meant placing branded vehicles along the course at 4am, setting up hundreds of flutter flags, and checking for the clients’ logo on everything from shirts to finish line banners.
I loved that job. I loved traveling to new cities each week. I loved our crew. Traveling with a close-knit group for an extended period has a way of creating unforgettable bonds. I loved seeing the elite athletes zoom by at the water stations. As a marathoner myself, this was always a highlight. I truly loved helping create memorable experiences for the runners on behalf of these brands.
I think that’s why it irked me so much that our staffing agency was sending the wrong people. They clearly didn’t love being there. They weren’t connecting with runners. They stood out among the athletes at the event. Most had perfect hair and makeup. They asked to take smoke breaks. One asked a runner what their 13.1 sticker signified. At that time, about 80% of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon participants were running the half. As the tour manager, I kept asking myself “Why are these brand ambassadors assigned to my event?”
On a particularly rocky weekend, I tried to reach our agency. We were several people short and those we had weren’t blowing my socks off. No one even answered our call. Finally, Sunday afternoon, when the event was just wrapping up, I got a call apologizing. I knew our clients deserved better, and a few months later, Health and Fitness Activations was born.
At the time, our process was revolutionary. We hired people based on passion – passion for the brand and the event they were working. We also screened everyone on video chat. At the time, most agencies sent blast emails to their brand ambassadors. The first reply got the gig. Shockingly, some agencies still operate this way.
Meanwhile, we have stuck to our roots. We take more time to find the right person for the event instead of finding the first person for an event. We train them. We have an on-call team who is available on weekends, so you always have someone to call if you need them. We respect our brand ambassador’s time, ensuring they are paid for all time worked. This helps us retain our top performers, often for years. There are a thousand more things that set us apart from our competitors, but it really comes down to passion. Our brand ambassadors are passionate about the role they play with our clients. Our internal team is passionate about helping our health and fitness clients create meaningful connections with their target consumers.
Our goal is to provide such high-quality brand ambassadors that they feel like a natural extension of your team when they show up to your experiential marketing events. I hope I never get a call asking, “Who are these people and why are they at my event?”
What have you found successful in finding great brand ambassadors for your events?