Marketing has long been about purchasing attention. Influence is now the new currency of growth. Becoming the most influential brand within your category starts here.


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How to partner with influencers the way Nike partnered with Jordan

by chester robinson

November 30, 2020

The goal of all brands when marketing through public figures should be to identify brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors are people with whom brands can build long-term partnerships in order to establish more authentic endorsements. When picked right, they can be the primary reason for the growth of a brand. The rise of influencer marketing has since led to brand ambassadors becoming a core marketing tool for brands from Glossier to Gymshark to NordVPN, but how have some brands found success whilst others have struggled?

Back in the day: The Nike/Jordan Relationship

The positive impact of successful collaborations with brand ambassadors is clear. Travel back in time to the 90’s - baggy jeans, hip hop and the infiltration of these movements into sport, most notably basketball. 90% of those reading this article probably completed Netflix over lockdown and in doing so watched a miniseries - The Last Dance - which revolved around the career of basketball legend and influencer extraordinaire, Michael Jordan. The Jordan impact elevated the Chicago Bulls into a stratospheric status; from a lowly and largely unknown NBA franchise to one of the most recognised brands in the world. We often see this with figures in sport, in football when we think Lionel Messi we think Barcelona - the influence a sports star has on their teams status is ultimately quid pro quo.

With Jordan, his influence extended beyond his teams footing in the world and onto the feet of men and women all over the globe, not just in the 90’s but still today. Nike, at the time a running shoe brand, made Jordan a brand ambassador. His ambassadorship led to the creation of the Jordan brand and the infamous Air Jordan line of trainers, $1 billion of which are sold each quarter. Through Jordan, Nike were able to tap into different market segments such as sport, fashion and hip hop. His maverick influence gave Nike a cult status in the 90’s, a status which still exists today. Brand ambassadorship at it’s finest.

How to tackle the new status quo

Influence is now no longer a commodity reserved for sports teams and film studios. Social media means that now almost anyone can be a commercialised influencer and all brands have the ability to identify brand ambassadors within this new market. But with the long menu of opportunity comes the question; how can brands identify who their ideal brand ambassador is?

The answer - it takes knowing your target audience, data and time. Knowing your target audience is the base level; prior to investing and measuring brands need to know which audiences they’re looking to influence in order to taper their pool of potential influencers. Brands then need to comprehensively measure data both pre-campaign and post-campaign by tracking the influencer's performance in order to truly understand the effectiveness of their influencer. Creating a brand ambassador doesn’t happen overnight. Brands need to invest time into testing which influencers are effective partners to help them to achieve their goals. The key ingredient though, just as Nike did with Jordan, is to let the influencer do their thing.

Who’s doing it well today?

Chipotle are an example of a brand who have nailed how to work with the modern-day brand ambassador. Their most recent and famous collaboration is with digital star David Dobrik. Dobrik, by all means the modern day definition of an influencer who built his influence originally through vine, has partnered with Chipotle to launch the Chipotle Royalty challenge, which will see 3 contestants have their personalised chipotle creation (bowl, burrito, salad or taco) made into an official item on the Chipotle app and Chipotle.com. Oh, and they’ll win $10,000 in cash.

The result of this wondrous ambassador collaboration has been Dobrik’s 24.2M TikTok fans creating and sharing their own Chipotle creations. At the time of writing this article, #ChipotleRoyalty has 60.3M (it’s just gone up to 60.4M) views on TikTok and tons of user-generated content, all for a relatively small budget (if you’re reading this and you do or don’t love chipotle, well you should feel influenced to get involved - there’s $10,000 up for grabs). This isn’t the first time that Chipotle has partnered with Dobrik. Dobrik last collaborated with Chipotle on a TikTok campaign which aired during the Super Bowl, promoting free deliveries on Sundays in February.

They also partnered together to create a ‘National Burrito Day’ last April, promoting free delivery of Chipotle. Chipotle has unearthed a modern day gem of a brand ambassador through investing time and understanding the results through data. Perhaps most importantly however, is that throughout this relationship they have recognised what makes Dobrik special and why people follow him - giving away prizes. Dobrik's values have been recognized by Chipotle and in doing that Chipotle, in their campaigns together, have allowed their ambassador to do their thing.

Forced collaborations are always artificial and never effective. Time and data will allow a brand to unearth the ideal ambassador but recognising an influencer’s traits and allowing them to be creative is what yields the best results. When working with a brand ambassador, never clip their wings.

Read more about brand ambassadors here, or get in touch with us to discuss your own brand ambassador programmes.


Influencer marketing
brand ambassador