Introducing the Brand Ambassadors of the Year Program

Introducing the Inaugural Brand Ambassadors of the Year Program

Introducing the Inaugural Brand Ambassadors of the Year Program

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Shining a spotlight on the year’s top brand ambassadors and temporary event staffers

 

Brand ambassadors and temporary event staffers. They represent millions of dollars in marketing investments across the frontlines of live experiences in the U.S. event industry seven days a week, all year long. They are the first line of contact customers have with your brand, and yet, they’re often the most overlooked assets of event programs.

Until now. Event Marketer and leading event staffing technology partner Shiftgig (shiftgig.com) this year partnered to create the world’s first Brand Ambassadors of the Year program to recognize the tireless work of the industry’s temporary staffers.

The sector’s event agency community was invited to nominate their best non-salaried staffers in April. Nominations included deep dives into each person’s brand ambassador pedigree, campaign experience, examples of their going above and beyond at events, and more. From the pool of entries, judges selected the 10 men and women who best portrayed the actions, attributes and characteristics of a brand ambassador.

All 10 were flown to Chicago on May 3 and inducted as the first Brand Ambassadors of the Year during the Ex Awards gala at the Experiential Marketing Summit.

“Nothing and nobody can make or break an event campaign like brand ambassadors can,” says Shiftgig executive vp and longtime industry vet Jay Lenstrom. “By recognizing the best staffers, we are recognizing the unconditional importance of having the best staffs powering live experiences.”

As you’ll read on these next few pages, some staffers stumbled upon the industry. Others found a natural pathway through their passion for promotion. All of them agree that it’s one of the most rewarding gigs out there, whether you pursue it part-time or full-time. We sat down with each member of this “first class of awesome” to find out who they are, how they got started in the industry, their most memorable staffing roles and advice they have for other brand ambassadors and event marketers, alike.

 

Coproduced With:

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COURTNEY ADAMS

BA 2017_Courtney_AdamsAge: 27

Home base: St. Louis

Years in events: Six

Days per year at events: Full-time (field manager, event strategy)

How you became a B.A.: I had heard great things about St. Louis-based Switch and really wanted to work for the company. I applied for anything and everything that they had, and then a position opened up and I ended up getting an interview for a B.A. position.

Your first gig: A promotional tour for medical database company Elsevier. I traveled all around the nation regularly and promoted the product to doctors and nurses in hospitals, as well as students in medical schools. Sometimes we would be in the physicians’ lounge or the medical library or cafeteria, or doing one-off events in nearby places like Kansas City. Other times it was for three-week stints where we’d be in New York or Florida, splitting up and hitting multiple hospitals and events.

BA 2017_ Courtney adams_field1What you love about it: Really, the people. I’ve served as a B.A. at bigger events like LouFest and the GoPro Mountain Games, and everybody is in such a great mood and you get to hear about peoples’ life stories. On one gig, I was in Seattle in one of the smallest towns in the area and I found out this lady I was talking to had gone to high school with my dad in Illinois!

Best training tip: Building confidence is a big need. There were times when I first started that I didn’t feel like I knew enough about what I was talking about, but being confident in what you know and being able to talk to anybody can make the difference.

What makes a great B.A.: You have to be a very easygoing person, you have to be able to roll with the punches and—this is from a manager’s standpoint—when you’re at an activation it’s very rare that things go the way you planned them, so you have to be able to think quickly on your feet.

JASON CAREY

BA 2017_Jason_CareyAge: 38

Home base: Atlanta

Years in events: 12

Days per year at events: Full-time (Master Certified Consumer Engagement Specialist)

How you became a B.A.: I needed some extra cash and signed up like everybody else on the internet, and it began to expand from there. I did mystery shopper work with movies and restaurants, and within that came the opportunity to come out and be a brand ambassador.

What you love about it: Engaging with the people, engaging with individuals of all ages, seeing the joy on peoples’ faces. Pulling them into a product and then hearing the feedback from it. Oftentimes you don’t get to see that purchase path, but because the work I do has been in the same space, people have been able to come back and see me and say, “Hey, you introduced this to me and I actually went and bought it.” I did work with the Atlanta Falcons for several years and families would come back and seek me out to say “hi,” so making those kinds of connections with people has been rewarding.

BA 2017_Jason Carey_ActivationFavorite assignment to date: For the last three years, I’ve been doing the Fantastic Voyage Cruise, so I’ve been the face and voice of Ford on the cruise and that entails daily activations on the boat and building brand affinity. People can actually come and see the cars on the boat, and it’s a very engaging activity for seven to eight days internationally.

What makes a great B.A.: Skills and mentality are the two things. Respect the mission. We are privileged to work in this industry that’s higher than the average minimum wage, that allows you to have fun, move around, to fly across the country, but we’ve got to respect our position and opportunity and I say that because you need the right attitude. It’s about the product, the client, the people and lastly, it’s not about you. That’s one of the things as B.A.s we miss: we’re an important piece of the purchase path, but we’re not the most important person on-site.

JOHNNY DMYTRYSZYN

BA 2017_Johnny_DmytryszynAge: 47

Home base: Detroit

Years in events: 17

Days per year at events: Between NASCAR and Indy Car, and motivational speaking, I’m on the road 225-260 days out of the year.

How you became a B.A.: I was giving a motivational talk [as the Motivational Cowboy] at one of GM’s truck plants and this guy in the back sat there with his arms crossed, didn’t smile or anything. Afterward, he gestured for me to come over and he said, “We’ve got a program called NHRA drag racing and we need a good emcee out there and you’re exactly what I’m looking for.” And that’s how it all got started.

Your first gig: It was for Pontiac Drag Racing and I was making announcements and interviewing drivers, which I didn’t have any clue about, but enjoyed.

What you love about it: The coolest part of my job as a B.A. is that I get to bring the motivational speaking side of things to events as an emcee. I do NASCAR 30 weekends out of the year and I love the challenge of speaking into a microphone and being on my feet between interviews.

Favorite assignment to date: The most rewarding, but also the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, was to give up four months for the 2002 Winter Olympics as part of the crew that went with the torch relay across the country. I was one of two speakers that kicked off either the morning, lunch or dinnertime leg of the tour.

BA 2017_Johnny Dmytryszyn_Stage_2 copyBest training tip: Communication. The way staffing is often set up, it’s often through second, third, sometimes even fourth-party hiring, so by the time the B.A. is on-site, they’ve been touched by four or five people and they lose sight of who they’re really working for, so I think there needs to be more communication or strong leadership from field managers.

What makes a great B.A.: A good B.A. is going to stay away from the trailer at lunchtime. That tends to be where people vent. Stay away from all the negativity.

JOSE DURAZO

BA 2017_Jose_DurazoAge: 21

Home base: Phoenix

Years in events: Six

Days per year at events: 85-100

How you became a B.A.: I learned about the whole B.A. field through a friend of mine who owned a flower shop and managed small events on the side. She walked me through all the steps to becoming one and got me into the same program she was on and referred me.

Your first gig: With Zone Perfect, a gluten-free protein bar. We carried huge protein-bar-sized backpacks in downtown Phoenix and handed out the bars, creating awareness about the product and buzz, and directing consumers to the stores where they were sold. It wasn’t easy—the backpacks were huge and stuffed to the max, but I figured the more I hand out and interact, the less weight I have to carry. We definitely stood out, which was what the client wanted.

What you love about it: My favorite part about being a B.A. is the fact that it’s always something different; it’s not like a regular office job. I love interacting with people and creating an experience in their life.

BA 2017_Jose Durazo_Cricket_2

Favorite assignment to date: The coolest assignment to date was with a Cricket Wireless program I ran for a year. During the holidays they do a special holiday program called Merrier the Carrier—a virtual reality experience with headsets and a mobile tour bus.

Best training tip: I think the best training for B.A.s comes from managers. Sometimes field market managers—I’m in that position now—they tend to forget that. You have to be a coach. When I’ve trained B.A.s I’ve incorporated incentives into performance, offering Starbucks, lunch, movie tickets and other rewards.

What makes a great B.A.: Always work with a positive attitude, even when they feel nobody is watching. With one of my first jobs with Cricket Wireless, I was working hard and doing everything right and smiling, and the client happened to be on-site and she recognized that and from there referred me up to the manager position.

KENNETH FISHER

BA 2017_Kenny_FisherAge: 20

Home base: Columbus, OH

Years in events: 1.5

Days per year at events: 80

How you became a B.A.: I was referred at the end of my freshman year of college by a friend who was graduating. I had no idea what B.A. even meant when Fluent sent me an application.

Your first gig: I got my feet wet in the industry with Coffee-mate. A massive 20-foot coffee cup was built right in the middle of Ohio State University’s campus during finals week and served as a hub for people to relieve stress with free coffee and Coffee-mate creamer. Students could also text to get coffee delivered to wherever they were studying, which is where my scooter and I came into play. I think by the end of it we had given out something like 45,000 cups of coffee.

What you love about it: I think that the coolest thing by far about the B.A. world is how big of an impact these experiences we bring to the consumers have on their opinion of the brand. We are literally serving as the face of these brands to the public, and seeing people change their views based on the great experiences we have given them feels really great.

BA 2017_Kenny Fisher_Sampling_ScooterFavorite assignment to date: The best assignment by far has to be my month-long B.A. job as a Sour Punch Straw candy rep. We had dozens of cardboard boxes filled with Sour Punch shipped to my house and Fluent gave us the freedom to create the experiences for students as creatively as we wanted to. There was literally so much candy. We were “seeing” candy everywhere.

Best training tip: I always liked learning about the brand and its marketing history, and what kind of messages it has tried to send to consumers in the past.

What makes a great B.A.: The biggest thing I stress when it comes to B.A. work is to be yourself while out in the field. If you’re weird, be weird and if you’re goofy be goofy! You need to let your personality shine. Your energy is contagious to everyone.

SHELBY JOHNSON

BA 2017_Shelby_JohnsonAge: 29

Home base: Portland, OR

Years in events: 4.5

Days per year at events: Full-time (tour manager, event producer and B.A.)

How you became a B.A.: I was working for Nordstrom at the time and I was looking for a job that would give me more flexibility and allow me to pay off student loan debt. A friend of mine was working for a hiring agency, and so I signed up with her and applied for a job.

Your first gig: That job was to work as a brand ambassador for Tillamook through Henry V events. Six of us from Oregon went on the road for two-and-a-half months around the country representing the brand at retail stores and community events. We rode in a huge bright orange trailer that carried three vintage mini VW buses that looked like blocks of cheese. We’d split up into three groups and take the vehicles out for six hours. We had a blast doing it.

What you love about it: Getting to interact with so many different types of people. I also love thinking on my toes and being resourceful and being challenged in that way.

Favorite assignment to date: I was just in Texas for a month and a half sampling a new Tillamook product at HEB stores, making quesadillas and spreading awareness. Being in Texas, people are so personable, and it was great to watch them receive the brand. And also, to meet people familiar with Oregon who said we gave them “a taste of home.”

BA 2017_shelby johnson_truckBest training tip: Take the time to make sure that they are having genuine personable interactions with customers. No one responds to information getting hurled at them.

What makes a great B.A.: Being a B.A. is hard, it can be an exhausting job and you work eight hours straight and are constantly interacting with people. You have to work hard. You also have to be outgoing. You have to be joyful. One thing I’ve noticed is that my good brand ambassadors don’t get fazed easily and they don’t take things personally.

TAMAZIA JORDAN

ba-2017_tamazia_jordan1Age: 25

Home base: Hawthorne, CA

Years in events: 3.5 years

Days per year at events: Full-time (tour manager and B.A.)

How you became a B.A.: A cousin told me that I should do it and that I’d be great for it and then when I actually got my first opportunity with Encore Nationwide they looked at my resume and took a chance.

Your first gig: It was for Blue Zones Project, a movement focusing on areas all around the world where people are living long and happy. We were trying to push that idea and awareness that we should do our part, spreading information and tips on how to be a Blue Zone in cities along the coast in Southern California.

What you love about it: I love the opportunities to meet new people. I’ve had experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’ve been so humbled by others, their stories. And making others happy. It’s always exciting and it’s always new. You never know who you’re going to meet and how somebody’s going to change your life.

BA 2017_Tamazia Jordan_Sampling copyFavorite assignment to date: Working with Keurig, because I love coffee, and I get to tell people why I love coffee and why Keurig is so great. It’s allowed me to meet celebrities and travel throughout Southern California attending charity events, entertainment events and women’s luncheons.

Best training tip: If you’re genuine with yourself about the reason you’re there, you will excel. You’ll find out if you love it or not and if it works for you. If you love doing this and you connect with the client and love the product that they’re selling, then you’ll love the gig.

What makes a great B.A.: Personality. A lot of people in this industry lack that and the passion and the drive. It’s how I literally “started from the bottom, now I’m here” because I’m tour managing and managing events myself in just three short years. A lot of my opportunities came from doing my due diligence, working hard and loving what I do.

LISA JORGENSEN

BA 2017_Lisa_JorgensenAge: 32

Home base: San Diego

Years in events: 10

Days per year at events: Full-time (tour manager and B.A.)

How you became a B.A.: I’d heard of this thing called “brand ambassador,” and my friend said look it up on Craigslist to see if there’s anything. So I did and found an ad on there and I applied for that specific agency and got my first gig with them.

Your first gig: I started as a backup for Nivea hand cream on a promotion in a movie theater. The morning of the promotion, no one showed up. I called the company and they said, we need you to do the setup, we need you to distribute all the product. I had never done this before, so I just went with my instincts. The manager came in the next day and was blown away by my performance. From there the agency kept recruiting me.

What you love about it: I love having fun, and I love being able to make people’s days just a little bit better by giving them something free.

BA 2017_Lisa Jorgensen_ActivationFavorite assignment to date: By far my most favorite and most fulfilling project that I’ve done was actually with my current client that I work with State Farm. We are doing a woman’s show tour where we work with the Together Women’s Conference, which is all about empowering women and encouraging women to work together. We have this huge tower where women can write down what their dreams are and their aspirations.

Best training tip: I always make sure that B.A.s know how fun the activation is and help them understand what they can do for the consumer to give them a better day as well.

What makes a great B.A.: Definitely being reliable, I would say it is No. 1, because if you don’t show up you’re not going to be a good B.A. And then when you are there just having a lot of positive energy, excitement and enthusiasm, and just being the best version of yourself.

DEANGELO TOWNSELL

BA 2017_DeAngelo_TownsellAge: 27

Home base: Laguna Hills, CA

Years in events: 8

Days per year at events: 50

How you became a B.A.: When I was 18, I started to do a little bit of modeling. After a year or so of grinding trying to find the next photo shoot, I quickly realized that there isn’t much money out there for an amateur male model with little to no experience. With that in mind, I started to search for other ways to fund my career and, of course, pay the bills. Through networking with other models and like-minded individuals, I was able to find my first B.A. position doing an opening for a new clothing store in LA.

Your first gig: My first gig with a major brand was Guitar Center’s 50th anniversary Concert with Linkin Park. I was in charge of manning the FoxTales Story Studio that captured Guitar Center branded content for all the guests.

What you love about it: What I love about being a B.A. is the fact that you are the fun in someone else’s day. Sometimes people are shy and it takes them a while to get comfortable in front of the camera so I enjoy coming up with new ways to break the ice and put people at ease.

BA 2017_DeAngelo Townsell_Second_Shot copyFavorite assignment to date: My favorite assignment would have to be working SXSW. I worked for many different brands during the two weeks and enjoyed meeting people and discovering new music.

Best training tip: Teaching staff how to stay calm in the fire is the greatest thing any agency or brand could do. Also, B.A.s need to feel appreciated. Being on your feet all day greeting everyone isn’t the easiest thing to do and feeling unappreciated makes that even harder.

What makes a great B.A.: Understanding the brand mission, because the ceo of every brand can’t possibly be at every event to show their passion for their product and spread their vision. They are trusting you to relay that message and be the face of the brand.

MADISON WALSH

BA 2017_Madison WalshAge: 28

Home base: Toronto

Years in events: 2 years

Days per year at events: 60

How you became a B.A.: I started by helping out a friend at a film festival. It ended up reconnecting us as great buds. I had no prior experience in marketing but had always worked in customer service as an in-store cosmetician and for several years a server. I’m also an actress which definitely helps! I always hire great B.A.s who are servers or actors because we’re used to putting ourselves out there and handling attitude and rejection (sigh) with grace.

Your first gig: Hot Docs, a Documentary film fest in Toronto I was promoting for Sundance Now which was then an all-documentary streaming service. I absolutely loved it because it married my natural sociability with my passion for film.

What you love about it: When you find that person who is so absolutely thrilled to have been introduced to your product, as if it were truly made just for them, and they leave walking on cloud nine. It’s an infectious energy and puts a spring in my step.

BA 2017_Madison Walsh_ActivationFavorite assignment to date: Working for Shudder, a horror film streaming service at New Orleans Comic Con. The costumes were outrageous and everyone down South is so nice. We dressed up in silly Halloween costumes and chatted with fans all day. I loved seeing people really let their freak flags fly.

Best training tip: Be yourself! Everyone wants to talk to real people with personalities and something to say—not robots or “sales people.” Another thing my parents taught me that I use all the time: when you’re asking something of someone, what’s the worst that can happen? They say “yes,” “no,” or “go to hell.”

What makes a great B.A.: Being able to find a sense of play and fun. Try to find a product that excites you or a team you really gel with and you will start seeing better results.

This story appeared in the July 2017 issue

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