Do brand ambassadors (or athletes and influencers) make good subjects for storytelling? Sometimes, but not always. Our industry often assumes that being a great ambassador automatically translates to being a compelling subject for a film. While these are not mutually exclusive, I’ve observed numerous brand ambassador stories that fall short. My theory is that, due to their ready accessibility, ambassadors are chosen for film projects without proper casting processes, leading to films that come across as aimless and uninteresting.
Ambassadors play crucial roles in product development, brand placement, community integration, grassroots marketing, and last but not least pushing the boundaries of sport. However, this alone doesn’t guarantee a compelling story. I’ve seen so many brands invest in ambassador storytelling pieces only for them to fall short. They collect dust on the digital bookshelf while the brand and ambassador scratch their heads wondering what happened. There are a multitude of reasons that could lead to poor results, but if we’re to isolate one variable, the story, let’s break down the foundational elements that are required of all film subjects that make a compelling story.
1. Compelling Story:
Does your ambassador have a genuinely compelling story beyond their physical accomplishments? While physical feats are commendable, they alone don't make an interesting story. Your ambassador's story can and should add stakes to their physical pursuits but peak-bagging without a reason (that matters to the audience) is boring.
2. Brand Alignment:
How does their story complement your brand? Dig deep into the small details like personality, lifestyle, location, interests, wardrobe, and community partners. Subtle traits like these communicate your brand values without words.
3. Camera Personality:
Does your ambassador have a personality that presents well on screen? The audience must like the character to be invested. I call this the beer test. It’s really simple - would you want to drink a beer with them? If so, they’ve probably got a likable personality.
While these three elements aren’t all that’s required for the success of an ambassador film, they form the foundation for other contributing factors. Quality storytelling, marketing, distribution, and the ambassador's prestige all significantly influence the outcome. However, without a strong foundation, no amount of marketing can make a bad story good.
Cole Heilborn, Creative Director