Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Cost of Being an Ambassador


That was the price tag for Oiselle fangirls to join the flock and serve as a bottom-tier representative for the women's running brand. With the $100 cost, a flock member would receive a specially designed singlet, free shipping for a year and some other discounts.

If you are into gossip, it made for quite the story. After all, who is Oiselle to charge people to represent them? Shouldn't a company pay a person to spread enthusiasm for the brand?

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As most of you know, I am an ambassador for the electrolyte drink Nuun and PRO Compression, the maker of performance socks and now leggings. I sought out these roles, applying during particular periods and promoting the brand on social media.


The reason is multi-faceted. First and foremost, the companies are ones in which I believe. They are smaller, athlete-driven businesses and products are made in the United States. Secondly, I was looking to connect with other bloggers and thought that participating in the programs would generate at least some traffic to this here blog.

Then, let's be honest, there's discounted and/or free product. As part of Nuun's program, ambassadors receive a blanket discount on products and some merchandise. I have received free product but only upon acceptance into the program and when something launches, like the Nuun Energy line. PRO Compression's program is structured differently, with all ambassadors receiving a discount twice a year and special codes for new product launches. There has been some free gear but I don't get a free sock of the month each time the calendar flips.

In fact, more often than not, I have to make my own decision as to whether to buy it. And that's where being an ambassador has a price. It's not as blatant or steep as, let's say Oiselle, but it is there and worth noting.

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Represent! As an ambassador, it is expected for you to be an enthusiastic representative of the brand. It includes talking about it to friends and sharing products on social media. It's also about displaying it, in public, where runners are. For me, it means wearing a Nuun tattoo (or several) and/or a Nuun hat like I did for ZOOMA Napa Valley, as well as sipping it mid-race, bringing it to a group run or gifting single-serve tabs to friends. I show my love for PRO Compression by wearing socks, usually the over-the-knee marathon.

The tattoos, the hats, the tabs, the socks - these things cost money. While most of them are things I'd buy regardless, it is safe to say that I have spent more on each brand than I would have otherwise. In large part, it's because my enthusiasm grows the more I learn about a company but it's also a feeling of obligation. I am not going to encourage you to spend $50 on a pair of socks if I'm not going to as well.

Closet case. It's all about being the real deal as an ambassador, as far as I'm concerned. If I'm going to boast about Nuun and PRO Compression, I need to not only believe what I'm saying but practice what I preach. You will not see me drink Gatorade at a race (part ambassador wise, part I'd shit my pants), and I will be wearing PRO socks at events. But ...I do have drawers full of competing products. Good, quality stuff.

While neither of my agreements do not require exclusivity, there is an expectation that I will not promote or share competing brands on social media. So old stuff isn't worn when I'm doing something I'll be blogging about, and I do need things to replace them. It's never been an issue or even a concern save for a buff that I got in a goodie bag and loved for a brand that will not be named. Now, no buff for me.

Readers. While a part of me hoped that I'd gain readers through the programs, the truth is that I've probably lost some or at least put some off. Whether it's based on personal ideals, a loss of interest or jealousy, some people do not like it when bloggers take advantage of the programs.

And, I'll be honest, it bothers me because I'm a people pleaser. I want to blog about things I like but I want you to like them, too. It's a Catch-22.

But, obviously, I've been willing to pay the price - and I'm happy to. Being an ambassador isn't just about getting something material, it's about doing something bigger and better. The ambassadorships that I've taken on have helped me to feel connected to the larger community; introduced me to some of the coolest runners on the planet, people whose names won't be in Runners World; and kept the fire burning for the sport by finding companies that are for the athlete, by the athlete.


  1. Wait, Oiselle does that? Seriously?? I'll never judge or begrudge anyone on how they handle their social media presence. My motto is more power to you. But I do raise an eyebrow when certain shoe ambassadors, who shall remain nameless, enter giveaways for competitor's shoes.

    1. It's a new thing this year. $25 of the fee goes to its elite program. And I like your motto. I think it's mine, too.

      I am so curious now about the shoe ambassadors. I do not enter giveaways for other socks, even though I could use more socks, or things that could be considered competing. It just doesn't seem right.

  2. Couldn't have said it better myself!

  3. I love Oiselle. I think they don't get the attention or props that other major brands do (I'm looking at you, lulu), but I believe their products are top notch. Would I pay $100 to be an ambassador? Hmm, maybe. It depends what the perks were!

    1. I do love Oiselle, and I was curious about its program but think more than two programs would be too much for me. Did you see Title Nine has the strappy on sale for $19?

  4. i love this post. and your writing. also samesies on shitting pants after gatorade.

  5. Great article. I've appreciated your sponsor posts. They've felt fair and genuine without being pushy or too many.

  6. Being an ambassador definitely has it's perks but it's not raining products all the time. I think of it as a job and treat it just like that. Good insight!

  7. I never thought about paying to be an ambassador. Interesting post. I'm glad you love the companies you work with though. It would be pointless if you didn't.

  8. I got offered an opportunity to be an ambassador for a company, but they do not share the terms until I buy one of their products with an offer code. It turned me off in a major way, so I have put it off. I felt like they were dangling a gift in front of me, but wanted to make money off me first. It doesn't sit well with me.

    I love being a Pro Compression ambassador. I firmly believe in their products, which is why I wanted to be one in the first place. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on things. I often wonder what other people think about ambassador programs.

  9. I am happy you are happy with your ambassadorships, cause that is all that matters... well, unless you want more readers from it, like you said. I am one of those people who rarely reads sponsored posts. Not because I am jealous, but because I see enough advertising everywhere else (I want to read bloggers' stories!), and have a hard time believing people's reviews when almost every. single. post is a review (yours isn't). I know a lot of people who LOVE Oiselle and if they want to pay to be a member, they totally should! I just hope Oiselle loves them back. It's hard when someone asks you to promote something for them and offers you nothing in return. We aren't idiots.