Brand Ambassador Programs – Tips from Coca-Cola

AMA Tampa Bay welcomed Christy Amador – Coca-Cola’s Sr. Communications Manager – as its guest speaker for the chapter’s June lunch event, which was held on Thursday, June 16th. More than 100 marketers attended the luncheon at Tampa’s Crowne Plaza Westshore Hotel.


“Everybody Needs to Feel Love”

Amador leads Coca-Cola’s Brand Ambassador Program. The program’s goal is to empower its 700,000 employees worldwide to represent and promote the Coca-Cola Brand.

How does Coke inspire its employees to be Brand Ambassadors? It’s all about love and appreciation. As Amador explains, “Everybody needs to feel love. Being told you’re appreciated is one of the most simple, yet incredibly uplifting things you can hear.”

According to a Towers Watson study cited by Amador – appreciated employees are engaged employees – and engaged employees are highly effective ambassadors for their company and brand.

Employee Engagement Program Benefits and Best Practices

Brand Ambassador Programs like Coke’s can deliver real benefits to the companies who have them:

  • Billions saved in marketing costs and overall higher productivity among employees.
  • Businesses tend to grow at faster rates.
  • Employee retention rates are nearly 90% higher vs. companies without programs.

Additionally these programs organically improve internal communication across the organization while driving improvements in trust and morale, transparency, reinforcement of culture, and a stronger sense of the overall company mission.

So, what if your organization wants to start a Brand Ambassador program? Amador shared some Do’s and Don’ts to consider based on Coke’s experience:

  • DO:
    • Put people at the center of the program
    • Get buy-in from the top
    • Utilize a variety of communication vehicles
    • Ensure that you follow-through with what you say you will do
    • Understand what employees want (e.g. can use employee research)
    • Be creative
  • Don’t:
    • Force people to participate
    • Be fake
    • Rely only on one-way communication
    • Take on more than you can handle

Amador also noted that employee engagement is a journey. Companies should expect incremental improvement from their efforts versus an overnight transformation.

Program in Action … The Potential Power of Brand Ambassadors

Coke has the largest commercial fan-base on Facebook at 99 million people, but are not without detractors like “Rethink Your Drink” initiative, which emphasizes reducing intake of sugary drinks. Coke’s famous Hilltop advertisement was recently parodied to show the negative effects that excessive consumption of sugary drinks can have on overall health.

Coke, however, does have a positive story to tell consumers about its range of drink options. The company now has 3,500 beverages in numerous categories globally, so no matter what the consumer wants or needs in beverages – Coke can serve it up. In addition to soft drinks they have juices, teas, water, sports and energy drinks, milk and much more.

Their Brand Ambassador program has the potential to significantly help the company change negative perceptions about its product offerings. Amador said that Coke’s 700,000 associates have the power to positively influence 210 million consumers by leveraging their personal social media network connections.

To help the cause Coke has developed a mobile app that provides a place for its associates, friends and business partners to engage with the company and its brands.

Coke’s Brand Ambassadors Live the Mission

Amador brought Coca-Cola’s mission – Refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, create value and make a difference – to life by showing a video where Brand Ambassadors are the stars telling the brand’s story.

The vignettes are a powerful illustration of how its Brand Ambassadors live the mission, love the brand and invest in their communities. Even if you’re not an employee, watching demonstrates the pride and loyalty that ambassadors have for their brand, which is built on a foundation of love and appreciation that Coca-Cola has for its employees – who in turn – proudly represent the company worldwide.

Written by Blake Pierson

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Blake Pierson is an advertising and media professional with over two decades of ad-agency and digital industry experience. His background includes developing strategic advertising plans at Wieden & Kennedy and DDB for clients such as Nike, Subaru, Holland America Line and Microsoft.  Additionally, Blake led sales development at AOL for all O&O web properties, and launched new shopper-marketing solutions while at Catalina Marketing. He has been an AMA Tampa Bay member since January 2016, and is a digital content volunteer for the chapter.