Ian Perkins-Smith had an electric feeling. He was scrolling through Instagram, when he stumbled upon a post from company he really, really liked – athletic apparel brand Outdoor Voices.
He was ecstatic. They wanted students to apply to be a part of the Outdoor Voices University, or OVU, Crew.
“You have to do this!” he thought to himself.
So he did.
With an offer, a welcome package and a couple of #DoingThings later, the SMU junior has already started the journey to becoming a successful campus brand ambassador, just like many others who heed the call of their favorite companies.
Being a brand ambassador allows college students to represent a company by spreading the word about new products or services on campus.
They may promote clothing, food and drink, or try to spread the word about a new app. Some get paid in products or perks, while others make commission or hourly wages, but it ultimately depends on what the company offers.
SMU Advertising professor Byron Morrison says brand ambassadors are important for companies to use because they give the company’s brand a sense of authenticity and can be useful for market research – especially since they are able to reach consumers directly.
“The halo effect of working with students on campus programs is clear and evident,” Morrison said. “The brand automatically seems more youthful, aware of audience needs, and connected.”
A huge part of brand ambassadors becoming so popular across the nation also has a lot to do with social media.
“It’s easy for larger or growing companies to send their product to a few people who will reach possibly tens of thousands of people,” Perkins-Smith said.
Some reps have social media tasks to complete, or goals to hit, when they are promoting products.
Laura Wilson, an SMU sophomore, spent the past semester working for the popular dating app, Bumble. She posted on social media when Bumble was doing a December giveaway.
Perkins-Smith says that using social media is the brunt of the work he does as an ambassador, especially when he’s trying out clothes.
“Sometimes I plan to go play racquetball or some other activity with friends, and I’ll snap a quick picture during a break or after we’re done with the activity,” Perkins-Smith said.
Additionally, campus reps focus on perks for students. Perkins-Smith advertises a 20% off student discount from OV through a personalized link.
Wilson promotes Bumble to students at events, all while giving out free merchandise – from water bottles, to sunglasses, to T-shirts.
“We get a lot of cool opportunities to do things and get cool merchandise,” Wilson said. “So we’ll get stickers – a bunch for the boulevard – then pass those out to students.”
However, these campus reps aren’t just about the complimentary products and perks. They also have opportunities to host events for students to join the fun and make great memories.
SMU freshman Emily Rourke just started working with PAIRR, a company that plans off-campus events for students to experience the Dallas community.
“All of their events are free. You just get invited by an ambassador,” Rourke said. “Once you’re invited, everything there is free. So, food companies or drink companies come, or there may be workout classes, meet-and-greets, or speakers.”
Marcela De Almeida, SMU junior and previous Aerie ambassador, helped run an on-campus bra drive where students could donate their old bras to a woman’s shelter in exchange for coupons to go buy new ones at Aerie.
Perkins-Smith helped host a high energy dance class for the Outdoor Voices national “Exercise Dress Tour” in SMU’s Ford stadium. He had the opportunity to meet the people who ran OVU Crew and got to dance beforehand with the class instructor.
Wilson held an event at local coffee shop, La La Land Kind Café, and by chance, met a Dallas Mavericks player who walked by her event and stopped to chat. She believes being a brand ambassador is ultimately a great opportunity.
“I just think it’s a really easy way to reach younger people and it’s a really fun way for college students to do something,” Wilson said. “They make it fun by having events and getting merchandise and all the different perks.”