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Brand Ambassador vs. Influencer: What’s the difference?

A brand ambassador is a historically well-known concept, and broadcast advertising has been reaping its reward for decades. In more recent times, a trend has emerged in the use of Influencers in marketing strategy. But what is an influencer, and how are they different from a brand ambassador in the traditional sense?

In essence, an influencer and a brand ambassador are the same things. However, a brand ambassador typically tends to be a more profound and longer-term relationship. For example, Gary Lineker and Walkers have had an association for 25 years. He has participated in more than 150 adverts for Walkers. If you see Gary Lineker in an advert, you will likely already be thinking about Walkers, even if the brand isn’t mentioned.

An influencer is slightly different. The audience for an influencer tends to be smaller, and products or services that engage with them will vary in size. Startups, for example, are likely to have better access to an influencer with a smaller audience than Gary Lineker. The latter most recently signed a contract with Walkers, reportedly valued at £1.2M.

This isn’t to say that larger organisations don’t engage with influencers, but the marketing strategy is different. Take Adidas, for example; as well as well-known actors, singers, and sports stars, in the last 5 years, Adidas has engaged with many micro-influencers. These are social media personalities with significantly smaller audiences, with the strategy to convey the message that Adidas is for everyone.

Influencer marketing has grown exponentially and has become an integral part of marketing strategies. In 2016 it was a $1.7 billion industry. In 2022, it is on course to become a $15 billion market.

Influencers tend to have a more socially engaging bond with their audiences. There is often an interaction between the audience and the influencer. Direct feedback is used to adjust content. The relationship between influencer and audience is closer to a friendship than that between a global superstar and their fans. People tend to identify with bloggers, YouTubers, and Instagram influencers more readily.

When selecting a Brand Ambassador marketing strategy, the target audience is critical in determining the approach to take. A Broadcast PR agency targeting an audience under the age of 25 will likely be more inclined to explore an Influencer route, whilst older generations are less inclined to be as receptive to influencer marketing.

Research has shown that consumers use social platforms extensively now in their buying decision processes. Research also shows that there is a trend towards target audiences being less receptive to targeted marketing by brands. Influencers, with the social relationship they develop with their audience, are able to market services or products in a casual, offhand way, similar to how you might notice a friend wearing a new watch. You might like that watch and decide that if it’s good enough for your friend, then you’d also like one.

This relationship comes with its own pitfalls. In the more traditional brand ambassador campaign, extensive planning, polishing, and cultivation take place. Furthermore, the audience is fully aware that a product is being sold. In the influencer space, there are many examples where influencers and brands fall foul of attempting to fool their audience. Notable examples include social media posts written by brands that are copied and pasted without review. Influencers who don’t disclose sponsorship from brands will suffer in credibility and void the social contract they’ve been cultivating.

Ultimately, an Influencer is a Brand Ambassador of a different flavour. The best Broadcast PR consultants will pick the right horse for the right course and maximize the ambassador’s impact. Every product or service has its nuances, and an appropriate Broadcast PR strategy can be expertly developed on that basis.


Martínez-López, F.J., Anaya-Sánchez, R., Fernández Giordano, M. and Lopez-Lopez, D., 2020. Behind influencer marketing: key marketing decisions and their effects on followers’ responses. Journal of Marketing Management, 36(7-8), pp.579-607.

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