How to Build an Effective Ambassador Program

Liam Negus-Fancey is the co-founder of Vervem, the world’s leading peer-to-peer sales software for live entertainment events. Verve enables event organisers to turn their most influential fans into ambassadors who promote and sell tickets to their friends in return for unique rewards. Mobilising influential fans makes it possible to reach audiences with genuine, trustworthy recommendations rather than advertising.

Ambassador programs are a very effective way to drive ticket sales for the 18 – 34 year old audience, who often choose to buy tickets based on what their friends are doing.

Festivals such as Reading, Leeds and Lost Village are using Verve to drive large amounts of sales through peer-to-peer selling, but it remains an unfamiliar sales channel for many organisers. So I wanted to put together a few practical tips on how I recommend setting up ambassador programs for festivals.

Offer authenticity

As an organiser, you want ambassadors to sell tickets because they love what you do and you want their friends to buy tickets based on what they have to say. Passionate ambassadors always deliver the best results, which is why we never offer monetary rewards for ticket sales – we don’t want them to feel like it’s a job. Cash doesn’t create authentic recommendations; excitement does.

That’s why we offer experiential rewards that are tied to your brand, such as VIP upgrades and backstage passes – this ensures ambassadors really want to go to your event themselves.

We also remind ourselves that people don’t want relationships with brands, they want brands to strengthen the relationships they have with their friends. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to offer ambassadors a free ticket for a friend to use.

Bestival is an example of a festival we work with which has used unique, authentic rewards to drive ticket sales very successfully. VIP campsites, speedboat taxis, cocktail tastings – these are just some of the perks ambassadors can earn and each one ties into the style and creativity of Bestival itself. As a result of their popularity, Bestival now sells 15,000 tickets through Verve’s ambassador program each year.

Inspire your fans

Everyone has an invisible sign around their neck which says ‘Make me feel special’. We’ve discovered the best way to do that is by giving ambassadors personal attention, which is why we talk to them on a one-to-one basis during our on-boarding process. Working with ambassadors in this way makes them feel closer to the event and drives them to sell more.

One way organisers can motivate ambassadors is by creating content which inspires fans. Good brands do this by selling their purpose, not their product. Red Bull’s Stratos event is a great example of this in action – Red Bull sold the purpose of energy, but did it without a single energy drink in sight.

Successful brands create content which is a manifestation of their purpose and distribute it to their ambassadors first, giving them an exclusive talking point and making them feel even more special.

Festivals such as Insomniac and HARD have shown the role content can play in driving sales by creating shareable content which embraces EDM culture and acts as a lightning rod for discussion. One example is this poster of every DJ who ever performed at EDC, which not only gave ambassadors something to talk about but also communicated EDC’s love of EDM.

Spread the word

Combining ambassador programs with traditional marketing can be powerful because, while ambassadors are be an effective way to drive sales, digital advertising is the best way to drive ambassadors. Organisers who understand the potential of peer-to-peer selling will use advertising to drive awareness, just like any other sales channel.

The best way to ensure an ambassador program gets the support it needs is to plan for it as early as possible. Ask yourself, how can you structure your marketing to draw attention to it? This may involve giving exclusive information to ambassadors through an email newsletter or promoting your rewards through social media.