I get asked quite frequently, by enthusiastic dancers (and dance mums/dads) if I have ambassadors or offer sponsorships. While many companies within the dance and performing arts world have ambassadors (and there are some brilliant ambassadorships) for now, I choose not to, and here’s why. Firstly… and this is rare…. sometimes I am approached just for a freebie. It generally doesn’t bother me and “if you don’t ask…??” Right?? But, should I ever go down the ambassador route, that would not be my way of choosing. Also, the dance world is SWAMPED with ambassadorships, sponsorships, friends of, representatives, etc….. it’s difficult to keep up!
When my girls first started competing, I became aware of ‘sponsored’ dancers very quickly. They were fairly rare. Usually at champ or prem level and part of quite big dance schools, often sponsored by big companies. Over the years, I noticed a change in the trend. Dancers at all levels from all sizes of dance school were being sponsored, or given an ambassadorship, and much smaller companies were offering these opportunities. While this was a positive step forward, I think the term ‘ambassador’ wasn’t always being used in its true form.
I believe, that to be an ambassador there has to already be a long-standing relationship between the parties involved, built on trust with shared morals and principles. It has to be a two-way thing. If a dancer has never been photographed by me, I don’t understand how they could possibly be an ambassador of my work. They have no idea how I work, what my style is or whether my personality fits with theirs. And it’s the same vice versa. Many times, I have seen companies offer an ‘ambassador’ programme and it ends up very biased towards one party.
Here’s an example of how a true ambassadorship works
My husband, Michael (also a photographer) had been using Elinchrom lighting for some time. Elinchrom are one of the top three lighting companies in the world. Michael really liked them as a company, as well as being top of the range in quality, he also liked how he was treated as a customer. He always blogged about his work, as well as running lighting workshops and writing articles and tutorials. He built up a good relationship with Elinchrom, who not only liked his photographic work but who appreciated his work ethic and principles. He was asked to be an ambassador in March 2016. Being appointed an ambassador didn’t change anything about how Michael worked, he continued exactly as before but with added support from Elinchrom as a company. There are no conditions or targets set. In return, Elinchrom have the use of Michaels images and blog posts. Whenever he writes a review or delivers a workshop where he is promoting Elinchrom lighting, he always says that he doesn’t use Elinchrom because he’s an ambassador, it’s the other way around. He was a customer and supporter first.
I do have a dancer support programme where occasionally I do a shoot at my expense. There are a number of reasons why I might do this. I may have an image in mind that I would like for my website and I need a dancer with a particular skill. I put a model call out and the dancer is invited to shoot with me. That dancer also receives the images, to do with as they please. There is no obligation put on the dancer to share the images, promote my business or tag me in anything. It’s a ‘TFP’ shoot. I use the images on my site, the dancer uses them for their portfolio.
Secondly, my annual competition! I always intend to choose just one dancer; it never works that way. The winner(s) receive a shoot and digital images, again, no obligations. Yes, this does help to promote my business, it’s also a lot of fun!! Thirdly, if I have donated a shoot as prize in a raffle, it’s done without charge.
There are some fabulous ambassador programmes within the dance world, a great example is “The Glam Squad HQ”. They are “a glam movement specializing in kids’ products and services. Our motto is ‘ making people feel special, happy and helping them with their confidence through kindness and creativity” – Diane/John, Glam Squad.
Having been part of the freestyle world for a long time, I have seen the glam squad at work, and they are very supportive of the dancers. I have an image of my own daughter holding a ‘glam squad’ gift bag she was given for winning her ‘Tops of slow’ section. I saw images from a photoshoot they had done and asked them about their programme. They said that seeing a dancer’s face light up when they are invited to be an ambassador is the best thing. They support their ‘squad’ and don’t insist that their products are promoted in any way.
Another Ambassador programme I have recently become aware of is by a company called Beatz n Pointe dancewear in Bradford. Their programme is all about supporting the dance world and building relationships. They take on reps for a month and extend to three months if the relationship develops. After that they may progress to Ambassadors. They like to focus on dancers who may need a little boost, which is fab!
I would definitely urge dancers/schools and parents to take a really close look at ‘ambassadorships’ and ‘sponsorships’ that are being offered. What is the true nature of the offer? Do you have a relationship with the company? and is it mutually beneficial?
The Glam Squad can be found here
insta – @theglamsquadhq
Beatz n Pointz are here
insta – beatz_n_pointe
Michael Sewell can be found here
fb – Focal Point Pro
Elinchrom are here