A company chooses a brand ambassador to be the “face” of the brand. Ideally, the
candidate is a tastemaker and great influencer in their communities, and should plan to
use already established networks and relationships to market the brand.
We, the marketing communications professionals, always encourage our clients
to look out for some key core traits of a brand ambassador: Knowledge of (and
appreciation for) marketing, an established online presence, a high level of
professionalism, natural leadership skills, a passion for building and growing
relationships and the ability to gather feedback and provide innovative insight. If
you manage to find the right ambassadors with the right blend of skills,
personality, and credibility, your referral marketing programme will take off and
your promotion will be effective.
However, some organisations have faced brand erosion as a result of the choice
of a brand ambassador. In most cases, nobody saw this coming…it is rarely seen
coming. Let’s take a look at the recent happening between Dettol/Nigeria Centre
for Disease Control (NCDC) and Funke Akindele-Bello as a brand ambassador.
Act 1, Scene 1: Dettol, the antibacterial brand on Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 held a
colourful event – “the Clean Naija Initiative official launch” and unveiled the prominent
Nollywood actress and multiple award-winning producer, Funke Akindele-Bello, as its
Recently, The NCDC partnered with Dettol on a public service message to educate
Nigerians about preventive measures against COVID-19. Funke Akindele-Bello had
appeared in adverts for the NCDC and Dettol, calling on Nigerians to observe social
distancing and good hygiene as part of measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus in
the country. As a brand ambassador of Dettol and promoting social distancing as a
means for the prevention of COVID-19. People will ordinarily think she will act what she
On Saturday, April 4, 2020. Funke Akindele-Bello held a house party in honour of her
husband, which is in violation to the lockdown order in Lagos state. The house party
didn’t put into consideration the social distancing. Thank God for social media, the
house party went viral immediately with some Nigerians calling for her arrest and asking
NCDC to terminate its contract with Funke Akindele as its brand ambassador.
On Sunday, April 5, 2020. Funke Akindele-Bello was arrested by the Lagos state police
command for hosting a house party, in violation to the lockdown order in the state. An
action that is diametrically incongruent with the corporate image that Dettol projects!
The NCDC has denied the engagement of Funke Akindele as a brand ambassador.
Similarly, Dettol has distanced itself from the irresponsible act of Funke Akindele by
saying “As a responsible organization and brand, Dettol does not condone any breach
of the guidelines on COVID-19. We are concerned at the turn of events. We will
continue to support NCDC and the Nigerian government to fight COVID-19.”
Despite the above clarifications, there is usually a brand association in the mind of the
customers between an organization and its brand ambassadors. Brands often use
ambassadors to communicate attributes, personalisation and for instant recognition.
This makes the ambassador ‘the face’ of that company, which is fine until that celebrity
gets into the news for all the wrong reasons. Brands thus have a lot at stake because
any negativity immediately becomes associated with the brand while the ambassadors
constitute a variable whose conduct is never under their control.
How does a brand mitigate this kind of harm that comes with brand ambassadors in the
future? (Kindly drop your opinion in the comment section)