Today I wanted to discuss running ambassador programs. You’ve probably seen them. Folks who apply to specific brands to test future products, buy stuff on discount and most importantly promote brands. This in my opinion is very different than being sponsored by a brand. I’ll be completely honest from the beginning. I’m not a very big fan. I say this knowing full well that some of my closest running friends are currently ambassadors for several different products. Why I’m not a fan of ambassador programs has very little to do with the people selected to be ambassadors and more to do with how these programs impact businesses like mine.
The running industry can be cut-throat. There is a lot of crowded space; meaning many brands are competing for market share. This means that they will do pretty much anything to make a quick sale. Including leveraging relationships with small businesses against ambassadors for their specific brand. And this brings me to the key factors I want to discuss today. Trust, discount culture and where purchases are made.
First, I want to talk about trust. In 2019 trust in general is at an all-time low. Honestly, it is easy to understand why too. Just look at some of the local news stories. I generally shy away from discussing local politics too much on this blog so I’ll leave that last line up to interpretation. The point is that we don’t trust anybody anymore.
At 605 Running Company we are constantly trying to build our trust, with you our customers. We do this by using the products we sell, but it is more than that. I personally take time and money to travel to industry trade shows, meet with vendor’s in-person year-round and sample hundreds of items each year. By shopping around and trying a lot of different stuff we do our very best to offer a wide variety of items from socks, packs, nutrition, apparel and of course shoes. This at its core is what makes a running specialty outfitter unique.
Brand ambassadors are sought out for some of the same reasons. Mostly it comes down to trust. If you can get a bunch of people to apply for an ambassadorship by offering free merchandise and product discounts you get a built in community trust factor surrounding your brand. Seems pretty straight forward correct? My issue here is the discount culture that this feeds into and it sends folks online instead of downtown (figuratively and literally).
You might see a post similar to this by a brand ambassador that was recently gifted an item or sold an item at a steep discount.
“Hi guys! I’m so honored to be representing brand x this year. I’ve been using this product and really like it and you should to. Use my code xxx and get a percent off your next order at brand website!”
I have multiple issues here. One, if this is a product we carry the ambassador is pushing customers away from my door and online. Remember our industry is cut-throat and our vendors don’t always care how they get a sale, as long as they get a sale. Two, if this is a product we don’t carry, but it is something very similar to what we have in-store, again, we are missing out on a potential sale. Finally, this type of promotion feeds into a discount culture that is poisoning retail business.
On this blog I’ve written about why it is important for us to sell the products in our store as quickly as possible. Everything you see in our store is already paid for or will be paid for in the next thirty-to-ninety days. Our business is successful when we can collect the best possible margin on each product we sell. It is in the margin where we are able to pay staff, keep the lights on and invest back into our community. That pie gets sliced up pretty quickly.
The feeling of getting a great deal is pretty intoxicating; but the feeling of getting a product you can touch, feel, try-on and ask questions about should be better.
The best way to save some money at my store is to join the Sioux Falls Area Running Club, the 605 Race Crew, the Sioux Falls Women Run Training Team or join or rewards program. If you do those things you’re going to have almost as many benefits, if not more, as some of the best ambassador programs out there. We also price match any advertised price from reputable sources.
This brings me to my final point today. Where purchases are made. I’m not naïve to the drumbeat you’ve been hearing on the radio about the power of shopping local or the social media posts about how you should shop local to pay for my kids’ daycare. The truth is I value all of that messaging, but I want to take a different approach today. As a local business we’ve made some strong partnerships with amazing organizations and we offer great programming that is free.
Tonight we will have Kathy Grady at our Tuesday Night Chat Series. We’ve been doing chats for months that tackle topics important to runners by bringing in local experts in an “ask me anything” style format. When you make your purchases here you directly support programming like these chats. Along with our free programs and group runs; we also support local running clubs and races. We are a business built on building a community. That is not lip service either, we truly believe that our business is successful when we lift up our community as well as maintain the bottom line. Without one the other one isn't possible.
Greg Koch is the Co-Owner and General Manager of 605 Running Company and Co-Produces the Sioux Falls Skedaddle Half Marathon. He serves on the Board of Directors for Downtown Sioux Falls, the 605 Race Crew and the Sioux Falls Area Running Club. When Greg isn’t with his family or working he enjoys being outside biking, kayaking, golfing or playing church softball.
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