Brand Ambassadorships: How do they differ from Internships and Sponsorships?

Above Photo: Emy Lucibello

By Averill Pessin

One thing I have noticed in my professional travels around the internet is that many young riders are intrigued by the idea of brand ambassadorship, and would love to represent a brand, but don’t have a full understanding of what a brand ambassador is … Or how a brand ambassador differs from an intern or sponsored rider.

TPH Brand Ambassador Lainie Rubin

Brand ambassadorships vary greatly, from company to company, and even from industry to industry.  In the equestrian industry, ambassadorships are typically not the same as “sponsorships”, but companies choose their own language so sometimes it can get a little confusing. When you see “Featured Rider” or “partnered with” in someone’s social media bio, it usually means they are a brand ambassador.

Brand ambassadorships are the most common form of relationship between an athlete and a brand or business. A brand ambassador provides social media marketing support to the company they represent: Info in their bio, links in their bio & posts specifically mentioning the brand or highlighting products, sales or giveaways.

What a company offers a brand ambassador is different for every company as well. Most will offer a small discount. Some will offer free product. A few will offer mentorship and references.

TPH intern Tori Weed

An internship is a position a brand will create to help them with content and execution of projects, with the added goal of helping a young person with their professional development. An intern is usually chosen based on their particular strengths (photography, writing, etc) and how well their future goals complement the company’s immediate needs. They do a lot of the same things brand ambassadors do, but with more specific project commitments and deadlines.

Interns are frequently not paid, but an exceptional intern is occasionally formally brought onto the team. The relationship between a brand and an intern is usually much closer than that between a company and an ambassador.  In return for their work, an intern receives valuable mentorship. At the very least, an internship is a great way to get references for future job opportunities.

Usually, a sponsorship is reserved for high profile professional riders competing at an elite level. A sponsorship is a formal marketing agreement that a company enters into with an established or up-and-coming athlete. It usually involves free product and often a cash payment. Very few riders will actually have a true “sponsorship” in their lifetime.

I have seen riders on Instagram ask brands if they (the rider) can “sponsor” the brand. My best guess is that this use of the word “sponsor” came from Hunger Games. The rider is offering to “sponsor” (help) the brand. But it’s not the same as when a brand sponsors a rider. Outside of Instagram and Panem, a sponsorship is the most difficult type of relationship for a young rider to get with a brand.

If you are looking to create relationships with brands, I would suggest you first sit down and put some thought into which scenario suits your goals best.  Consider your other commitments and how well an ambassadorship or internship would fit into your schedule and decide whether you’re looking for something fun for the present, or career-building for the future.

And always make sure to check with your sport’s governing body to make sure any position you accept with a brand is respectful of rules regarding representation and compensation.

Good luck, have fun and stay safe on the internet!

About the author: Averill Pessin is the owner of the internet’s favorite pony brand, My Barn Child. Averill manages almost 100  junior social media influencers for her own brand and for The Plaid Horse.