The Year of the Brand Ambassador



During the pandemic we saw 100,000+ bars and restaurants shutter their doors permanently. Beyond loss of employment for wait staff, bartenders, chefs, and hosts, the on-premise slowdown also caused job loss for adult beverage distribution sales teams. Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, a major distributor active in 44 states, furloughed hundreds of employees due to the almost total loss of on premise business1.

The upheaval in the on-premise segment was not just linked to restaurant closures and increased unemployment. Numerous new adult beverage brands (be they independent creations, or incubated from large suppliers) stalled, as placement at key on-premise accounts is a cornerstone of any brand launch strategy. Even with the off-premise flourishing, and sales increasing by about 30%, product sampling at retail, essential for any new brand, was out of the question for any brand. As a result, suppliers have had to shelve new brands until reopening’s.

Today, in the spring of 2021, as on-premise accounts begin to reopen, brands are looking to put those shelved plans back into action and compete for share of throat again. The challenge in doing so is twofold; first, with so many on premise sales reps out of work, those who managed the on-premise channel (and owned those relationships) may have moved on to other jobs; and second, with so many closures, there is more competition for less bar space.

Enter the Brand Ambassador.

Over the next 12-18 months, on-premise accounts, who stood the test of COVID, will shortly be opening to normal capacity; additionally, there will be several new restaurants and bars opening for the first time. Whether it be due to the greater competition for existing bar space, or a new account opening up, building relationships with account staff is more important than ever.

This will prove to be more challenging than usual given significant turnover in account personnel for current and new restaurants and bars. Distributors also will be short staffed while managing multiple brands, and their attention will be focused on reestablishing the biggest brands in their portfolio, before giving attention to something new.

For all these factors, leveraging a dedicated team of Brand Ambassadors will be of the utmost importance. For those not in the know, an Ambassador (or champion, key account manager, etc.) is a highly trained, intelligent, and passionate person, who usually has experience behind the bar, and credibility amongst members of the trade. The Ambassador is the face for your brand.

For those looking to get ahead of the tidal wave of new brands, now is the time to begin rebuilding those relationships, before someone else does.

At Soho, the Ambassador function is a core offering that we have successfully implemented for several clients over the years; and, since the beginning of 2021, the calls for ambassadors have been growing.

Here are the three things a Soho Brand Ambassador can do for you:

  1. Develop relationship with key decision makers within the account
  2. Support placements with staff training and buy-back programs
  3. Ensure personnel at key accounts know how to pour, speak, and represent the Brand
  4. Secure drink menu placement
  5. Create custom programming with key accounts.

At Soho, we use the title Brand Activation Manager, and enhance the traditional trade-facing role by empowering this team to create unique events and activations in partnership with our retail partners. They act as the face of the brand, not just for the trade, but for consumers as well. If you are curious about what an Ambassador or Brand Activation Manager can do, please click here, to view our Brand Activation Manager case study.

If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to

1Cyril Penn, Wine Business, 2020


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