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Drinks 101: What’s a brand ambassador (and are any worth paying attention to)?

What's a brand ambassador? Here's what

Pouring alcohol. Barman working at night and wearing uniform pouring alcohol into glass with ice
Viacheslav Yakobchuk / Adobe Stock

First there were influencers, now the brand ambassadors. These important figures — equal parts drinks personalities and marketing muscle — personify the companies they work for. And in an era of close consumer scrutiny and cherishing brand character substance as much as product turnout, brand ambassadors are more important than ever.

What’s a brand ambassador? Fair question. The title has been a bit muddled as of late, especially with celebrities entering the fray. And while on the surface it can feel just like marketing 101, there’s a unique component in the drinks industry that makes it all the more appealing.

A brand ambassador sings the praises of a particular company and its wares but the best of them do more than that. In mixology, spirits, and wine, top brand ambassadors tell the story of the brand through their actions. They come up with new drinks, show how the product is made, engage with fellow industry folks, and provide a bit of that under-the-hood sort of vantage point that consumers love. Beyond that, they embody the values of the brand, showing what it stands for and the important causes they may support. Ambassadors and savvy salespeople that enlighten their audience and network with the rest of the food and drinks arena.

There’s a lot of social media noise out there, we know. But a good rep can produce valuable content, whether it be an in-person mixology demonstration or a clever post that has you seeing a spirit in a new light. Here are five brand ambassadors worth paying attention to.

Jose Luis Ballesteros

diplomatico rum varieties

Repping Diplomatico Rum in North America and a fourth-generation member of the rum family, Jose Luis Ballesteros is a busy guy. He’s formally trained in France and is a big part of the rum renaissance at the moment here in the states. He’s worked tirelessly to show off the complexity and versatility of rum and how it can be sipped neat just like some of the best Scotches and whiskies out there. Well-traveled and trained, he’s a major player and can be at least partially thanked for the continued success of premium rum here in the states.

Anna Mains

Monkey Shoulder whiskey.
Facebook/Monkey Shoulder / Facebook

Scotch is no longer what your grandfather enjoys. Anna Mains is part of that movement, working on behalf of Monkey Shoulder and bringing the spirit to the masses. She’s made the age-old beverage all the more appealing to the next generation and has shown just how well it can do in any number of great cocktails. We’re not sure if we can quite call Scotch “cool” just yet, but thanks to Mains, we’re getting there.

Fabio Raffaelli

A bottle of Martini 'n Rossi Vermouth on white background.
Martini & Rossi

Raffaelli represents Martini & Rossi and has worked tirelessly to keep the aperetivo cocktail hour alive and well in North America, even with the brand’s tasty new line of NA liqueurs. He’s spread the gospel of the refreshing happy hour practice well beyond its origins in Italy and the timing is especially good as consumers look for lower-alcohol and higher-functioning options. In true European fashion, Raffaelli has shown America how to sip and snack like they do in the Mediterranean. An experienced individual, he’s previously done brand ambassadorships for Bacardi and Italicus.

Katherine Larsen

People drinking wine at a table
Helena Lopes/Pexels / Pexels

A master sommelier, Larsen is all about education when it comes to wine. She’s an ambassador for Enotria & Coe. in London. The high-end spirit and wine supplier works with retailers all over the place. Larsen has used her training as a guide, turning people on to wine while keeping it accessible and approachable.

Gilbert Marquez

Gilbert Marquez.
Illegal Mezcal / Illegal Mezcal

An ambassador for Illegal Mezcal, Marquez brings tons of bartending experience to his latest role. In that sense, he’s shown how contemporary the age-old agave spirit can be, mixed into inventive drinks and worked into bar programs from coast to coast. There’s some savvy cross-marketing at play here, too, as the stylish Marquez is a designer as well, focusing on hats and other accessories inspired by Chicano culture. The marketing is smart, as there are many layers, and the optics are decidedly cool.

A bit of a cocktail themselves, brand ambassadors are a marketing mashup of several important qualities. They sell the product, sure, but they also offer awareness, education, networking strength, new perspectives, and values. As consumers continue to covet transparency, this latest round of influencers becomes all the more important, especially in a field as competitive as drinks.

We’ve got plenty more in that department. Check out our feature on how to drink rum and six of the best Scotch cocktails you ought to know.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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