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In the past year WW, formally known as Weight Watchers, has been working with culturally relevant ambassadors and influencers to engage new audiences and educate the brand’s wellness positioning.  

Jemma Banks joined WW as marketing director over a year ago and has previously held roles with some of the UK’s most well-loved brands, including Mothercare, Paddy Power and Argos.

Since arriving at WW Jemma has delivered a series of strategic ambassador partnerships to demonstrate how WW positively focuses on 360 wellness and wellbeing from mental through to physical.

In this interview Jemma talks to Mark Stringer, chief executive officer and founder of PrettyGreen – WW's UK PR agency – about the power celebrities and influencers can have on brands, and the pitfalls to look out for.

Where is a good place to start when looking for celebrity ambassadors and influencers?

Before thinking about ambassadors, you must put yourself in the mindset of your customer. Think about how they digest media, who do they read about and follow on social media? When you understand who you are targeting, finding the right ambassador will be a lot easier.

What are your tips for selecting a celebrity ambassador or influencer?

Be up to date with popular culture; latest trends, news, what’s current and what’s topical. Armed with this information you can ensure your brand partnership is relevant and exciting.

Are there ways you look into who is current and popular?

Here at WW, the marketing, social and PR team are hot on keeping on top of the news agenda and latest trends. The team works closely together to identify new opportunities with potential ambassadors and we lean on our partner agencies for further insight.

What do you think has been a successful brand partnership?

M&S and Holly Willoughby as a brand partnership is a fantastic example. M&S is a stalwart of the British high street but its heritage appeal was skewed to older women. Bringing Holly onboard made the brand much more current. Holly’s broad appeal attracted younger customers but didn’t alienate its loyal, core customers. Also, Holly designing her own collection gave the partnership credibility and her investment in the brand resonated with its audiences.

What was WW’s thinking behind your most recent ambassadors?

WW’s core customers are women over 40 so we really wanted to change the perception of the brand and tap into the younger audience. Both Vicky Pattison and Curtis Pritchard had genuine backstories and a desire to join WW, which enabled them to talk authentically about their journeys.

Curtis had spoken openly about putting on weight in the villa and being fat-shamed as a result, something he was keen to talk about. Vicky also wanted to overhaul her lifestyle and build healthy habits after feeling concerned that her previous lifestyle could have had an impact on her fertility. Both Curtis and Vicky have yo-yo dieted for years and we're determined to change their relationship with food and their mindset mirrors our members, so they were a perfect fit. Vicky also joined with her mum, which is something WW advocates as people who join WW together lose 14% more weight.

With Curtis’ appearance on Love Island and Vicky’s established social media following, they had a broad appeal to a wider, younger demographic making them the perfect fit for us.

Have you seen an uplift in membership with your ambassadors?

When we announced Robbie Williams as our first male ambassador, we saw an increase in men joining WW and saw instant growth on our social media channels after announcing Vicky Pattison. It’s rare for a brand to be able to measure performance so soon after the announcement, which shows if you find the right match for your brand, it really works!

What are the other benefits of having celebrity ambassadors?

As well as driving both external and internal engagement, having credible ambassadors has opened doors to other partnerships for us – we have so much more interest from other people and brands who want to work with WW who wouldn’t have previously.

You mentioned social media has helped WW amass followers, has it changed how brands work with celebrities?

It’s drastically changed the media landscape, not just from an influencer perspective, but generally. Prior to social media, celebrity partnerships were more traditional, for example, appearing in TV adverts. Now, we’re seeing true ‘partnership thinking’, which only really came about through social media.

Initially, brands were signing up celebrities to promote their brands without any thought, but that approach lacked any authenticity. Consumers are very savvy, they want genuine, credible partnerships, 76% of consumers trust content shared by people rather than brands, so brands must ensure any ambassador they sign do align with their brand values and appeals to their audience.

I think we’ll begin to see less throw-away, transactional partnerships. Celebrities are fantastic at driving brand awareness but there’s a new social space filled with macro and micro-influencers who drive this and reputation, which is equally as important.

Do you have any words of caution for other brands?

Any ambassador must be credible and authentic, if they’re not invested and engaged in the brand, consumers will see straight through them.

Understand your customer, if an ambassador doesn’t match your brand, nothing they do will resonate.

Be really clear on your KPIs – if you’re not clear, you could end up paying a lot of money with minimal benefit or return.

Ensure you use a diverse group of people to maximise the appeal and reflect the wide range of backgrounds of your consumer.

Look within your business, you have a team of people who are already invested in your brand and using them as employee advocates can be incredibly powerful.

Mark Stringer, chief executive officer and founder, PrettyGreen