Brand Ambassador

The First Lady of Vodka: Claire Smith of Belvedere


I’m not generally good at interviews, as most of my conversations seem to take place over a drink or three, and I generally forget to take notes or press the record button. That being said there are a few people in the drinks industry who truly inspire me, so I’ve decided from time-to-time I should share their stories on b&t. One character whom I find remarkable is a good friend of b&t, Claire Smith, of Belvedere Vodka.

If you’ve been lucky enough to spend any time around Claire, then you’ll now that she’s a pretty disarming character; she’s personable, friendly, quick to laugh and quick to drink… basically all the qualities you’d expect from someone whose role includes, (but is not limited to) being the Brand Ambassador for one of the world’s leading super-premium vodkas. What you might not have realised at first glance, is that there’s a lot more to what she does than meets the eye.

Ambassadors can be worth their weight in gold... sometimes!

A while back I wrote about Belvedere’s search for their new Global Brand Ambassador, and this week I was lucky enough to spend a few days in New York meeting the finalists and seeing the conclusion of the competition. Belvedere have gone to great lengths to find just the right person to represent them and I’m sure they’ve made a great choice in Ali Dedianko, but it got me thinking about why brands feel the need to have a Brand Ambassador and what value these people bring to the industry?
Belvedere went to a lot of effort to find candidates who would reflect their brand, as the competition spanned several continents and took in various challenges. There was a lot of money spent flying people from around the world to the semi finals in the UK and then again over to New York for the final. So why exactly did they feel the need to go to these extreme efforts? The simple answer is that having the right person as the face of your brand can be an incredibly valuable asset, getting it wrong can be disastrous!

Belvedere dream job?...

The drinks industry is a pretty amazing one to work in. The pay isn’t usually great, the hours can be pretty rough and you do have to put up with being looked down on by ‘real professionals’’, but on the upside we eat and drink like rock stars, get to travel to far flung countries to visit distilleries and get to do the jobs that we love. Admittedly the burnout rate is pretty high as most people can only take being broke and over-worked for a few years before they want something more from life. The question is what to do when you’re tired of tending bar?
These days there are more options than ever, with people opening bar schools, starting consultancies or opening their own dream bar once they decide to step out from behind the one they're working at. But more and more bartenders seem to be turning to the spirit brands looking for a job as a Brand Ambassador to pay the bills and keep them in the industry they love. While these jobs are more common than they used to be, they are still few and far between, so when one comes up for grabs there is usually pretty fierce competition.

A Little Bit of Favouritism

Looking at my drinks cabinet I have just realised that there are certain bottles that get used a lot more than others. Havana Club 7 year old Rum, Geranium Gin, Siete Leguas Tequila, Sagatiba Velha Cachaca, Wild Turkey 101, these bottles seem to need replenishing rather often. But why is it that I have formed a bond with these brands? It’s not as though I don’t have other great rums or tequilas to choose from, but I seem to often find myself drawn to my old favourites.
The same is true when I’m sat at a bar, staring at the back bar and pondering what to drink first. I always smile when I see a few of my favourites on the shelf, knowing that I have some choices that are bound to hit the spot. 
Of course a lot of it has to do with finding products that taste good and I find myself going back to them simply because I enjoy the flavour, but sometimes there is a deeper pull towards one brand over another. I think there are a few reasons for this emotional attachment that go beyond simply liking the taste of the liquid in the bottle.