Sponsored and successful

Social media-savvy teens become brand ambassadors

Junior+Annabelle+Lawton+regularly+holds+product+shows+to+promote+the+brand+India+Hicks.+She+has+been+working+with+the+company+since+August.
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Sponsored and successful

Junior Annabelle Lawton regularly holds product shows to promote the brand India Hicks. She has been working with the company since August.

Junior Annabelle Lawton regularly holds product shows to promote the brand India Hicks. She has been working with the company since August.

Courtesy of Annabelle Lawton

Junior Annabelle Lawton regularly holds product shows to promote the brand India Hicks. She has been working with the company since August.

Courtesy of Annabelle Lawton

Courtesy of Annabelle Lawton

Junior Annabelle Lawton regularly holds product shows to promote the brand India Hicks. She has been working with the company since August.

Olivia Demetriades, Layout Editor

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   Junior Camryn Halley had her eyes set on a single goal since she was a little girl. Her own mother’s experiences as a professional equestrian exposed Halley to riding at a young age. But from her parents’ farm, she was also aware of the high expenses associated with horseback riding.

   “I knew that I wanted to be a professional horseback rider, and I knew that it’s very expensive,” Halley said. “My family does it for a business, so they make money off of it. The less money that they are spending on me, the better.”

   As of now, Halley is considered a professional horseback rider, even though she is not yet 18. To help offset the steep costs of tack, food and other riding equipment, Halley partnered with various riding companies, most notably the French saddle company CWD. She promotes the company via Instagram and during press conferences, and she is paid in store credit and discounts.

   “I have four saddles which are about $10,000 each,” Halley said. “It’s made everything a lot easier because I don’t have to spend $40,000 to buy saddles, for example.”

   Halley is one of a growing number of teens who are becoming ambassadors for various brands. In a society where social media pervades the simplest of daily interactions, more and more companies are hiring teens to promote their products by posting “sponsored” content. The social media influencer industry could be worth up to $10 billion in 2020, according to a study by Pitchbook.

   Different companies sign very different contracts with teens, and the payoffs that teens see can differ drastically — from mere discounts to free products. While Halley is paid mainly in store credit and saddles, junior Annabelle Lawton, an ambassador for the lifestyle brand India Hicks, receives a 25 percent commission on products she sells (which drops to 20 percent after her first six months of ambassador status).

   Lawton first became involved with India Hicks through her mother’s friend, who works for the brand. She provided Lawton with more information about specific ways to become involved in promoting the brand. Since August she has promoted the brand by holding product “shows” at her house, and customers can buy products in-person or online using Lawton’s name as a special discount code.

   Lawton and most other brand ambassadors use their personal Instagram accounts to promote products to target their current followers. She said she has adopted a fairly reserved social media approach to marketing.

   “I’d rather post less frequently and hopefully get more from each post than post more frequently and get less,” Lawton said. “India Hicks is about to drop a Christmas line so I’ll probably post for that once I get some of their products in.”

   The task of negotiating a formal contract is daunting for some teens, but Halley has had plenty of experience navigating this subject, once spending 6 hours negotiating a single contract.

   “You really have to know what you want and what you’re willing to give, when it comes to negotiating your own contracts,” Halley said. “Even if what you want is not something that [a company] is willing to give you, you can get that from them, but you have to take the time to do your research.”

   For students who don’t have time or are not old enough to work a typical job (companies do not normally set age restrictions for ambassadors), being a brand ambassador provides a more feasible alternative. Lawton struggled finding time for sports, schoolwork and a job, but her work with India Hicks has been more flexible.

   “You get to decide how involved you want to be, so it’s really nice for people that go to Trinity or people who don’t want a 9-to-5 job,” Lawton said.

   While her mother, Laura Lawton, had a few initial concerns about  her daughter working as an ambassador, she said that her worries were short-lived.

   “I worried about her having to work a minimum [of hours,] I worried about carrying inventory, I worried about the cost and I worried about whether or not it might become a distraction if she got too into it,” Laura Lawton said. “None of that has happened; she’s been able to manage everything really easily.”

   Nonetheless, students should be cautious when rushing into agreements with companies they aren’t familiar with.

   “I have turned down contracts just because their terms or main goal or focus didn’t line up with what I do,” Halley said.

   Lawton has also learned to be wary of Instagram direct messages from unknown brands asking if she would be interested in partnering with them.

   “People follow me on Instagram and DM me, ‘Hey, do you want to sponsor this?’ and I don’t love putting myself out there a ton when I don’t know the brand super well,” Lawton said. “I don’t want to advertise something that I don’t trust or believe in.”

   Overall, Lawton and Halley agree that their work as ambassadors has been a positive experience.

   “It puts you out of your comfort zone and gives you the work experience that colleges are looking for,” Lawton said. “You get to take the initiative and be responsible for what you’re putting on social media.”

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