How Deeper Sonars Recruited 7k+ Brand Ambassadors In 30+ Countries

October 5, 2023
8 min
Ryan Prior
Head of Marketing, Modash
Valeriia Chemerys
Head of Media Partnerships, Deeper
Andrius Juodis
Content Coordinator, Deeper
... and
more expert contributors

Deeper Sonars are a powerhouse in the angling world, and their ambassador programs are the #1 revenue-driving channel. 70% of the entire marketing budget is allocated to them.

They’ve got 7k+ total ambassadors, managed by just 5 marketers.

Keep reading for a real-world example of how an ecommerce brand recruits long-term ambassadors at scale!

A quick introduction to Deeper

For context, I’ll quickly explain who/what Deeper is.

Their flagship product is a portable sonar. Large fishing boats have expensive sonar equipment that helps with finding fish. A portable sonar gives that technology to anglers who are fishing from the shore, from a smaller boat, or on the ice.

They’re founded in Europe, but market the product in ~50 countries.

Explaining Deeper’s 3 ambassador programs

We’ll be talking about:

  • Deeper Squad: an open community for any hobbyists and fans of Deeper
  • Deeper Heroes: pro (or near-pro) anglers who use Deeper sonars
  • Paid partnerships: bigger influencers with separately negotiated long-term deals

Squad make up the majority, followed by Heroes, and paid partnerships are the fewest.

I’ll share a little more about each one, before we get into how exactly Deeper does brand ambassador recruitment (inbound, and outbound).

Deeper Squad: the power of gamification

Deeper Squad is a linear program through which anybody can earn a free sonar & accessories by completing tasks. The tasks are things like posting content, leaving reviews or completing surveys, and completing challenges.

It’s open to everybody, and they’ve onboarded around 6,800 ambassadors so far (!).

What makes it unique is the gamified experience.

Squad Ambassadors accumulate points by undertaking the set tasks mentioned above. The number of points they get depends on the task they complete.

Points are then redeemed in exchange for discounts, accessories, and eventually a free sonar (valued at €400+ in total).

Deeper Heroes: building credibility

Heroes are pro (or near-pro) anglers who use Deeper sonars & also have a social media presence. The criteria is tighter than for Squad.

Being associated with respected anglers builds Deeper’s credibility in the community. And the reverse is also true; being a Deeper Hero builds the angler’s credibility & following too.

Currently, there are over 200+ ambassadors across ~10 countries.

Similar to the Squad tier, the Hero program is also gamified. Hero tasks may be more time-intensive, for example posting a product tutorial, or even writing a blog article. That is reflected in the value of the points allocated. Heroes get regular free products in exchange for continuous efforts.

Paid Partnerships: the “bigger” influencers

Beyond Squad & Heroes, Deeper also creates long-term partnerships with larger influential creators on a paid basis.

Currently, there are ~200 currently active across 15 key countries. The majority are micro influencers (10K - 100K followers), though there are some bigger accounts too.

Example ambassadors would include Underfishing in The Netherlands, (the largest carp fishing community – 1.5M+ total followers) or Pawel Kukla, a Polish creator.

These partnerships go through a 1-3 month trial period, before engaging in long-term (usually annual) contracts.

Every partner gets a product package valued at €300-€700, plus monetary compensation – which is negotiated based on audience size, engagement, and the type of content produced.

Okay! Now all the context is out of the way, here’s the bit you came for. How do Deeper actually recruit ambassadors onto these programs?

The outbound recruitment strategy

For Heroes & paid partnerships, around 90% of new ambassadors come from outbound recruitment efforts.

(We’ll talk about the other 10%, and Squad, in just a minute).

Let’s start with the basic criteria, shared by Valeriia Chemerys (Head of Media Partnerships @ Deeper).

1. Product fit. The person needs to have a genuine need and interest in a castable sonar.

2. Audience fit. The creator’s audience needs to be geographically located in the target market, as much as possible. Usually 70-80%+.

3. Content engagement. Deeper are looking for as strong an engagement rate as possible. Usually 5-6%+, but sometimes lower depending on the audience size.

4. Content type. Deeper aren’t looking for selfies with a sonar. They prefer creators who post in-depth tutorials, and videos of the product in action. If a creator is already posting that kind of in-depth content, it’s a good sign.

All of these are applied country-by-country, depending on where the team is focusing.

Searching for potential ambassadors

Outbound searches start in Modash, which has a database of every public creator on Earth across Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok with 1k+ followers.

Valeriia applies filters according to the market she’s looking for creators in. Here’s an example of how the search might look in Germany.

First, there are filters for the influencer profile (audience filters come after).

Here, Valeriia & her teammate Robert Polonski starts with follower count, minimum engagement rate, and/or minimum average Reel plays. She also adds one method of identifying niche fishing influencers (e.g. #fishing).

Criteria changes according to the market. For example in Canada there are fewer fishing influencers overall, and therefore the thresholds are lowered.

Secondly, they add an audience filter. For example, 60%+ audience in Germany.

(You can add other audience filters like audience age/gender later, but it’s best not to narrow too much initially).

From there, the Deeper team can analyze the list of creators that match the filters.

What are they looking for? We already know the engagement rate, follower count, and audience locations will be good based on our search criteria.

Valeriia also checks fake followers, but the most important thing to check next is content.

What does that creator post, and how good is their content?

Modash surfaces the creator’s popular posts, and their previous sponsored posts. Generally, you can get a feel for whether or not that creator could be a good fit at a glance.

If everything looks good at this point, creators are saved to a shortlist ready for outreach.

You’ve got a shortlist – now what?

Equipped with a list of potential partners, the next step is outreach.

For Instagram, the Deeper team uses DMs to reach out. For YouTube, they send emails.

The initial outreach typically has three parts:

A short introduction:

Hello, I’m Valeriia from Deeper Sonars, the first portable fish finder that you can use from the shore, from a small boat, or on the ice:

Context on the brand:

We sell sonars and fishing accessories, as well as the Fish Deeper Premium app. With 11 years of experience and owning 50+ awards, we're based in Europe and our products are distributed in 50 countries, including [target country]. 736,000+ anglers worldwide trust our sonars for their fishing needs.

And an explanation of why they’re reaching out, a personalized compliment, and an invitation to discuss collaborating.

Influencer negotiations happen via email. Once the terms are agreed, Deeper sends out their product package and kicks off a trial period.

Valeriia also has guidelines prepared that includes instructions on how to tag Deeper in social content, and video tutorials on how to use the product. It speeds up onboarding.

Pro tip from Valeriia: reference check your potential long-term ambassadors. You wouldn’t hire an employee without a reference check, right? So why engage in a long-term partnership with a paid influencer without asking around about their reputation in the local market 🙂.

Next, let’s explore how Deeper gets inbound opportunities.

The inbound recruitment strategy

While inbound accounts for only around 10% of Heroes and Paid Partnerships, it accounts for almost 100% of Squad members.

So let’s dig into Squad recruitment: how do people apply inbound, and where does the traffic come from?

The ambassador landing page is the foundation. You can see one here: Deeper Squad.

The Squad program is fully self-serve. Anyone can sign up through the landing page to join.

That (and the fact that tasks & rewards are fixed) drastically reduces the workload involved in running a program like this.

The top traffic sources which are driving +50% YoY growth (+2,300 new ambassadors) to the program are:

  • Advertising the Squad program in their automated email flows for subscribers
  • Posting about the program on their own channels
  • Word of mouth driven by other ambassadors posting on their channels

Andrius Juodis (Content Coordinator @ Deeper) told us that leveraging the email subscribers has been one of the biggest growth levers this year.

Deeper already generates email subscribers from other activities (including paid ads, and website forms). They leverage those subscribers in the marketing team to recruit ambassadors.

At a certain point in automated email flows, subscribers get a simple email letting them know about the Squad & the benefits of joining.

Take a second to appreciate how scalable this ambassador program is:

  • There are automated sources driving new sign ups
  • Sign ups are self-serve; no qualification process
  • The rewards and tasks are fixed – no negotiations or back-and-forth

That’s the secret sauce for managing thousands of creators with a small team.

Wrapping up

Deeper's ambassador programs are a great example of a holistic creator marketing strategy:

  • They efficiently leverage thousands of people who genuinely love their brand, and
  • They proactively recruit some of the best fishing influencers in each target country, and build effective long-term relationships

Take it as inspiration for what your brand ambassador program could be after a few years of hard work and compounding effects.

If you want to keep learning, I’d suggest two resources:

First, our podcast interview with Valeriia & Andrius on YouTube.

Second, our blog post on How To Recruit Brand Ambassadors.

And of course, when you’re ready to start your ambassador search – grab a free trial of Modash 😉 (no credit card needed).

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Contributors to this article

Valeriia Chemerys
Head of Media Partnerships, Deeper
Valeriia is responsible for all media partnerships for portable sonar brand, Deeper. She manages 200+ paid influencer partners in Deeper's key markets.
Andrius Juodis
Content Coordinator, Deeper
Andrius is the brains behind the success of Deeper Squad, an ambassador program for anglers with almost 7,000 members.

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