Ludo Ducrocq is the Global Head of Ambassador Advocacy at William Grant & Sons (WGS) and a fellow alumni from the University of Glasgow.
I worked closely with Ludo whilst at the company and we worked together on the William Grant & Sons Spirit School Live! concept. This was designed to provide external staff representing the brands (such as distributors, staffing agencies, etc) with the opportunity to visit the distilleries in Scotland and Ireland and give them access to global brand ambassadors and key stakeholders in the company such as Brian Kinsman and David Stewart (below picture) to name a few.
We all know that education is critical in order for staff or anyone representing the brands to understand products, their brand essence, the stories related to them and their unique selling points (and therefore pass it on to the consumers and shoppers that they will come in contact with).
Below picture was taken at a Viking Line Whisky Fair event – one of the main consumer whisky shows in the Nordics – in the back row, I am second from left to right and Ludo is the one with the white top beside John Quinn (Tullamore D.E.W. Global Brand Ambassador) with the green top.
Ludo was happy to spare some time to explain a little bit more of what his role involves and share some insights from his years in the drinks business.
Inside the Cask: You are the Head of Ambassador Advocacy at WGS, what does that entail?
I lead the development and implementation of the strategy for our 100-strong ambassador programme.
Inside the Cask: When did you first start working at WGS? What led you to working there in the first place?
I joined William Grant & Sons in 2000, when we employed a single global ambassador. We were a much smaller company back then, with fewer spirits to work with. Essentially, William Grant & Sons was a global Scotch whisky business and this is what attracted me to the company. I wouldn’t have called myself a whisky enthusiast back then but I certainly had a strong interest in whisky and I liked the idea of being able to interact with people from all over the world. I started as a Tour Guide at the Visitor Centre at Glenfiddich Distillery.
Inside the Cask: Across your career to date, what are you most proud of?
A few projects come to mind either because they were genuinely fun to work on or at the opposite end, because they were tough to deliver. But bizarrely, I am most proud of something I am not entirely responsible for. After a short spell at our Visitor Centre, I replaced our sole global ambassador following his promotion. I started working with a handful of national ambassadors and together, with the help of our colleagues and the strong support of the family who owns the business, we started defining and perfecting what we, brand ambassadors, should be doing. The role is constantly evolving but we must have done something right over the last 15 years as we have now appointed our 100th ambassador. Of course, I don’t take the full credit for this. Consumer trends, many colleagues and even competitors have contributed to the success of the brand ambassador role. It’s just fantastic to see so many people employed in a role which didn’t exist a generation ago.
Inside the Cask: What is the role of Brand Ambassador these days and what does it involve? How can someone become a Brand Ambassador?
It has indeed evolved from being mainly about product knowledge training to being more about finding disruptive ways to inspire people to love our brands.
This can mean developing a tool that bartenders will love, finding likeminded artists to partner with, developing engaging events for whisky enthusiasts or organising a memorable press trip. Working with online influencers and social media is also a key part of the role nowadays. It’s certainly a pretty varied job.
Most of our ambassadors come from the hospitality industry but ex-bartenders still only account for about 25% of our team. The rest include artists, journalists, chemists, distillers and entrepreneurs. In other words, there are many avenues for anyone interested in working as an ambassador. The important point is to think carefully about the brand they would like to represent. The role is very time consuming and involves long days and evenings. Our ambassadors only love their job, and therefore can only be truly successful, when they choose a brand they genuinely love. (Below picture of Glenfiddich Ambassadors taken in 2016).
Inside the Cask: What is your favourite part of your job?
Without doubt, working with our ambassadors. They are a particularly fun, creative, positive and entrepreneurial team. I learn from them every day.
Inside the Cask: For people interested in getting into the drinks industry, what would be your advice?
To be very clear about what they hope to achieve in the industry, whether it’s simply meeting people, travelling, becoming a CEO, building their own distillery or becoming a Master Blender. Keeping the end in sight is important to choose the right roles in the right companies, as opposed to taking the first opportunity that comes up.
Inside the Cask: What changes have you seen in the Drinks industry since you first began?
Quite a few and I have only been in the industry for 17 years.
First of all, premiumisation has not stopped, which I think has also helped the growth of small producers who are now able to charge enough to start a successful business. Although, I believe their growth is also down to consumer trends, particularly increasing interest in local products in developed markets.
There has also been a proliferation of line extensions and limited editions, particularly for Travel Retail. This is especially true for Scotch whisky, which coincided with the rise of its investment value.
And let’s not forget where gin has come from in a relatively short space of time.
Inside the Cask: Finally, tell us something we would not know about you.
I was born on St Andrew’s day, which I am guessing is one of your favourite days given your name and where you live Andre!
Note also other blogs relating to the topic of Brand Ambassadors: