“I think I got obsessed, but in a great way.”
Junior Sonja Caballero details her experience as a brand ambassador, what these experiences have meant for her and how she balances being a “mini professional” with being a college student.
Within the past two years, Sonja has worked with brands like Razor, Rent the Runway, Venmo, and Xfinity. After her first partnership, she says that the opportunities “snowballed,” and she has been a brand ambassador and social media micro influencer ever since.
Sonja was originally accepted to Boston University as a health science major in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, but after realizing how much she enjoyed participating in various brand ambassador programs, she switched her major to journalism. “These programs drew me towards my major,” Sonja said, “I was very interested in Communications, but I didn’t know how to get started. Really getting into these brand ambassador programs was something that helped me make that transition.”
Even before coming to Boston University, Sonja had a keen interest in social media, especially because she enjoyed connecting with people, but she had no idea that this interest would lead her to so many opportunities.
Her first brand ambassadorship started out as a joke between friends and happened by chance. Razor scooters reached out to Sonja after she applied to a different program with the company. The spot she initially applied for had already been filled, so Razor encouraged her to apply for another program. “When I talked to friends about applying for that position, I joked about it,” Sonja said, “I thought, ‘yeah I’m going to be a scooter ambassador,’ but I didn’t think it was actually going to happen.”
Before this ambassadorship, not many students were using scooters to get around campus. The entire program came about because Razor wanted to know if college students would consider using electric scooters. Now, it’s fair to say that Sonja started the scooter trend at Boston University. It also momentarily garnered her the nickname “scooter girl.”
While Sonja enjoys riding around on her electric scooter, which she received complimentary from Razor, she values the connections and the experience she has gained far more. Through these programs, Sonja has been able to meet more students who go to Boston University as well as students participating in programs at other universities.
After her first partnership, Sonja began to develop what she calls her “persona.” She overcame her worries about asking people to take pictures of her and about posting promotional content to her Instagram account. “I got worried that posting a lot for a certain program can be annoying to some people,” Sonja said, “I sometimes thought that people wouldn’t want to see it anymore, but I never received those comments.” Sonja’s friends have been very supportive of her, often helping her stage impromptu photo shoots both on campus and around the city so that she can fulfill her posting requirements.
Sonja constantly has photo ops on her mind. For these programs, the brands often structure their posting requirements. This includes making boomerangs with the products, posting pictures that incorporate the college campus and posting reviews. In addition to the social media components, most brands also require that ambassadors host events or participate in tabling on campus. Hosting and planning these events can add another layer of stress to an already hectic schedule.
Sonja experienced this in the Fall 2019 semester when she was working with Venmo. One of the events she hosted was at Blaze Pizza. “I talked to so many students,” Sonja said, “but at the same time, I felt myself stressing out about everything that I had to do the rest of the day.” However, all of this hard work and commitment comes with a stipend, free goodies, and opportunities for growth.
When she was first starting off with these brands, Sonja was concerned that she did not have enough “traditional” experience like internships and research. Since partnering with Rent the Runway in January of 2018, Sonja has worked her way up to the position of campus coordinator for the ambassador program at Boston University. Because of experiences like this, she is able discuss her marketing, writing, and leadership skills in interviews. “In my interviews, no one has ever looked down on an ambassador role,” Sonja said.
Sonja is grateful for the experiences she has had, but it makes her early graduation somewhat bittersweet, as she will no longer be a student brand ambassador. “I’m used to having four jobs at the same time,” she said, “and I feed off of that constant on-the-go energy. I’m going to channel that into my everyday life.” Sonja cannot envision herself working at a traditional nine to five job without doing something on the side, and she is very open to continuing to work with different brands.
Her biggest piece of advice to students considering becoming a brand ambassador is to take part in some “extensive googling until you find something you like.” That is what she did, and it evolved into a series of opportunities that defined her college experience.
Liz McCarthy, Staff Writer
Liz McCarthy is a sophomore pursuing degrees in Media Science and International Relations. Although she hails from suburban Houston, she is a passionate Boston sports fan and has found a second home in the City of Champions. Liz works as a student teacher at an elementary school in Brighton, and is an Admissions Ambassador and member of Feel Good BU, a student group that makes and sells grilled cheeses for charity. When Liz is not in class, she loves to do yoga, try new foods in the North End, listen to politics podcasts, and play Mariokart with her friends.