Nearly four months after she lost a lucrative three-year contract as a brand ambassador with Specialized, Sarah Swallow is launching a new project that might help others like her.
The Outdoor Ambassador Collective (OAC), Swallow told VeloNews, is “a professional community space for outdoor creatives, brand ambassadors, advocates, and sponsored athletes.”
The new group will have have two components: a private online platform for professionals from across the outdoor industry who have active brand partnerships, as well as a public newsletter and Instagram account for OAC members, brand representatives, individuals interested in joining the profession, and the general public.
Swallow said that the OAC’s initial goal “is to connect and empower members, collect information, package it, and share it as resources for new and existing ambassadors as well as for brands.”
The impetus for creating the OAC came not long after Swallow’s abrupt departure from Specialized. After her contract was terminated in December, Swallow created a sign-up form to gauge the interest of an outdoor ambassador collective. To her surprise, over 250 people signed up.
Swallow represents a unique niche within the cycling industry — the 35-year-old has had a career based on brand partnerships since 2015. In 2020, a year fraught by the Covid pandemic and civil unrest, bike brands significantly increased their support of people like Swallow — influencers, ambassadors, and content creators who tell stories and share experiences usually unrelated to competition.
The latter half of 2022 and early 2023, however, have been marked by big cuts in the outdoor industry, and many of the first programs to go have been ambassadorships and content creation.
Devin Cowens, an Atlanta-based adventure cyclist, said that she has seen brands take different approaches to their ambassador programs lately. Of her half dozen brand partnerships, one was dissolved completely last summer, two have remained the same, one has ceased to pay (offering product only), and one is transitioning to “project based” instead of paying a salary.
Swallow said that one of the first projects of the OAC is to conduct a survey among members to gather information on what outdoor industry ambassadors are experiencing right now. The findings will be shared in the public newsletter and on social media.
The OAC’s private online platform — which is limited to professionals with at least one active brand partnership — will serve as a space for networking and support.
“Professionals can network with one another, share their experiences, receive and offer support with contracts, discuss rates and deliverables, and share best practices,” Swallow said. “We’ll also be collaborating on the essentials that will level-up the entire profession, including online tools, shared contacts, professional services, core contract terms, and anything else that furthers our collective goals.
Members can expect to find resources like standard ambassador contracts and rate ranges for photoshoots, social media posts, and blog copy, as well as access webinars and discussions led by veterans of the industry.
For now, the OAC is not a place that brands can hunt for new ambassadors or content creators.
“The OAC was created to support and empower ambassadors while navigating their relationships with brand partners,” Swallow said. “While there may be some opportunities for brands to connect with the group down the road, the group is not designed to be a source for brands to find new ambassadors.”
For more information about the OAC, or to sign up for its newsletter, visit https://outdoorambassadorcollective.com/