How we convinced fashion icon David Gandy to be our brand ambassador

Startups Awards finalist London Sock Co. has forged a strong relationship with the high-profile model, who also invests in the start-up. Here's how they did it

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Names: Ryan Palmer and Dave Pickard
Company: London Sock Co.
Company description: London Sock Co. is a luxury British sock brand helping men to add style and personality for any occasion. Our optional Sock Club subscription service offers its members new socks conveniently delivered through their letterbox each month.
Started in: December 2013

Describe your start-up barrier:

The fashion industry is highly competitive and achieving high-profile brand ambassadors can be a challenge for early stage businesses.

Despite this, within six months of launching our brand we had established a strong and growing relationship with one of Britain’s top fashion icons; David Gandy.

What were the practical steps you took to connect with a celebrity ambassador?

When Dave and I (Ryan) first left our jobs in the City we had no experience in fashion, but because we saw a gap in the market, we just thought to give it a go.

The first thing we did was arrange a personal shopping experience in Selfridges for research – plus we really needed new clothes anyway! This is how we met Joe Ottaway, then head of men’s personal shopping at Selfridges, who has since become a good friend of ours and an invaluable collaborator.

We explained our idea to Joe, and with his natural enthusiasm he was keen to help. We showed him some samples from our Simply Sartorial collection, which was all we had at that point, and he absolutely loved them. He suggested a couple of people that he could introduce us to – one of those being David Gandy.

At this point we only had 15 pairs of sample socks in the entire company, so it was somewhat reluctantly that we sent out a burgundy pair to David. Joe reported back positively; apparently David loved the packaging and attention to detail.

It was coming up to Christmas so we decided to send David a thank you bottle of whisky and a subscription gift card, which he activated straight away. Soon afterwards we sent an email asking for his feedback. He said he absolutely loved the brand and that he thought we were really on to something. It was kind of left at that, so we decided we needed to up the ante.

Joe mentioned that David’s birthday was coming up. The obvious thing was just to send him a gift box, but we realised that we’d need to do something a bit more personal…

With about 24 hours to turn it around, we arranged for a mixologist friend (Dee Anne Quinones) to invent a cocktail for David based on his favourite drink, which we had discovered was an Old Fashioned. We had the recipe printed and framed, then sent it out with some socks and a handwritten thank you note.

When we dropped it off at his agency, amid the mountain of other gifts, we were resigned to the fact that he probably wouldn’t even get to see it.

However, the very next day we received an email from David saying he loved the gift and suggested we go for a drink. A few weeks later, a casual drink at The Donovan Bar turned into a bit of a late one – to the point that Dave passed out on Mr Gandy’s couch at 5am while I cooked omelettes in his kitchen.

I think what we took from the whole experience is that you’ve got to be a bit creative and personal to stand out: you can’t just send something and expect something in return. Also, if you treat someone as a celebrity they’ll treat you like a fan – it’s all about balance – and David appreciated that we were interested in him and his story, not his status. David’s got really strong business acumen and his approach is very logical.

We didn’t approach him with a sense that he was immediately going to invest – it’s just as important that we buy into him as much he buys into us, because business is like a marriage.

What was the outcome?

David Gandy has become a brand ambassador, investor and very close personal friend who provides ongoing advice, connections and personal support where possible.

David’s public support of our brand has elevated our brand presence and brand credibility, and makes it easier for other high profile individuals to support us.

What three key questions should other companies ask while seeking a brand ambassador?

  1. Do I understand why I’m reaching out to the individual and why they would want to support me?
  2. How can I connect with the individual and get my personality across so that I stand out from the crowd?
  3. Am I acting with absolute integrity and with both parties’ interests at heart?

What one piece of advice should entrepreneurs should take on board when approaching people?

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Is there anything you would do differently?

Not as far as this is concerned….

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