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What’s it like to be the face of a classic brand?

Take a peek at the challenging life of a Campari brand ambassador.

The vibrant and inventive global charity event that is Negroni Week is in full swing! If you’re a fan of the cocktail scene then you definitely know that Campari brand ambassador and veteran bartender Symphony Loo is one of the prime movers of the multinational celebration’s presence across Southeast Asia.

We imagine a day in Symphony’s life is like this: Hop on a plane. Talk about Campari. Drink Campari. Mix Negroni. It’s a hard life, but someone’s gotta do it. And she does it with enthusiasm. And no hangovers!

Mantle caught up with Symphony at one of her recent seminars in Manila, and we took the opportunity to have a quick chat with the lady of boundless energy and enthusiasm for all things Campari and Negroni.

How does one get to be a brand ambassador? What sort of journey is that like?

It’s good! To be honest, it’s different.

When I started 13, 14 years ago, I was just part-time in a restaurant. After that, I went to study, and then I got into F&B again back after studying. I was behind the bar so much, very practical work, and then suddenly, now, here I am!

Before I joined Campari, I was with the Neon Pigeon group. I was managing their whole beverage program. It was a lot of admin, and I was looking at different kinds of things. Last time, I was always looking at money, money, money, because, of course, business is money. I used to be the one who actually asked brand managers how we can collaborate. And now, I have to think about it the other way around: how we can actually collaborate as a partner with the bars.

Do you really just drink all day, every day? We’re teasing. What goes in the job description of a BA?

Whenever I talk [at workshops and seminars], it’s really based on my experiences. The Negroni Family Tree, for example, that was actually created by me. I started with foundations from Italy, and then I added more of what I think Asians favor, like the flavors they can accept.

Being the BA has been crazy because it’s a lot of traveling, of course, but it’s also good because what I get to do is really important to me. I want to inspire more bartenders to really create cocktails. That’s one thing that I really hope for, and to focus a little bit more on the classics and the basics. Like for this visit to Manila, what I’m sharing is based on a lot on the classic cocktails.

I think the bartender movement is going very fast right now, and I think what bartenders and businesses have to look into is how actually to remember all the classics before we create all the new things.

What does it mean to be a brand ambassador for Campari?

I’ve loved Campari for many years, ever since I started with the bar scene. I even have a Negroni tattoo, which I got before I joined Campari. If not for [my love of] Campari, I probably would not have become brand ambassador.

To be honest, you have to drink Campari almost every day. You have to love it more than anyone does. Why? Because it’s bitter! You have to love it without your face [grimacing from the bitterness]; that’s another level, right? It took me years to get there.

About being a brand ambassador, I think the job scope isn’t just to present to bartenders. Me, I also present to media so they know how to talk about us, to distributors to make sure they know how to sell, and to bartenders so they how to mix and create. Other companies, their BA doesn’t have to come up with strategy. They just have to be there to present drinks. For Campari, I think I’m the first full-time brand ambassador that handles the region, so I’m very hands-on.

To get the balance is not easy. Every presentation I make for [different audiences] is different. I always say, don’t call it a master class. I’m not a master blender. So, I say, it’s a seminar or workshop. It’s a time for people to share, to ask questions, then I can answer. If they don’t like Campari, it’s fine. Or I can make them like Campari. That is why I’m there.

That does sound very hands-on. How challenging is this sort of work, and what keeps you going?

It’s difficult, again especially with all the traveling, but it’s very worth it in the end. My job scope is maybe slightly bigger than it is for other BAs, but I’m enjoying it at the moment. I just do guest shifts now and then, here and there, but not too much.

I’m taking care of eight countries right now, so I do my best to support our local teams. And I don’t just mean with things like the presentation materials and doing seminars. I mentally support them at the same time, as much as I can.

I need to inspire [my colleagues] before they can inspire others. This is how I always think: instead of giving them what to do, if you tell them how, then we can make it happen together. There’s always teamwork, and that’s what’s important.