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Uprising: Inclusive Influencers and Spectacular Eyebrows with Sydney Lehmann


M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment North America’s senior influencer marketing manager on influencer marketing and her career so far, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

Uprising: Inclusive Influencers and Spectacular Eyebrows with Sydney Lehmann

Now a senior influencer marketing manager at M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment, Sydney Lehmann had an outgoing childhood, filled with creativity and shaped by both her supportive parents and the bustling melting pot of New York City. Whether it was discussing politics and listening to her mother’s career stories from the world of PR at the dinner table or simply absorbing the energy bursting from Broadway, Central Park and beyond, she was fuelled by the passion and diversity of New York’s places and people.

Staying in New York for college, Sydney studied at the Gallatin School of Individualised Study at New York University, where she combined history, advertising, media, and politics to create her own individualised major, titled ‘Visuality: Race, Beauty, and the Body’. This uniquely customisable approach to study, she says, gave her the chance to broaden her horizons beyond the usual limits of higher education. “I was able to study the questionable history of our country and discern how it affects the way people are portrayed in advertising, media, and specifically the beauty industry. Gallatin provided me with the opportunity to study abroad in Paris, take challenging classes both personally and academically, and meet people that helped shape me.”

Taking her first steps in the industry, Sydney interned at Estée Lauder (La Mer North America Communications) between her junior and senior year at NYU, and describes the opportunity as a “privilege to learn from the best in the beauty and media/influencer industry.” During this invaluable early experience, she created a micro-influencer campaign with a DE&I focus that helped inform her future projects and was the first taste of the work she would later do with M&C Saatchi.

As well as these internship projects, it was her interest in connecting people and hearing about what drives them which attracted Sydney to influencer marketing. “I am passionate about discovering the right talent for clients that they not only admire, but with whom they are excited to collaborate,” she says. “From engaging talent at brand experiences to brainstorming captivating paid content, I truly value how my role at M&C Saatchi gives me the ability to connect with people day in and out.”

As an influencer marketing manager, her key responsibilities span influencer and client-facing work, from managing influencer campaigns and strategies to synthesising influencer metrics into streamlined reports. She has also recently had the privilege to travel to activations and establish connections between clients and influencers in person, which continues to be her favourite part of the job.

While this may be the most fulfilling aspect for her, the job provides an abundance of ever-evolving skills and expertise to learn and master as the influencer and social media space is one that advances at lightning speed. This is something that Sydney has witnessed already with the rise of TikTok and short-form video content in recent years. “Creators who for years only made static content are now dipping their toe into the world of video, and realising an increased audience reach,” she says. “It has been a challenge to continue to shift strategy as platforms constantly change their content prioritisation, but it has been exciting to continue to grow as the landscape changes.”

As the landscape changes, so does the public’s (and industry’s) perception of what influencer marketing is and can achieve. One misconception that Sydney has seen and is keen to dispel is the suggestion that influencer marketing isn’t a valuable or worthwhile channel for brands to explore. She says, “Time and time again, I have had to explain how successful influencer work can be -  not only for brand awareness but for sales. Every person I talk to, both younger and older, has purchased a product because they saw an influencer promote it. There is such value in aligning your brand and product with an influencer who has authority in the space, or who has an engaged audience who is eager to support their recommendations.”

A recent project that Sydney believes exemplifies the effectiveness of influencer marketing is the work M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment has done with luggage brand Samsonite and photographer/creator Nicholas Scarpinato. What began as a one-off post quickly snowballed into a larger campaign, where Nicholas re-created five iconic Samsonite ads, with a modern twist. “We took this partnership to the next level - off our phones and onto the streets of New York with a stunning OOH in Williamsburg,” she says. “This is a prime example of the power of creator content and shows it can live far beyond the walls of Instagram. Nicholas has become a true advocate for the brand – which has been established by mutual investment and trust - and we are eager to continue this partnership.”

While selecting which influencers should partner with which brands, Sydney explains that she is conscious of drawing a list that is diverse in all its categories, from age to race, gender expression, body type and more. “It is important to myself, and our wider team, to create a roster that highlights and showcases diversity,” she says. Using her place of privilege and the experiences and lessons from her DE&I-focused studies at university, she aims to make the agency’s influencer footprint inclusive and to ensure that she is part of the change that is helping make the industry a more equitable place. 

“Although DE&I continues to be top of mind within the wider advertising industry, there are issues of authentic inclusion that persist,” she adds. “Often advertising targets POC, LGBTQIA+, and women only in moments of cultural relevance, and not on an ongoing basis. There is progress to be made to authentically showcase diversity throughout the year, and I will continue to use my voice within the industry to push for this type of inclusion.”

Not going it alone, Sydney shares that her team and its nourishing camaraderie at M&C Saatchi inspire her and work together to mutually expand their horizons. Emphasising how “highly collaborative” they are, she reminisces on a useful lesson from the early days of her career - one which she continues to follow today: “Give credit where credit is due… I always aim to ensure that the work that is done is credited to the right person. It is so important to pay it forward and support each other as a team. We all grow and contribute more when we are recognised for our accomplishments.”  

Consistently motivated by making interpersonal connections, she also derives inspiration from her family outside of the office, listing “my father’s sage business advice, my mother’s industry experience, my brothers’ flourishing creative careers, my sister-in-law’s superior creative eye, and my partner’s personal drive” as the ultimate motivators in her career and life. She continues, “Their support and the example they set are cornerstones for me and define and support how I approach my life.”

When she’s not with family, reading some historical fiction or “nourishing the soul” with some great cheese, wine and fellow humans, Sydney likes to unwind with some canine company - namely, her two-year-old rescue Cavapoo, Henry. “This past year has been a challenge to retrain him and to get him acclimated to New York,” she says, “but it has been the greatest joy showing him what true love and companionship look like.”

She adds, “He came into our lives when we least expected it, but we knew we had to rescue him and give him a loving home. We’ve always talked about having a dog with eyebrows, and his are quite spectacular.”

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M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment NA, Mon, 27 Mar 2023 15:43:00 GMT