JOURNEY 7 – SPONSORSHIP FOR MORTALS: MAXIMISING OPPORTUNITIES FOR AGE GROUP ATHLETES
Hands up who thinks sponsorship is only something enjoyed by professional athletes. We’ll that isn’t necessarily the case! Whilst potential sponsors won’t throw themselves at you, or shower you with their product, there are a few things you can do to increase your sponsorship potential.
Sponsorship involves the purchase of potential rights and benefits associated with an athlete, event or organisation, with benefits for both the sponsoring company and the sponsored athlete/club/event. This is the first important point – sponsorship must be mutual. It must be Win: Win. It is up to you to show them that you can help them, whilst at the same time ensuring that potential sponsors fit in with your needs as an athlete.
Why do companies sponsor athletes?
There are a number of reasons why a company will chose to sponsor an individual, group, club, organisation or event. They might include; publicity, rights, networking, to gain access to certain markets, to motivate employees, or to create brand connections. However, the underlying reason in most cases is to increase exposure/awareness of their product and thus, increase sales. Furthermore, sponsorship is generally a cost effective marketing tool!
When approaching someone for sponsorship it is important to be knowledgeable about the company itself. Gather some background information and determine some basic information such as their company goals, where they stand compared to competitors, who else they sponsor and necessary contact information.
Are you worth it?
You must be able to show them why they should sponsor you… Why are you a good investment for their company? Can you offer anything that others can’t in terms of exposure or networking? Show them how you can help them grow as a company because they are looking for opportunities to increase exposure and sales potential. How will you be a good representative of their brand? Here it is important to show your marketability. Talk about the long term. Mention that you are interested in building a relationship over time and are interested in working together to achieve a Win: Win situation.
Note: Be sure you are willing and able to back up any claims and promises made! Always under promise and over deliver.
You should know who in the company to approach when asking for sponsorship and go straight to them. Be prepared, persistent and professional in your approach. Provide a cover letter, athlete resume and neat, concise proposal. Focus on the needs of your potential sponsor first, and remember they want to sell a product or service. Show them that you are loyal, modest, hardworking, personable AND successful, as well as how you can promote their product/service/brand. Don’t approach two competitors at once.
Do you: Like/endorse/use their products?
Will you: Use/promote/advertise their products to the target?
Are you: Presentable/successful/reliable/valuable?
Imagine you are working for the potential sponsor!
Sponsorship should involve mutual benefit – Win: Win
Companies’ sponsor athletes for many reasons, often to increase exposure and awareness – How can you help?
Research the company and their needs, and plan ahead
Stand out from the crowd – show that you are a better investment than others
Be persistent and professional
Be prepared to show loyalty over the long term
Don’t approach brand competitors
Aim to display your success, reliability, high work ethic, marketability
If in doubt, under promise but over deliver!
Being sponsored is a rewarding and motivating part of being an athlete. The above information provides some insight and information into how sponsorship works as well as offering some ideas into how to maximise your own sponsorship chances. You may be surprised at the opportunities that are available, and also at how beneficial you may be to a company or other potential sponsor. What follows in some information that is relevant for if and when you do become a sponsored athlete. It may also assist anyone who is thinking about approaching someone or a company for sponsorship.
Tips for managing sponsors
It is very important to keep your sponsors informed of your progress as an athlete. They have invested time and money into you to help initiate and expand your partnership – they care about how you are going. Inform them of upcoming races, as well as results. Acknowledge and thank them for their support, and the benefit that their product has provided. Be sure to mention and acknowledge their support and product in any reports, newsletters or announcements and wear their product/logo. It may be a nice touch to send them photos of you training and racing with their product or even send them a Christmas card!
Golden Rules of Sponsorship
A sponsored athlete must continue to be a good role model and represent the brand with professionalism. Think about the image you are portraying when training and racing. Endorse their product where you can – other athletes are interested in what products are out there.
Be prepared to:
Over deliver: Deliver what you promised – unprompted
Show a genuine commitment to upholding your part of the agreement
Promote and acknowledge your sponsor
Always use their product and display their logo/brand name
Share new ideas and offer feedback
Keep them informed
The above information has been compiled with the help of Mat Tippett, Sports Sponsorship Lecturer at VU. Thanks to Mat for helping to provide an insight into Sponsorship for Age group athletes.