I’ll preface this by saying that as an emerging talent it’s often not easy to secure substantial financial athlete sponsorship. If you’re not a recognised protégée in a mainstream sport and already being featured in the press, then you have your work cut out.
That said if you are an emerging sporting talent then chances are you are comfortable with working hard and being committed to a process, so you are off to a good start and you can consider yourself in the game.
So, you’ve recognised that you need some form of support on your journey to the big time, perhaps you need to focus less on the day job and more on your training, or you’ve exhausted the invaluable support that your friends and family have already endeavoured to provide you with.
Either way you’ve identified what you need in order to continue your journey and now you need to find companies who believe in you and do so with their wallets.
Without a dedicated management team at your disposal, the onus is on you and that’s no bad thing because you want to establish genuine connections with the people you’re targeting.
Before you start
The first thing to realise is that although you might be a pretty big deal in your inner circle and you are unwavering in your belief that you will achieve all of your performance goals, the people you are now looking to approach are likely busier than you realise and struggling with their own pressures, priorities and KPI’s, none of which might at first glance involve spending their precious marketing budget on this person they know nothing about.
So, plan how you are going to approach them, keeping in mind that if you are asking for a serious investment in your future, you need to put a serious effort into your approach to each of them.
From experience on the side of being approached cap in hand, I can assure you how frustrating it is to receive poorly worded notes, that basically say please give me money and tell me nothing about what I’m going to get out of the arrangement.
Whilst the idea of aligning my brand with a sportsperson might intrigue me, I’ll go back to my previous point about being too time poor to connect the dots and too short on marketing budget to throw it after anyone who bothers to ask.
So, approach your targets with a plan and whilst this is by no means the only way of doing things, if you’re reaching out to people you don’t know, make their life easier by providing them with a thorough overview of why you’re right for them.
Provide a personal bio:
- Who you are
- What’s your sport and competitive highlights to date
- How you rank in the bigger picture and what your upcoming plans and goals are
Provide detail of what you can do for them (note, this might be a relatively small list but be creative and provide what you can):
- Social Media opportunities
- Potential to push their brand through any channels you have access too
- Networking connections you can provide
- Logo on tournament clothing
- Assistance with building their customers experience
- Maybe even hands on work in their business in some form or another
When you send this introduction through to someone, treat it and present yourself as professionally as you do in your sport, make sure it’s formatted correctly, uses good spelling and grammar and is courteous and to the point – this might be the only shot you get!
Who you should target
The temptation is to shoot for the stars and go straight to the biggest global brands, and whilst this might not be impossible in the long run, keep in mind that the bigger the brand, the more likely they are to have already identified their target markets and proactively cherry picked the best available athletes.
So, whilst this isn’t to say you shouldn’t complete the Nike Athlete Sponsorship request form, be prepared to start locally.
Draw up a list of suitable prospects, companies in your sport that might be promoting opportunities, or that are relatively new and could be looking to raise awareness, brands with products you genuinely already use or businesses you actually frequent.
Look around yourself locally and consider which businesses might have an affiliation to your sport, or you feel that you could actually influence people to utilise. The bottom line is that the company looking to invest in an athlete they don’t know, is looking for a return via some form of growth in their own business.
What deal to shoot for
This really depends on what you have identified that you need to progress in your sport, but keep in mind that new, small and more localised businesses will have limited if any budget set aside to financially back an emerging sportsperson.
If it is cold hard cash that you need, then be reasonable in what you ask for and be very clear as to how you will be able to provide them with the chance through you, to recoup this investment over time.
Perhaps also consider proposing a performance based agreement, whereby you might get a small sign-on fee and any subsequent amounts are based on your results in competition and/or results in growing their business in some agreed manner.
However, aside from money what other support would help you?
Could you propose a discount model whereby the business you already spend money with, provides you with discounts so you can save? If the company provides a product that you already use, could they give you this product in exchange for you promoting how great it is? Does the business have its own network and contacts that can help subsidise your expenses without them actually losing out in the process?
It’s much easier for a local business person to form a new partnership if they don’t have to immediately dig into their pocket and for you, start a mutually beneficial partnership, show you can provide value and in time you will have a far greater chance to justify your worth to their business and present a case for a financial sponsorship agreement.
Once you’ve created relationships
Keep in touch! Make sure that you continue to update your supporters on how you are progressing, how hard you’re working, what your results have been and how you are trying to grow awareness of their business.
Be open to ideas they might have along the way and where possible try to find new opportunities for what you can do for them. Also make sure that you are contactable and prompt in your responses, don’t make your supporters have to chase you for anything you’ve committed too and make it clear how much you value the relationship.
Your sponsorship is a two-way street and is as much about the value you provide, as the value you receive.
If you’re goal is to propose improved terms down the track, don’t have it come out of the blue, build up to it slowly and based on tangible results that they can clearly identify they have received as a result of being aligned with you.
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