A Little Information on Sponsorships

1. Types of athletic sponsorships

The literal definition of a sponsor is a person or organization that provides the funds for a project or activity to be carried out by another person or organization. In reality, there are a variety of sponsorship deals that can occur between an athlete and a corporation. Below are the four most common levels of sponsorships:
Four most common levels of sponsorships:
Tier 1  : “Donation/Contribution” - a person or organization contributes a funds to the cause or activity. Essentially this is a one way transaction with perhaps a small thank you note going back to the sponsor.
Tier 2 : “Shop Sponsorship” - A local store or company would provide the athlete with free or discounted gear/equipment
Tier 3 : “Amateur Sponsorship” - Free or discounted equipment/gear and also some financial compensation for travel expenses or competition fees.
Tier 4 : “Professional Sponsorship” - Equipment, expenses covered and a pay cheque.
Although most of us are aiming at the professional sponsorship level, athletes should seek to go up the ranks from Tier 1 to Tier 2 and all the way to Tier 4. By going up the ranks of sponsorships you gain credibility, experience and critical knowledge to help you with future sponsors.
Also, remember that not all sponsorships are equal. The tiers provided here are simple guidelines. Each company, corporation and organizations has their own standards for sponsorships. For example sponsorship from Nike will be a lot different than sponsorships from you local bike shop even though they are both Tier 1 sponsorships.
Before we answer what it means to get sponsored we should look at why companies sponsor in the first place. Here are some reasons companies offer sponsorships to athletes:

What does it mean to get sponsored by a corporation?

  1. The athletes they choose to sponsor usually represent their target market
  2. Athletes that appeal to many demographics
  3. Athletes may have a positive impact on the company and products
In a nutshell, companies look to get an ROI - return on investment - for their sponsorship. In the case of a contribution, the act of helping and supporting another person brings joy to the contributor. But for Tier 2-4 companies look to gain back what they have invested in sponsorships.
When a company sponsors an athlete they look to pair the athlete’s image and characteristics with their company’s. This means that if an athlete is hard working and dedicated, a company will sponsors this athlete in order to make sure people see the company as also hard working and dedicated. Consumers purchase athlete endorsed products because of what the athlete represents to the consumer. If a consumer has grown to trust, respect and adore an athlete, they will also trust, respect and adore the company endorsed by the athlete.
So what does that mean to you? Being sponsored means:
  1. Speaking highly (and, hopefully, genuinely) about the company and its products
  2. Promoting your relationship when having the media’s attention
  3. Continuing and improving your athletic achievements
  4. Engaging with the companys activities online and offline
  5. Providing exposure to the company by putting their logo on equipment/social media
  6. Attending events, gatherings and galas requested by the company
  7. Create exciting and engaging content on social media and including the sponsor’s logo or links to their website

 Finding a sponsor for your sport and athletic career

Finding a sponsor can occur in many ways and very often you find a sponsor in the most unexpected ways. Here are couple of ways you can find a sponsor:
  1. Referral - Find a sponsor through family or friends
  2. Cold approach - Email/call/apply companies
  3. Attract - Get them to reach out to you
Although, we’d all like to get approach by companies but just like with the sponsorship tiers, the athlete should start with referral and work their way up.
1. Referral
Within your circle of family/friends there is an individual or company looking to help athletes out. Getting this type of sponsorship, involves two things:
  1. Announcing that you are looking for a sponsorship
  2. Asking to spread the word
These two steps are often overlooked. Most athletes assume that their friends and family know that they need a sponsor. Therefore make sure that your friends and family know you are looking for a sponsor. A great way to do that is to run a crowdfunding campaign on http://makeachamp.com/. Running a campaign gathers all your friends and family members around your goals. They support your campaign by sharing and contributing to your campaign. If the right family member or friends spots your campaign they’ll be able to sponsor it.
2. Reaching Out
Reaching out to a company that you do not contact with can be intimidating but it shouldn’t be. Here we’ll outline how to properly get the attention of a company.
There are two methods:
  1. The shotgun method: Here you build a templated email introducing yourself and the reason for your email. Using this email you message as many companies as you know.
  2. The sniper method: Using this method you contact each company individually. This method is powerful because in the email you can include the reasons why this specific company should sponsor you.
Who to contact within a company?
  1. Marketing Director: The marketing director is almost always in charge of the marketing budget which includes sponsorships.
  2. Community Affairs Manager: This is particularly relevant to local sponsorships where there may be a direct benefit to the local community Sponsorship Manager – Many small companies will not have a Sponsorship Manager, the Marketing Director will handle all sponsorship activity.
  3. Brand Manager: Particularly in larger companies that deal with products Chief Executive – If you know that he or she has a keen interest in sport – or, more importantly, in your sport – then a Chief Executive is well worth approaching. In this case it is often best to get a referral from a third party.
How to reach out?
  1. Email/letter outlining the reason for contacting a company as well as a short description of yourself as an athlete.
  2. Follow up with a phone call to ensure they received the information and requesting a meeting to talk it through in more detail.
  3. Set up a meeting to present the sponsorship opportunity to a potential sponsor.
  3. Attract
One way you can get companies to reach out to you is to build a community of follower and supporters on social media. In order to build this community you must create exciting and engaging content regarding your sport or particular expertise. Use tools such as MAKEACHAMP, Facebook, Twitter and a blog in order to gather a group of fans on social media. Once that's established, you’ll be able to leverage this following to get sponsors.

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