Whether you are a professional athlete or on your way up to becoming a pro, there are plenty of companies out there who may be willing to provide you with equipment or even cash for doing what you love. You just need to follow a few basic rules and be proactive. No, it won’t be easy, but it won’t be too difficult either. However, it does mean that you may have to make some changes, show some self-belief and sell yourself. Some find this very difficult, so enlisting some outside help and guidance can greatly enhance your chances of success.
Sponsorship has changed drastically since its birth in the 70s, and with the digital age upon us the internet has allowed athletes to be immensely creative about their offering and make themselves far more attractive to potential sponsors. The ability to create great content cheaply and deliver it via social media has created a new generation of sponsorship deals.
WHY WOULD A COMPANY OFFER YOU SPONSORSHIP?
As the terrain changes, medium and large size companies find it very difficult to adapt. Believe me, there are corporate giants out there who can’t begin to understand how to be relevant in this social media savvy world. But don’t be fooled, they do know how to tap into it.
This is where you fit it in! You may have credibility as an equestrian athlete, the following of a specific community or group, a large network in your sport or may simply reflect the values that appeal to a particular company trying to reach a particular type of client. Whether you are a well-known star or a child prodigy, this is when you become valuable. You present a chance for defined and measurable marketing in an ever changing digital arena.
A company may choose to sponsor you for many reasons - to gain visibility and brand awareness for their service or product based on its relevance to your sport or to simply be seen to attach their name to an athlete they feel will be a good brand ambassador for them.
So, how do you set yourself up and become attractive to potential sponsors?
YOU ARE A BRAND, DON’T FORGET IT!
If you can’t take yourself seriously, no one will. You must know who you are and where your plan is taking you. Without a plan, there is no vision and if there isn’t a vision, no one will follow you.
So set your goals – be it the Olympics or simply moving up a level with a great horse who you have confidence can bring you forward in your career. Once you know what your target is, plan what you need to get you there. This shows great organisation and initiative, which brands love, as they can plan their activities around your schedule and this can create lots of buzz.
But remember what you say and do, and how you say and do it, reflects on you and you as a Brand so start the way you mean to go on in all your online activity.
MAP ALL YOUR CHANNELS
A brand needs to be marketed and so must you!
If you don’t have a personal website, then you should invest in one. Many argue that you do not need a website when you have social media – don’t fall into this trap. Social media is great, but it’s noisy. Companies will often look at personal sites to make sponsorship decisions – here you can control your content and how your story is delivered. On your personal website you can include your career profile, biography, best photos, videos, news, calendar and personal branding. This can go a long way with marketing managers making a decision, and also allows you to offer links and logos to sponsor’s sites, which can be very powerful when combined with blogging and news articles.
You need to map out your current assets (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc) and your touch points – this is where your fans get to interact with you (digitally or physically).
It is important to carefully think about which channels work best for you. It is also imperative that you do not overcommit to too many channels and deliver a poor experience for your fans. Depending on your resources and available time it is better to do one well than spreading yourself too thin on several channels, diluting the experience for your network.
GET SOCIAL OR GO HOME!
Social media is perhaps the most important weapon in your arsenal. Depending on how active you are, it can take your sponsorship chances to another level. By creating a well-defined social following you become very appealing to companies.
Content is key, and depending on your sport and lifestyle you should be able to create some added value content for your followers. For instance if you’re a showjumper, providing training tips on your Facebook page can attract a lot of attention to your page, thereby making you a more attractive proposition to potential sponsors. Visibility is key to any potential Sponsor so tailor your content to generate as much visibility and reach as possible.
KNOW YOUR SUPER POWERS
As a brand, you will be selling a product or service, so you must be able to list why it is worth investing in. Remember, you can be as creative as you like here – sponsorship has evolved and just sticking a logo on your numnah or lorry will no longer do.
Be honest with yourself, define what you can offer and what you are willing to do to help them. Whatever the circumstance, DON’T list it if you can’t deliver it.
Here are some examples of what you can offer sponsors, it should get you thinking:
Great content such as videos, product reviews, written blogs and lots of imagery.
Brand association: your name and personality will ring well with certain sponsors.
Access to your social network: if your audience is relevant to a brand it will make you more attractive.
Brand representation and product endorsement: you can sell yourself as a brand ambassador and be the face for certain products and services.
Access to certain markets: you may attract a lot of fans from specific counties or countries which will appeal to firms looking to expand in those counties or countries.
Hospitality packages, such as tickets and VIP facilities at say the Dublin International Horseshow, or other big shows, may be used as a perk to impress big clients.
So remember, if you want to attract Sponsors you must make yourself an appealing marketing opportunity. Someone who people look up to, aspire to be like, are motivated by and who simply represent themselves in a way that attracts the kind of attention that companies want to associate with.
To explore your potential for Sponsorship opportunities get in touch with Dark Horse. Together we can structure your plan for the future, establish your brand and build your attractiveness as a marketing asset!