From time to time I get e-mails from fellow runners asking me questions about sponsorship. It’s pretty funny actually because most of the e-mails I get are fellow runners who live under the assumption that I’m making money from my sponsors or that my sponsors are paying for my race entry fees and flights to races. This just simply isn’t true and never has been for as long as I’ve had a sponsor which is now a total of 6 years. So to answer some of the questions that I typically get and to give those of you who are thinking about sponsorships some insight and framework to get started with, I’ve created this post.
Since 2005 I’ve been lucky enough to have been sponsored by more than a dozen different companies. Of those fourteen companies I can tell you that only ONE of them came after me, or approached me to discuss the idea of a sponsorship. This means that all of the companies that I’ve been sponsored by have been companies that I have engaged in conversation to discuss the idea of a relationship. Notice that the word I used is “relationship.” That’s exactly what it is. The biggest thing in picking a company to engage in this relationship with is a company who you believe in.
Believe In The Company
When we talk about believing in the company you’re working with we’re talking about what is personal to you. You’re not going to want a sponsorship with a company whose products you’ll never use or wear on a regular basis. Investigate the company as deeply as you can. Perhaps your moral and ethical values will tell you that you don’t want to be sponsored by a company whose products are made by a 12 year old in an India Sweat Shop. If these types of issues matter to you, or other issues such as sustainability, philanthropic endeavors, etc; then you’ll want to investigate this stuff on your own before even approaching the company about the relationship.
In continuing with the idea of believing in the company, you need to ask yourself why this company matters to you. While you answer this question, type your answer down because you’ll need this very answer soon. What is their product to you? Why do you love (not like) their product? Is this something you’re ready to tell everybody about? What is it about their company that you love (not like)? How are they going above and beyond their competition that aligns your values with theirs? Once you have all of this typed up.. edit it to sound professional and brief. You’re sending this to the company.
Who Do You Contact?
This is the biggest piece of homework you’ll have during this process. You need to find out who it is that you need to talk to in order to get this sponsorship. Who at the company is in charge of sponsorships and promotions? Does the company even have an athlete sponsorship program? Does the company outsource their PR to a firm that you need to contact? Chances are you’re going to be filling out some kind of online form. This is simply not enough. If you find yourself filling out one of these forms, thats fine, fill it out; but know that you are now just another name in a pile of names. Continue to dig deep, find that person you need to contact and get in touch with them via phone or e-mail and sell yourself. You get one chance, make it count.
When you draft your correspondence with the company, you’re trying to sell your services to them. What are your services? This is the basis of your commitment to the company. They’re not going to sponsor you unless you have something to return to them. Whether it’s their logo on your race clothing, use of their equipment during races, advertising space on a blog or website or any variation there-in.. you must have something to give in return to them. Remember, that this company is making an investment in you by providing you with product. The return on investment for them is advertising, getting their name out there, reviews of their product, get people talking. If you don’t have some kind of way to provide this give and take, you’re sunk. Plain and simple.
Framing The Letter
- Introduce Yourself – Who are you and why do you matter in this world? What do you do that’s exciting? What is your sport? Where do you measure up with the rest of the folks in your sport and BE HONEST.
- Why Them? – This is where you praise their product. Why do you use their product and what does it mean to you? How does the companies structure or philanthropist interests engage you and make you want to tell everyone about them?
- What Do You Want? – Put it out there. What kind of product are you looking for? What is it you want from the company? Are you looking for shoes? Socks? Cash? What?
- What Do You Offer? – What are you offering them in return? Advertising Space? Product Reviews? Media Exposure?
- Be Open to Compromise – Make sure you let the company know that none of this is in stone. You’re just opening the doors of communication in the hopes that you can come to some form of mutual agreement.