An Athlete’s Guide to Sponsorship

There is nothing worse than trying to chase your athletic dreams but feeling like you have no support. Money is tight; you can barely afford to buy the things you need to be able to succeed. You know that you will be able to attract sponsorship if only you could be one of the best, the problem is you need help to get to that point, so you feel stuck. I decided to write this article because I get asked this question all the time by athletes who are struggling to make ends meet. This is the guide to getting companies interested in working with you.

Most Important Part of This Whole Guide

I will say this early on so that you know this reading the rest. Nothing in life is going to come for free. If you want to attract companies to you, you need to be able to provide them with value.  Companies have a goal, and that goal is to make money. If you can prove to them that you can help them do that why would they sponsor you?

Do companies love to help out others, yes, but they are not going to do that at the cost of losing their business because that is just pointless. Companies want to know that you can help them make more people aware of their business, but they always want to know that you can turn people into buying their product.

Always be thinking

  • How can I help this company sell more product
  • Can I make more people aware of this company
  • How can I explain my value to this company

Understanding the Types of Sponsorship

Before we can get into what you have to do to get sponsored it is vital that you know the different types of sponsorships that exist. A lot of people just start begging companies for support, but they have no idea what they are even looking for, all they know is that they want something. That is not good enough for a company. They like working with people who have clear directions.

One Time Product Exchange

A one-time product exchange merely is when a company sends you a shipment of products in exchange for maybe some love on social media or a testimonial.  Don’t sleep on this route though; I have racked up so many of these types of sponsorships for things like protein shakes that I did not have to buy any for the year.

Disadvantages

  • May not provide you with enough of what you need
  • Have to reach out to plenty of companies to make this work

Advantages

  • A lot of small companies are willing to do this to help grow the size of their brand
  • If it is a product that you only need one of this works well
  • Does not require you to have to do a lot in return for the company.

Keys to Success

  • Find smaller companies looking to extend their brand
  • Don’t get greedy
  • Work on building a relationship before you continue to ask for more product

Discount Code

Some companies will provide athletes with discount codes that they can use to buy products themselves. These discount codes also can be used to be given to others, and if they make purchases, then the athlete will earn a % of the sale.

Personally, this is one of my least favorite sponsorship methods.  I have always felt with my network and with Cover Ground that I could provide much more to the company than they are providing for me.  This only works if you can get it with a company that you plan on buying from all of the time anyway.

I know how to sell products so if I am selling them products I will make a small amount but sales are hard, and for the amount of work the effort just never seemed worth it. I tried running a system like this when I had my clothing line, and it failed because most people don’t have the heart to sell well.

Advantages

  • Can make an extra income if you’re good at selling
  • Can get you a discount on products you may already purchase

Disadvantages

  • Selling sucks
  • You could do more work for the company then they do for you

Keys to Success

  • Most companies will be willing to work with you on this
  • Make sure it is a product that you love, don’t sell crap to people

Reoccurring Product Exchange

This is the second sweetest sponsorship deal that you can get. With this sponsorship, the company will continue throughout the year send you a set amount of product to help with your training.  This can be a gold mine for athletes and save you a lot of money.

Advantages

  • Saves money
  • Provides products you need to train better
  • If a good job is done, it opens the door to a paid deal

Disadvantages

  • Companies expect a lot in return for this
  • Takes a lot of time and effort to reach this

Keys to Success

  • Don’t get complacent and forget about the company
  • An excellent business proposal needs to be written
  • Be prepared to hear many no’s on your way to a yes

Paid Sponsorship

This is considered to be the holy grail of sponsorship, but you do have to be weary when it comes to accepting paid sponsorships. In this deal usually, free product and some compensating are provided. The intention is that you will be able to make them more money than what they provide. This means if they give you $2,000 a year plus $2,000 for the product you better be able to make them more than $4,000 in sales.

This should always be the goal of athletes and hear why. Too many athletes get caught up on free products that don’t help them. I will give you an example. The last think I need is a company willing to give me free clothes in exchange for me promoting their business. I can’t eat clothes; I can’t feed my wife with clothes, I can’t use clothes to pay the bills. Paid sponsorships make the biggest difference in helping to make you a better athlete.

Advantages

  • Puts money in your pocket
  • Gives you free product
  • If it is a product you love you can become a proud spokesperson
  • Increased relationships and connections

Disadvantages

  • You now basically work for the company
  • Needs to come with an extensive plan of how you plan to help the company
  • Can only do this with so many companies or you spread yourself too thin

Talk to Companies The Language of Business

If you want to get the attention of business in a proposal, it means having an understanding of what business needs to hear. Business like numbers, they need to dues cost-profit analysis, they like to look to know what their return on investment will be.

If you are talking with a salesperson or a someone in marketing they will eventually have to report to someone in finance and prove how working with an athlete will help the company in the long run. You may as well make their job easy and the number crunching for them. The better you can show this from a numbers standpoint, the better your chances of receiving sponsorship will be. If you want an in detail explanation of how to create a sponsorship proposal, with numbers included click here.

Know Your Value

Knowing your value is important. I often get companies that want to work with me, but many times I decline because numerically I know my value. What these companies want is access to the readers of Cover Ground, and they want it at as little cost as possible.

If you don’t know your value, you end up jumping at every deal that is thrown your way whether it makes sense or not. This is not a good habit to get into because you can easily end up getting used by companies who understand how to get the most out of desperate athletes.

How to Increase Your Value to Companies

While knowing your value is good it is also important that you increase your value to companies. This is and should be taken as a full-time job because this is all about your brand. As an athlete looking for sponsors, your brand is EVERYTHING. Everything you do and should be thought through with careful consideration.

Building a personal brand takes time, and it takes consistency. It is something that can’t be rushed, but it can be done. No matter how negative of light you may think you have put yourself in, we tend to love seeing people turn over a new leaf.

Watch Your Mouth

This is one of the easiest ways to destroy your brand, but it does not do much to build your brand. Companies do not want someone who is willing to post anything on social media.  Some people feel like social media is a place to express however they feel but then there need to be restraints.

In this day and age, people love to take peoples tweets, and screenshot them before they can realize that what they said needs to be deleted. Once you put something on the airways, you can’t take it back so don’t give people a chance to ruin you. Stay sharp in what you say in public.

Dominate Social Media

This is the easiest way to attract sponsors, but often people don’t want to put in the work to do this, and it is pretty stupid. Social media is one of the easiest ways to prove your worth to a company.  Companies can relate to social media easily. If they see you have 1000 followers and their account only has 200, you have way more than what they have. Social media isn’t the end all and be all, BUT if you are going to spend time on it, you need to come up with an actual social media strategy that works.

I once attracted attention to be a key not speaker just strictly from my tweets. Social media is powerful for connecting with people. If you are working with a company, find their social media pages and connect with them because you always want to be working on that relationship.

Basic Tips for Better Social Media

  • Instead of self-promotion think of providing what your fans and followers want
  • Be active
  • Treat each social network different
  • Give people a reason to want to connect with you
  • Connect with popular people
  • Create an actual plan
  • Read This
  • Read This

Start a Mentorship Program

How can a mentorship program help you attract sponsors? The answer is simple, and it lies in the word exposure. This is what companies want, and the better you can provide it the more valuable you become. Let’s take a further look at this.

Say you want to receive free protein product from a company. To separate your proposal, it will help if you said you currently mentor 30 athletes and show proof of some of your mentees asking you what protein it is that you use.  This is important because it shows your target company that not only do people look up to you, but they listen to your suggestions. This means you can get them to become fans of their company in the same way that you are.

Build an Excellent Website

At first, it does not even have to be a popular website with an extensive blog and products (though we can teach you how to do that). Having that actual professional website presence is important. We live in a digital world when we here about a product or company the first thing we do is look online for as much information as possible. A company is going to do the same thing with you. If you have a website, it is easier to control your image and bring people to the good places. If you don’t you leave it to Google.

A big reason that we started “Amplify Athletes” is because athletes NEED to have sites, but it needs to be done in an affordable way that they can maintain themselves. Don’t fool yourself into think that this is not an important part of attracting sponsors. You have to spend money to make money.

Be Seen

Be in the news, be on TV, be on YouTube, the best thing you can do for a sponsor is be EVERYWHERE. You want people to see you all the time, at events networking, at awards, receiving awards. The last thing you want to do is be caught missing in action.

This is the one that I struggle with the most because I enjoy just being alone and on my computer. To succeed though you need to be willing to get out and meet people. Business deals happen in natural settings a lot of times, not just through emails and business proposals.  Get seen as often as possible.

If you want to attract sponsors without being considered one of the best or well-known athletes of your sort it is going to take a lot of work on your part. In saying that is can be done. Please leave a comment with any tips that you may have for others to help them make the right moves.

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KHO Health was acquired by was acquire by 9INE POINT in the summer of 2019 and is now referred to as 9INE POINT Health.

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