Pitching for sponsorship is about finding the middle ground between an athletes wants and a brands needs. A want is something that an individual desires but would be able to live without – such as a sponsorship. A need is something necessary to be sustainable – a good marketing strategy which yields a return on investment.
You wont be able to sell yourself to a brand if you don’t know your value:
• What do feel your value is to that brand?
• Why do you believe you are worth that to that brand?
Many athletes make a similar mistake when approaching brands – not knowing how to justify their value and being able to show what they are worth to the brand. Simply leading with “I have lots of social media followers” or “I win all the events I enter” is not strong enough to justify the cost to the brand. To a brand manager, no matter how “small” the investment may seem – it still needs to be justified in comparison to other opportunies available to them.
A good way to calculate your potential value to a brand is look at their current athletes, what are they doing with regards to media, contests and promoting the brand within the community. However, it is important to note that this is just for you to measure yourself – you are NEVER to actually make reference between yourself and a current athlete when pitching to a brand. Read that sentence again as it is very important.
How much do you want? The general reply is the cost of competing for that year – travel, food, accommodation, entry fees and some small miscellaneous items. What happens at the end of the year? Where do you live? How do you get around? How do you eat? These questions are met with either a blank stare or “my parents”(refer to the first paragraph again for the definition of a need verus a want). So, the real question is: how much do you need?
Once the need is established: how much and why should the brand give that to you? If you say “all of it” it better be backed up with a solid reason. It is important to take into consideration when planning a pitch that the cost of product is still a cost to company as well as a value add to you. If you asking for product that is going to benefit your performance, especially if it is expensive(bikes, boards, kites etc), are you valuable enough to also be asking for a cash contribution too? As mentioned already “I have lots of social media followers” or “I win all the events I enter” is not adequate enough and a sure way to receive the “thank you but no thanks” response. As a sponsored athlete, you are a marketing tool – marketing and sales are directly linked. A brand is not there to pay for you to “chase your dream”. If you have a sentence similar to this in your resume – delete it. If the brand is not selling product, there is no money for marketing – no sponsorship. How will sponsoring you assist the brand in selling more product? What is your return on investment?
Lets look at your value offering starting with the common online “followers”. There is this disillusion that you need to have a large number of followers online in order to be seen as having an influence. However, what are you doing with these followers? Do you know how many people do you really have an influence over? The real measure should be on your engagement and further more your interaction:
•Engagement can be translated into simply the sort after “double tap” on Instagram. Think about how you speed scroll and “like” an image or video. Did you really take the time to see what was going on? Did you read the caption?
• Interaction – this is someone taking the time to leave a comment whether it is to compliment the image/video or agree/disagree with the caption. Did they recommend the post to a friend by tagging them in or sharing the post?
More than an absurdly large number of followers, interactions are your key selling point to a brand as that can be utilised to drive traffic to their pages, competitions, promotions and stores all to prompt sales.
Followers are not just online, how much influence do you have at your local spot? Are people looking at what brand you are wearing or equipment you using and asking you about it or for your opinion. Are you promoting your brand and telling people why you choose to be affiliated with it: because of its quality, its functionality or the brands stance on global issues? Creating the want for people to head to the local store to purchase it saying “I saw Athlete X wearing this” or “Athlete X told me it would help me improve my skills”. That is the sort of marketing that gets back to the brand managers and puts you as the obvious choice when it comes time to look at budgets and which marketing tool to choose. Remember the article “how to approach a potential sponsor” – if you really want to be apart of the brand and believe in their product and message, you should be using it and promoting it before you are a sponsored athlete, that way you would have your local shop owner as a reference to the brand manager which is more powerful than any well designed resume.
Results do matter, some a lot more than others and again questions need to be asked: how many people were at the event – entrants and spectators? What was the level of competition? How much coverage did the event get aside from eyes at the event – print, TV, social media? With all that in mind, how much of the coverage were you able to gain and promote the brand? This is all value add to a sponsor – were you able to show the competitive advantage of the brands product and put the brand in a good light either by being on the podium or showing the mental maturity of a true professional(if the event never went according to plan)?
What is your stance on global matters and how does that tie into the brands views? Are you a good fit for what you and the brand believe in? A question to ask yourself: if the brand couldn’t pay you or potentially even give you the product you needed for free, would you still use/partner with the brand? If there is any doubt at all to this question then you should rather walk away as it is going to take effort to meet the brands expectations and generally one of the parties is going to be left dissatisfied. If you believe in everything the brand is doing, you shouldn’t have to be “checking” off a list of expectations to promote/impress the brand – it should all be happening seamlessly(using this to avoid using the word authentic).
You should be getting into a partnership with a brand to grow a long term relationship. When starting a new partnership, it is advicable to have a trial period to ensure that a long term relationship would be simple and comfortable for both parties to grow and benefit. There needs to be open communication between the parties to best work together, remember the article “Importance of relationships in sponsorship”. The mutual balancing point of a sponsorship is where expectations of the brand and the incentives to the athlete meet. These should be clearly stated:
• What needs to be achieved and by when?
• How many social posts a week/month – what tags should be used?
• How much and what content needs to be generated?
• Is the deal event results orientated?
• Will the athlete be needed for brand appearances?
• What the athlete will be receiving?
• How the athlete would be remunerated for achieving the brands expectations?
• How achieving all the expectations would put the athlete in a secure standing in the future with the brand.
We hope this has given you food for thought in planning your proposals and value proposition when approaching a brand for sponsorship. We are going to continue to share knowledge to assist you in your sporting career journey.
Should you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to drop us a message and we will always try our best to assist or you may have a topic that we can explain that will assist/inform other athletes as well.