How to approach a potential sponsor

First off, a hard fact that you need to bear in mind is around 95% of CVs that land on a Sports Marketing Managers desk is met with a “no”. Not because they are trying to be horrible but purely that they have a budget allocation and need to monitor and stay within that budget. What you want to ensure is that you separate yourself from the rest and that your CV is putting you into that top 5% for the brand to consider. Even at this point you may only be considered for a product sponsorship to see how you perform and fit in before being considered for cash incentives.

To elaborate on this topic I had a chat with Seth Hulley – Oakley’s Sports Marketing Manager for all sports in Sub Saharan Africa, Oakley Surf in Europe as well as global responsibilities in the Oakley Surf category. We focused on a few necessary steps when approaching a brand for sponsorship:

· Do your homework, find out how involved the brand is with your sport already – which athletes/events do they sponsor. How do you fit into that mold or more important how would you add value to the brand especially if they are not involved with your sport.

· Get involved and be seen: dominate your local spot – have other people talking about you, go to and enter events, attend product launches. Hang out with the current team riders, get introduced to the relevant staff and hopefully the Sports Marketing Manager but remember don’t be overbearing – nobody likes a stalker.

· Buy and utilise the product – promote it, believe in it/love it before you just send a CV for sponsorship. You need to be seen making the effort before and not just “I’ll use and promote the product if you sponsor me”.

· When you send your CV to a brand make sure you sending it to a person and the right person, don’t just send it through an automated online email address or info@… Make the effort, call head office and ask or search for the right person, in this day and age of social media like LikedIn and Instagram information is available to you to find the Sports Marketing/Marketing/Sponsorship Manager of any brand.

· When sending your CV, remember that the person receiving it gets many in a day. It doesn’t need to be elaborate and over produced – keep it simple and precise:

o One page – make sure you are putting in the absolute most important information. People don’t have time to read a thesis.

o A couple lines introducing yourself, your involvement in that sport and why you feel you would add value to the brand.

o Highlighted results – top achievements, not every competition result since you could walk.

o Two or three action pictures, make sure they are good quality and purchased – don’t use watermarked images. It is important to have a profile picture too especially if you are in a sport that covers your face with a helmet.

o Links to your social media. If a brand is intrigued by your CV they will then do their own research on you, “unprivate” your accounts as you need to be searchable.

o Allow your personality to shine in your explanation of yourself and in your images. A brand is not looking for all of the same type of person for their roster, there is definitely a market for more edgy characters(we will cover that at a later stage).

o Be proud of the opportunity to present yourself to the brand and what you have to offer them. This goes back to the point of ensuring you already support, utilise and are knowledgeable of the brands products.

There are a few key “what not to do’s” to take note of:

· When making contact for the first time, remember you are sending a CV and introducing yourself, don’t send your expectations as generally you over or under sell yourself to the brand which will more than likely get your proposal dismissed. Rather gain the brands interest in you for them to make contact for either a follow up mail, call or meeting where a better gauge of expectations can be made.

· Don’t oversell yourself in your CV. With the ease of tracking social media and sporting fraternities(all sports) in South Africa being rather small and tight knit it is easy to find out accurate information and Sports Marketing Managers will do their due diligence before sponsoring an athlete.

· Don’t compare yourself to other athletes, especially not ones already on the brands team – it’s distasteful.

· Don’t “spray and pray” your CV – put effort into your CV for that particular brand and make sure that’s the only brand you want to be affiliated with in that sector. Don’t just send it out to every brand and hope for one to bite, the industry(in all sports) is small and contrary to popular belief they all talk and if you are “shopping around” you will be found out and it wont be good for you.

We will let you take in all that information for now and give you some time to work on your CV and really consider who you would like to represent and how you are going to present yourself to that brand. Through a number of these posts, we will cover topics like accepting an offer and working and growing with the brand to potentially move up from a product athlete to cash incentives. The importance of building relationships with brands to create longevity in a career. Social media and showcasing your individual personality. Working with media. Roles of Athlete and Sports Marketing Managers and even parting ways with a brand.

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.

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