With the power of social media, athlete sponsorship is no longer only for world class athletes. By crowdfunding with MAKEACHAMP, athletes can take funding into their own hands. Social media tools allow athletes to leverage the power of content marketing to find sponsors and get funded. As an athlete, all you have to do is follow the important steps described below. Above all else, you can, NOT be shy to ask for sponsorship!
Today, many companies are investing a lot of money into building their social media profiles by creating streams of relatable and shareable content. Corporations need content that their audience can relate to because it helps them build a brand that will win over customers. Since we are are more likely to make a purchase from a company that we follow on social media, many companies are hungry for social media ambassadors.
Thats where you come in. As an athlete, this is your chance to stand up and capture this incredible opportunity to help these companies with their content marketing and in return, get sponsored.
When a company sponsors you, they are expecting you to represent the company publicly on social media. Which means, if you are looking to get sponsored, you need to have the right image on social media.
Sponsorships are about credibility and about creating a relationship. The importance of your public image cannot be emphasized enough. To drive this point home, imagine that youve been working on a brand for a long time and you ran into a person who you think would be a good face and fit for your brand. Before making the offer, however, youll need to know what people think about this person and what type of person he or she is. If this person is seen negatively, it will be immediately associated with you and it will impact your brand negatively. This is similar to our scenario when you are asking to get sponsored – you are asking to be the face of a company that has been working to build a strong positive image for many years – so its no joke. However, with a little bit of work you can create the image that companies will look for in a sponsored athlete.
Many athletes say they want to get sponsored but they don’t know exactly what that means. As athletes, and in our athletic pursuits, we know that the more specific the goal, the more likely we are to achieve it. We should use the same logic to seek out and land our sponsorship. Let’s look at what exactly is meant by sponsorship.
1. Tier 1 : Donation/Contribution – A person or organization contributes funds to a cause or activity. Essentially, this is a one-way transaction with perhaps a small thank you note going back to the sponsor.2. Tier 2 : Shop Sponsorship – A local store or company provides the athlete with free or discounted gear/equipment.
3. Tier 3 : Amateur Sponsorship – Athlete receive free or discounted equipment/gear and also some financial compensation for travel expenses or competition fees.
4. Tier 4 : Professional Sponsorship – Equipment expenses are covered and a pay check is received as well.
By going up the ranks of sponsorship levels, you gain credibility, experience and critical knowledge to help you with future sponsors. Also, remember that not all sponsorships are equal. The tiers provided here are simply guidelines – every company will have their preferences. But the most important thing is to start low and work your way up the ladder. With every successful sponsorship you will have more opportunities opening up with the same sponsor and also with other sponsors. For example, if you do a Tier 1 sponsorship with your local athletic clothing store, perhaps a supplement company might notice and offer you a Tier 2 sponsorship.
When you’re reaching out to sponsors, know that they will do their research about you (just as you should do your research about them, but we will get to that later). It is important that you “control” what they find or at least create the appearance that you want. For example, you’d want your athletic profile or website (you can create a page for free on MAKEACHAMP) to pop up as the first result on Google when your name is searched. This will allow you to create an image that will increase your chances to get sponsored. Your page should have the following:
– Your athletic biography or your story
– Professional athletic pictures
– Collection of all your appearances in the media and press
– Sponsors (to have more credibility)- Links to your social media channels
Social media has couple of roles to play in regards to sponsorship. The first is it helps you brand yourself as an athlete with the profile image and the content that you share. The second thing that social media helps you with in regards to getting sponsored is that it helps you give a return on investment to your sponsors. For this, you will need to have a reasonable number of followers. We’ll get to increasing your followers on social media in a bit but first let’s start with branding ourselves as athletes on social media.
1. Create a Facebook Page
2. Create a Twitter Profile – here is a Twitter guide for athletes.
3. Create an Instagram Account – here is a guide for Instagram.
4. Create a Snapchat account
All these accounts should have a link to your “main athlete-hub or website”. They should also look professional with a nice picture of you doing your sport. You should also have a description that describes your passion for your sport and also differentiates you from other athletes. You should answer the question of “what you do stand for in your sport?” or “what makes you different from your teammates?”
Here I want to make a quick point about the serious inferiority complex that most amateur athletes suffer from. Almost every amateur athlete thinks they are not good enough to market themselves on social media OR they don’t want to look arrogant OR they think no one cares about what they do. This attitude stems from their sport and constantly looking at their flaws in attempts to improve their performance. I know this was the case for me. Please know this: as an athlete you are a role model for a lot of young children. Simply by trying to achieve greatness in your sport, many young people look up to you. I know you don’t see this but it is the truth. Many parents would love for their children to meet you and get inspired by you. If you look back at when you started your career, I bet it was another “world-class” athlete who inspired you.
Remember, your attributes include being highly competitive. You are determined and passionate. You have exceptional perseverance. You are pushing the limits of human capabilities. Your body is a machine which you’ve spent years training twice a day. You ARE a role model in so many different ways!
My point : IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU ANYMORE
Are you thinking about sharing that grueling workout on your social media.? Considering letting the world know about your nutrition program and total commitment to a healthy lifestyle? Are you hesitating because you’re worried about what your teammates will think of you? STOP thinking and press the share button. It’s not just about your image anymore, it’s also about the millions of kids hungry for inspiration.They need to see you train and understand the sacrifices you make to achieve your fullest potential. Sharing online is how you grow your followers and thats essential to gaining sponsorships. In sum, when it comes to social media and your experience as a highly competitive athlete, think less and share more.
1. Show Them A Return On Their Investment
Now that you have a community of followers on social media, you can show the companies that sponsor you a return on their investment. You can do this simply by adding a picture or video on your social media and tagging the company’s social media or website in that post. The result is that your community of followers are being steered by you to follow your sponsor on social media or even buy their product.
This is called using your influence. And, this is the way many companies grow their network of followers and expand their market: by leveraging someone else’s hard earned and loyal network.
Athletes have an incredible ability to bring people together. Corporations will often ask athletes to attend seminars, forums and various corporate events to help connect and motivate their people. Athletes have inspirational stories that help to create the right atmosphere for community building inside an organization. This unique ability possessed all highly competitive athletes has great value to sponsors.
Another aspect of business where athletes can provide exceptional value is product research and testing. This is especially true if the company sponsoring you is marketing products or services to athletes. For example, a company that manufactures athletic clothing might ask you to test some of their products — providing them with high value feedback and observations — before moving to mass production. This can be an important aspect of sponsorship because for so many companies, opinions and advice from highly accomplished athletes is often hard to come by. Thats why it is up to you to give the best and most complete feedback possible when asked to do so.
This step involves finding sponsors that you are interested in and which might be interested in you, learning about them and following them on social media.
Most athletes look for large corporations to give them funding. The thinking is that because these companies have more money, they will sponsor more athletes. However, the contrary is true. The more money a company has, the fewer athletes they will sponsor. Large companies are highly selective and usually concentrate their spending on a few athletes instead of spreading their funds thinly among many athletes. Since a sponsorship is a partnership, mega-brands like Nike and Adidas will not allow just any athlete to represent them. They cant afford to risk their reputation or to have their brand tarnished. But do not despair! There are tons of small to medium sized companies out there that will be more than happy to sponsor you. You just need to ask. To give you some ideas, here is a list of the types of companies you can look to for sponsorship:
– Local companies that specialize in your sport
– Highly specialized companies in your sport
– Local businesses.
– General athletic companies
– Companies you can help based on your personality or accomplishments
– Companies that you like, even if they are not sports related
– Companies that can help you with specific things, like travel or nutrition providers
Using a spreadsheet, build the longest possible list of potential sponsors, including also their website address, their physical location(s), their social media and their status in their industry.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this step. If you do just this step, you will already be ahead of the game. I know this because I made this mistake myself when searching for sponsorship. Also, many athletes continuously ask for sponsorship from MAKEACHAMP but fail to even learn about what we do and who we are. Go to every potential sponsors website and read about them. Understand their mission, their vision, and their team. Learn everything you can. Subscribe to their e-newsletter, read their blog and follow their social media. This will give you enough information to answer the following questions:
– Where are they located?
– What is special about this company, how does it stand out among its competitors
– What are their values, what is their mission?
– Do they sponsor athletes? What type of athletes do they sponsor?
– Who are the key employees? What is the leadership team like?
– Will you fit in well?
– How can you connect with them?
You should learn about the company’s needs, such as what type of content are they currently creating and if you could help with their current social media marketing. A lot of athletes skip this step and end up with a company they cannot help. There has to be synergy between the athlete and the company so that a win-win partnership with you is possible.
The other reason it is important to connect with these sponsors is simply you never know. By following them, the company receives a notification. There is a chance that they see your name and your profile. If you do well and you continue to like and share their content, your name and profile may become attractive to decision makers.
If youve spent couple of weeks following the brands and companies that you are targeting for your sponsorship, it is time to reach out. At this point you should have an idea of what type of content they are creating and how you could help them. Furthermore, make sure to read their “about page” on their website where you may find values that are synergistic with yours.
Now writing an email should be easier than you think because you are already familiar with the company or corporation. In this email your job is to introduce yourself but more importantly, its to state your mission and describe how you can help the potential sponsor achieve its corporate mission.
Crossfuel was started by a doctor who couldn’t find supplements to recommend to his athlete clients. I relate to this as I helped start a company to help myself and other athletes get funding for their sport.
My email to them looked like this :
The best way to reach out to them is connect to them on social media. Try to help them accomplish their mission and give them a shout out on your social media. What I did was buy their product, because I actually needed it. And then I shared a picture or video using it. Then I made sure to share that image and tag the company in it. I did it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. That made an impression on the company and they ended up reaching out to me through Twitter.
Within your circle of family/friends there is an individual or company looking to help out athletes like you.
Getting this type of sponsorship involves two often overlooked two steps. Most athletes assume that their friends and family know you need a sponsor but they often dont! Make sure your friends and family know you are aggressively looking for a sponsor or introductions to one. A great way to do that is to run a crowdfunding campaign on MAKEACHAMP. Running a campaign gathers all your friends and family members around your goals. They support your campaign by sharing and contributing to your campaign. If the right family member or friend spots your campaign, they’ll be able to sponsor it.
There are a lot of opportunities for athletes to get funded out there. It is up to you as the athlete to find out how and where you could get financial support for your athletic journey. We’ve done a bit of research in order to give you examples of the type of funding opportunities that are available for you today.
Below is a list of corporate sponsorships that an individual, a team and even a club can apply to right now. However, every company or corporation is different and has different needs. I would highly recommend that you do your research first, then customize your application to each sponsorship opportunity. Also, remember you can re-apply every year, just make sure to update your application and conform to new requirements, to make sure you qualify:
– Sponsorships through Hydro One – supporting a variety of community-based eventsthroughout Ontario
– Petro Canada – Supporting Canadian Athletes and Coaches
– Cosmos Sports – Supporting Organizations
If you are an athlete in Canada, you can also check out this list of grants and bursaries for athletes.
Whether you are already sponsored or you are just starting to seek sponsors, it is often very helpful to have an agent or an agency in your corner. They can help you with a variety of sponsor-related challenges, from creating a compelling story around your career to negotiating with sponsors on your behalf. You can find your local sports marketing agencies online and contact them to set up an appointment.
Crowdfunding with MAKEACHAMP is a great way for an athlete to not only get the funding they need but to also gain exposure and find a sponsor within their circle of supporters. You can start your campaign here.
If you are looking for sponsors for your sports team, check out this blog post.
Written by David Ancor / MAKEACHAMP