A guide to athlete sponsorship

A guide to athlete sponsorship

A guide that explains how athletes can approach companies asking for sponsorship, and how businesses can leverage sponsorship to their advantage.

I am writing this blog because I had a great question come in from a professional athlete who wants to know how to use social platforms to gain sponsorship. This question came about because he wanted to know if Instagram is enough to be gaining attention from potential sponsors, or whether he should create a website with a blog and generate attention this way.

And it’s a great question because when it comes to personal brands and when it comes to leveraging that personal brand for sponsorship and understanding where and how to play is so important. I would recommend that the first thing you do is to put yourself in the eyes of the potential sponsors. So, I would like to start by touching on this from the perspective of the potential sponsor.

When working in the corporate world I began to notice where businesses went wrong when sponsoring. Where businesses tend to go wrong with sponsorship is that they don’t necessarily know how to activate or leverage that sponsorship. So, to all the businesses out there I want you to think about how sponsoring can benefit your company. I want you to start thinking about how you can leverage sponsorship to your advantage. For example, if you’re a company that has a negative perception in the community, say you’re a Monsanto, when you sponsor someone (like an Australian athlete) make sure you promote this to show the good you do in the community, to help build a positive reputation. Even if you already have a positive reputation, I would still recommend doing this. This helps drive customer loyalty as people want to be associated with a brand that has positive impacts on the community. If you have a product based company, you can use this sponsorship to endorse your brand and get your brand out there. Most athletes have a huge online following, especially on Instagram, and you can use this to your advantage. As part of the sponsorship agreement, you can include terms that ensure athletes do X amount of posts on Instagram wearing or using your products for example.

So, back to the athletes seeking the sponsorship, you need to start thinking about how you could benefit these companies if they were to sponsor you. Start paying attention to them, and find any gaps in their business strategy (for example social media) and show them how you can fill this gap. You also need to think about who would be a good sponsor for you, or relevant to what you do. Don’t just think that sponsorship can come from anybody or business that has money. You need to think of the companies that you would love to have as sponsors. The companies who you would love the attention of, and the attention of their audience, and who you would love to be associated with. If you’re a kayaker for example, and you use a particular paddle or PDF, reach out to the brands that have the products that you typically use, or the brands with products that you would love to have.  

Photo credits: Australian Canoeing

Once you have established the companies that you would like sponsorship from, it is now time to look into who their audience or customers are, and start thinking of the ways in which you could potentially add value to this audience. It could be that you already have the attention of this audience, which is what you can leverage for sponsorship.

It is so important that you really think about how you can provide them with value in the exchange, not just saying “hey I am going to be on TV, I can put your logo on my helmet”, because that is only one part of the equation, you need to sell yourself more than that and show the long-term benefits that you can provide to the business.

Secondly, you want to start thinking about who you already have the attention of. So, if you are an Australian Wildwater Athlete you’ve probably already got the attention of other kayakers, or up and coming kayakers and potentially other extreme sporting athletes. And once you know who your audience is, you can begin to think of the companies or brands that would benefit from attaining the attention of your audience. Here you can maybe start to list the brands that sell niche paddling gear such as Wildwater PDF’s, paddles, kayak booties, helmets, roof racks or clothing. These are the types of businesses that would benefit from the attention of your audience as they would be potential customers. And this is what they can an ‘influence strategy’, whereby you can influence your audience to purchase or associate with these brands.

So how do you do that? Of course, social media is the selling point, so if I were an athlete looking to build my personal brand up I’d definitely start on social media. I would be activating Facebook, Instagram, and even Snap Chat, and start growing those three audiences to begin with. On these channels the things you can begin sharing are personal things about yourself, show your audience what you’re doing, your training regime, where you train, the equipment you use, share tips, where you travel to for sport, up and coming events and so on. By spending time and effort engaging with your audience, this is what will help you influence.

Further, I would also suggest that you look at having a LinkedIn profile because this is where Business’s spend their time online. This is where you can create your professional sporting ‘resume’, where you can highlight your achievements and accomplishments so far as an athlete. This gives you credibility at a professional business level.

From there as you start to make money to get paid for participating in competitions, I would highly recommend investing that money into your personal online profile. That could be investing in getting a professional website made, where you can start a blog and build an even larger audience this way. As you build a greater audience you can also start to think about creating some really valuable content, like explainer videos for your audience. Again, using the example of kayakers, in these videos you could show the equipment you use, give away technique tips, talk about the things people will need to consider before going on an overseas kayak trip etc.

There are so many things that you can implement once you understand what your audience wants to see and potentially your sponsors have to see. And by investing in your personal brand, you can use this as leverage when seeking sponsorship. And you approach them and you can say “hey, I’ve got a professional website and I’ve got a lot of attention in the kayak community on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat”. And this is where you start to talk about how you can share the company’s products or service to this audience,

The ultimate goal is to identify how you can add the most value to your sponsor’s brand to show them how you can influence and drive traffic to their website, to their content, and facilitate converting them into valuable customers. And that’s how I’d go about getting sponsorship. I recently gave this advice to a group of Kayakers which has helped result in the building of their website which can be seen here. This website has implemented the strategies that I have provided above. 

So, if you’re interested in learning more and you feel that you need a simplified guide to business marketing strategies feel free to  reach out to me on Facebook or LinkedIn or check out my content on my Instagram page where I give away tips on how to use social platforms and build audiences on social media. Check out my recent blog where I talk about how to build the right type of following on Instagram if this is something that you feel would help you through this process. I’ll be more than happy to help if you have any questions or uncertainties in regards to your sponsorship or business strategy. 

Hero & Feature image credits: Cee Photography 



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