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Top five myths about the sponsorship

By on June 16, 2015

Vickie Saunders launched The Sponsorship Consultants in February 2014 to provide resources and consultancy to athletes of all levels seeking sponsorship. She shares her knowledge with athletes through seminars, her book ‘Sponsorship for Athletes’ and her resource and consultancy programmes, all of which empower athletes with the skills, resources and knowledge to engage their own valuable sponsorship.

She works with athletes from around the world, teaching them the skills they need to identify their sponsorship needs, identify potential sponsors, create engagement strategies and powerful sponsorship proposals, and how to manage and retain the sponsorship once they’ve got it!

It is a Saint Grail of every BJJ competitor to become a sponsored athlete. Jiu-jitsu is an expensive sport; you have to buy new gear regularly, pay academy fees, then there’s supplements and proper nutrition, attending training camps and of course you have to travel and compete as much as possible! It all adds up very quickly!  When a sponsor covers even a part of those expenses, your BJJ progress will be much faster.

There are so many misconceptions around what sponsorship is, what it isn’t, who can get it, who can’t, and those who think they’re entitled to it just because they’re good at their sport. Here are the top five biggest myth about it.

Myth No 1. There isn’t much sponsorship around because of the ‘current economic climate’. There is an ABUNDANCE of sponsorship available globally, and it is available to athletes of all levels and in all sports, it’s all about connecting with the right companies in the right way, and being able to offer valuable return on their investment.

The word abundance means that there is more than enough, and this is something to keep in mind when you ever feel like you’re competing with other athletes for sponsorship. Leave the competiveness out on the trail or track, and when it comes to sponsorship know that there is enough for everyone, so support and encourage each other. It’s about making connections with the right sponsors, in the right way. Not every sponsor and athlete will be the perfect match.

Myth No. 2: Sponsors only look for elite, medal winning athletes.
Sponsors are businesses and they need to generate revenue. While TV coverage of an Olympic gold medal win will definitely generate interest and potential revenue for a sponsor, for 99.99% of the worlds athletes, that just isn’t the reality. And that’s ok, because it’s all the other stuff that you can offer sponsors which is important! Being able to create interesting content for their social media, sharing information about your sponsors throughout your own networks, and many other activities that directly enhance the company’s objectives and marketing activities.

Social media and media activity are valuable benefits you can offer to sponsors, so it’s important to get really active in these before you start engaging sponsorship. Show your sponsors that you’re able to offer them a wider and potentially new audience, but make sure that this is relevant to their business.

You can get lots of media coverage, most of you have interesting stories and those qualities I mentioned before are all great content for magazines, podcasts, radio and newspaper interviews and sometimes TV. It’s about putting yourself out there, thinking a bit outside the square and contacting journalists and offering to share your story with them. A great pitch to potential sponsors is that you can offer them media coverage with outlets they already advertise with so it draws more attention to their adverts, or in place of their advertising thus saving them thousands of dollars and giving them great return on their investment in you.

Myth No. 3: Patch on your Gi is the only thing you can offer to the sponsor. Jiu-jitsu competitors have some pretty outstanding abilities, and while you may become third or even get out of finals, the fact that you’re out there pushing your own limits, creating challenges for yourself and going beyond what many people think is humanly possible, means you have something to offer your sponsors. In the business world, the very skills that get you through that fear and pain and literally get you out of your comfort zone and stepping on the mat, are the kind of skills they want to impart on their staff; courage, commitment, focus, drive, determination, persistence and an ability to work towards goals big and small.

When you look at a company that you want to engage sponsorship from, look first at what you can give back to them, and try to be creative! Look at opportunities that are obvious but also think about how in the future the relationship may develop. Maybe they have marketing plans that you could be a part of such as attending trade shows and conferences with them or on their behalf, or perhaps they’re launching a new product range and you could be the face of it.

Everyone has something to offer, and by going through a process of identifying your assets objectively, you will begin to see how you can give a great return to sponsors.

Myth No. 4: You are lucky if you get a free Gi, so never ask for more. One of the biggest challenges I face with my clients or attendees at my seminars is getting them to see their own worth and value to a sponsor, that they are a valuable investment with so much to offer and that they are not being greedy by asking for more (as long as they are prepared to deliver on the benefits they are offering in return). Humility is something that is ingrained in BJJ athletes, and while it’s an endearing quality, at some point it becomes detrimental and may in fact hold them back from engaging in the level of sponsorship they need and are worth!

Part of the process I go through with my clients is figuring out exactly what they need from sponsors, it may just be product and services, or it may be finance. Then we talk about what they really want out of being sponsored, because if it’s just some free Gi or rushguard, I would advise them to just buy it and not waste a sponsor’s time. The athletes who see the bigger picture, that it’s not just about getting free gear, are the ones that will truly benefit from being sponsored and in turn, will truly provide value to their sponsors.

Myth No. 5: Only major BJJ brands could afford to sponsor you. Could you imagine, how many inquiries for sponsorship Gi manufacturers and MMA online stores get monthly? Tons! In the meantime, your local equipment manufacturers, sport nutrition supplements stores, fitness centers and many other companies are missing out…..they don’t even know about opportunities they can get from sponsoring you and all the great ways you can help them activate and enhance their marketing and promotional activities.

Whether you’re an elite BJJ competitor or not, whether you’re looking to engage a small or a large amount of sponsorship, the process is exactly the same.

When you look for sponsorship, start with companies you are either a loyal customer of or already have some kind of personal or professional relationship with (it’s via a family member or friend).

Find out about the company before you contact them. Check out their previous or current sponsorships and event participation, sense where and how they advertise, and get a good feel for what they’re all about.

Next time I will tell you about top ten tips for making perfect sponsorship proposal. Good luck!

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