Five reality check items for individual athletes in their struggle for sponsorship

(a sequence to my writings about sponsorship in marginal individual sports)

  1. The return over investment (ROI) for companies in sport are chiefly in events. Big companies will spend big bucks on big events. That’s it: plain and simple. Maybe your return would be proportionally higher, but given the magnitude of what is at stake, it doesn’t matter at all. So, unless you are a professional sport superstar, forget Nike, Samsung, Honda or Microsoft.
  2. If you are an athlete, and only that, you must find companies that whatever you do may help to promote or add value to the brand. That means doing some serious research into niche companies. The obvious place to start is equipment and apparel. Then come the slightly less obvious: a backpack manufacturer might be interested in adventure sports athletes.
  3. Usually, you need to “know the guy who knows the guy”. You look at that company you love, whose products you actually buy, whom you think you would be the best representative to because you are not only a good athlete, but also educated and a good writer and they don’t even read your project. You can even add pretty to the list of attributes: it doesn’t matter. They will sponsor the athlete who knows the guy who knows the guy. So, your number one job is know some guy. Networking.
  4. It does help if you are not only an athlete and you have a good story to sell. Athletes are cheap and usually sell themselves cheap. The company will not pay you to win a championship, since most of the time the best you can be is a micro-celebrity in a microcosm community. That’s really not what the company has in mind in terms of reaching the widest possible audience.
  5. Don’t try to “sell” your sport or your titles. Nobody cares. You need to do a good background research and understand the needs of that company. If you are lucky enough to find the guy who knows the guy and get an interview, that’s what you need to show: that you know what they need and you can help them with that. Your sport and your title only matter if you can show they will add value to that company’s brand and will help it sell more.

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