by George Leone
You've got this awesome project, machine or skill and you want to get sponsored! Good for you! But sponsorships can be really hard to find. It's like getting your first job. They want someone with "experience" but how do you get "experience" since you have to start somewhere? One thing that's unique about Boca Bearings is that they are willing to take on the "Little Guy" teams that have had no previous experience with sponsorships. This is a rare opportunity to learn how to be a Pro, and get a reputation in your sport of being a good asset to companies. This will open doors to other sponsorships, many who would not take an unsponsored team on. Boca can open the door to you continuing in your sport and winning for a long time to come! Plus they are really great people to work with!
So what is Sponsorship? Are there companies out there willing to support you with products (or very rarely cash) just because you're a nice person? Perhaps so, but there's more to it than someone just handing you schwag. It's a RELATIONSHIP. This means that there is mutual benefit for both parties. The sponsor wants to sell more products. You can help them do that while you do the sport you love. If you make the sponsorship beneficial for your sponsor, they will invite you back, because you're an Asset. If it's not beneficial, you become a Liability, and they won't invite you back. There's plenty of other people out there waiting in line.
So what do sponsors see as assets? A primary asset is living up to your contract. You DID read it, before you signed it right? And you made sure you would be able to live up to its' requirements? If you're not sure, talk to your potential sponsor. Sponsorship contracts involve communication. Communication goes in two directions. Like any relationship, problems happen when both parties make assumptions and the assumptions turn out to be different. Get it clear what the sponsor wants.
First is communication between you and your sponsor (reports, feedback, pictures, etc.) so they know that you're working for them, what you're doing, how you're using their product and any problems you're having. This last is very important, since you may be using the product wrong or inefficiently and hurting your chances of winning. Let the sponsor know if you have problems and do it privately. (I'll get back to this later). Sponsors will show off what you do on their website, handouts, etc. and this will help to attract other sponsors to you. Second is communication between you and the "public". The public is your fans, spectators at events you go to, your competitors, people that read about you on-line or in print (web pages, Facebook, Twitter, newspapers, magazines etc.). It's anyone you encounter that becomes aware of the unique thing that you do. It's your job to communicate to them that you're using your sponsor's product and how it benefits you. You do this by displaying banners, posters, giving out schwag, wearing shirts or hats with your sponsor's name on them, talking or writing about the sponsor's product. This means that you should have some information and knowledge about the products and where to get them. You should be polite and diplomatic to all.
The other asset sponsors see is "Professionalism". It's the little things that you do that reflects that you are a serious, dedicated competitor that really knows what you are doing. It's lots of little things that give the public a positive impression of you and your team and your sponsor, too. Look at NASCAR or X-Games competitors and teams. How they dress, what they say, what they DON'T say, how they conduct themselves.
You'll notice that it doesn't mean you are always winning. In fact how you conduct yourselves when you aren't winning is a greater indicator of your professionalism. You and your sponsor know that you can't win every time, so how you act when you lose can make or break your current and future sponsorships. Other companies are looking, too.
Professional teams are organized, have a "uniform". This can range from everyone wearing the same clean color t-shirt and clean jeans all the way to full commercial uniforms. Pro's act appropriately in all contacts with the public and their competitors (no swearing, spitting, drinking alcohol, smoking, roughhousing, cheating, trash talking others) have clean equipment and work areas, display their sponsors' logos, banners, etc., are polite and friendly to everyone, talk their sponsor's product up. When pro's lose, they don't blame their sponsors, even if a part failed-you may have installed it wrong or ordered it wrong . Trashing your sponsor (even if the part was a piece of junk) will make other potential sponsors stay away from you. If it's junk, talk to your sponsor about it privately, they will go the extra mile to make it right for you!
Don't be a sore loser, don't trash your competitors (even if they were jerks). Use phrases like "It just wasn't our day" or "We had a bit of a mechanical problem, not exactly sure what it was" or "Our competitor had a great day and we just couldn't get by him today". Always be diplomatic to officials and judges. If necessary, file a protest in the appropriate way determined by the sport's rules and leave it at that. Don't go back and gripe about it, whether you win or lose the protest. Word gets around in sports on how you conduct yourself. If you're acting like a Pro, it's a lot easier to get sponsorship from other companies once they see how you treat your current sponsor.
So here's a great opportunity to work with a great sponsor, Boca Bearings, who make a great product and move forward in your sport! Keep Winning!
Primal Speedbike Team