Sponsorships: Looking like a business

Posted on January 11, 2010

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photo credit-http://www.crystalinks.com/toughlove.html

Although this was my first year of actually trying to acquire sponsors outside of my town I’ve spoken to three pros (1 cyclist; 2 triathletes) in the past month about the topic.  Everyone seems to have the same general consensus about how to get them and its about who you know in the biz.

This was hard to rationalize for me this year. Throughout my childhood I was told by my father to be respectful and humble when someone comments on your ability (i.e. Comment: “Hey kid, you’re pretty good.” Response: “Thank you.” When I was 5 my Dad overheard me respond, “I know.” Man did I learn not to do that again quickly!)  My high school and college coach reiterated the same lesson, to be classy, not say anything and let your legs and performance do the talking. Well, let me tell you that if you only take that approach and wait for sponsors and money to bust down your door then you are severely mistaken.

I was out on a ride yesterday morning (it was 4 degrees outside. Brrrr!) with a local pro cyclist.  He’s ridden for Team USA and finished in the top 20 overall in the USA Norba standings before so hes no joke. Anyways, we had a really great discussion about get sponsors and since he’s been doing it for over 5 years or so he’s comments were it’s who you know. He personally lost out on some opportunities because the person who he was in communication with, their friend decided to ride for the season so he gave the full ride to him and his friends.

My triathlete friends, who win a lot of the big non-drafting races in the country, would probably confirm the above message.

So back to what I did. I made a list of companies in my region (Northeast), searched for contact names and numbers and just started making phone calls. This was really hard because you have to basically explain to the person that you think your talent can directly help their business.  For someone who hates to brag it can take a lot of effort just to dial the phone.  But, ultimately I justified that there are a lot of fast and talented athletes out there who are struggling or never got the opportunity to pursue their dream. And there are some people who are not that talented at all living the life!  So what makes one successful and the other not?  If you look at yourself as 1) the athlete and 2)the business and can differentiate the too when you need to I think thats the difference. You’re the athlete when you are training, racing and interacting with fellow competitors.  You are the business when you are networking and making contacts either via email/phone or after big races or events.

Anyways, I found that if I talk to the people closer to the top that stuff got done. Although some directed it to someone below them, I often received a prompt email and the process began. I ended up making some head way with Litespeed and Serrota.  Now, since I’m not a Pro yet I got the, “We’d love to work with you and sell you one of our bikes at a discount.” I understand that is the first level of sponsorship but, I already get free bikes from my bike shop Bikeway Bicycles in Wappingers Falls, NY. I intend on keeping the contacts I made informed of my results and explained to them that, hopefully down the road, we can develop a working relationship.

Again these are just me observations after a year or so of pursuing this but, like I said, have several friends who have been run through the sponsor mill.

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