To Be or Not To Be Sponsored
I'm often asked about how I go about getting sponsored by so many companies, especially since I am not even close to being a professional athlete. I'm not a young chicky poo, way past my Olympic prime, and didn't start racing until I was 44 years old. But I participate in 20 or more races/events each year and I am a freelance writer of cycling, running and multisport articles. Professional athletes aren't the only athletes that can obtain a sponsorship deal.
I get stuff sent to me 2 ways. Media samples from a companies marketing or public relations department, or a free gear or pro deal discount as a sponsored athlete. Media samples are usually a one time deal, sponsorships are usually on going, although most companies make you submit a new application each year.
My Bike Diva site currently has a Google page rank of 4, Run Diva, which is fairly new, has a Google page rank of 2. I am also the Miami Running Fitness Examiner for Examiner.com, have written sports articles for Suite101.com and was recently approved as a Sports Feature Writer for Associated Content. Because of all the writing I do, I often get a better response targeting the public relations or marketing departments of individual companies, and asking for media samples to review, as opposed to applying to be a sponsored athlete.
I am even starting to get companies contacting me, asking if I would like to receive samples of their gear to review for one or more of my websites. The companies have been finding me either through my Twitter page or by discovering the Bike Diva blog. Sending me free gear to review, is probably more affordable, in the long run, than purchasing an ad on Bike Diva. And once I get a chance to use the items they send, I usually write one or more reviews of the items I tested.
Companies love pictures of their athletes using their products. Bike Diva and her husband hamming it up for Fluid protein recovery drink.
Here are a few links to some recent product reviews I've written:
Links to all the product reviews I've written can be viewed on my product endorsement page.Do Your Homework
How do you even start to look for companies that may offer you a sponsorship deal? Research companies you are interested in, such as those found advertising in cycling, running and triathlon magazines. Visit the companies website, and look around for a page with details on how to apply for sponsorship. For example, if you go to the Hammer Nutrition website, and scroll down to the bottom of the page, you will see a link listed under the Hammer Resources section titled sponsorship.
Most sponsorship applications are only accepted in the fall for sponsorship in the following year. I.e. most companies need you to apply sometime between September and December for sponsorship starting in January. Make sure you find out the exact dates the company accepts sponsorship. If you submit an application in April, and the company only accepts applications October 1st through November 30th, your sponsorship proposal will end up in their garbage can. Don't waste your time, don't waste the companies time, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
Example of a photo you may want to include with your sponsorship application. Proof that you actually race in the discipline you are looking to be sponsored in.
Also, you need to find out what form of application the company wants you to send them. Some companies want you to email them with your details, others have an online form you need to fill out, and some will even accept a good old snail mail application. I think I have the best chance for sponsorship when I can send a copy of my sponsorship proposal. I spent a lot of time putting my application together, which contains the following items:
1. One page report cover with picture of me at one of my races
2. One page cover sheet - a summary of who you are and why you are contacting the company
3. History and results of past races - most companies want you to have at least 3 years of racing history
4. Schedule of proposed races for the upcoming calendar year
5. Sponsorship expectations. What are you, the potential sponsored athlete looking to get out of a sponsorship deal. Free gear, pro deal discount on higher ticket items, monetary sponsorship?
6. Sponsorship coverage. If you are accepted as a sponsored athlete, what will you do for the company sponsoring you? Put their logo on your uniforms? Write product reviews for print and/or online media? Hand out stickers, brochures, free samples at your events?
7. List of current sponsors. If you are already being sponsored by a sunglasses company, don't try and find sponsorship from another sunglasses company. That would be a conflict of interest. A company WILL NOT sponsor you if you are already sponsored by one of their competitors.
8. Contributions to your sport. Do you have any kind of training/coaching certifications? Do you belong to any clubs/organizations for your sport? Do you do any kind of volunteer work? I list all the charity events I have done in the past, such as my involvement with Team in Training, which helps to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
9. Press coverage. Have you been featured on any TV programs, radio shows, magazines, newspapers or websites. Chat yourself up, now is not the time to be shy.
10. Complete contact information. Name, address, phone, email, website, Twitter page, Facebook page, etc...
11. Two to three pages of race photos. Do you have any photos of you on the podium at other races? Do you have photos of you racing/crossing the finish line?
This may sound like a lot of work to put together, but once you've taken the time to assemble a professional sponsorship proposal, it's pretty easy to change the information to the particular company you are targeting. You had to put together a resume when job hunting didn't you? Think of the sponsorship application as your sports resume.
A photo or two of the athlete showing off race bling would be appropriate to include in the sponsorship application.
Who Sponsors Bike Diva
On the main page of the Bike Diva blog, scroll down on the left and you will see a listing of the companies that are currently sponsoring me. This list changes a bit every year. I don't list the companies that have sent me media samples. Some of the companies that sponsor me I contacted directly, some found me through Twitter, and some made an offer to sponsor me after I requested a media sample.
On low cost items you should try and get a full product sponsorship. Higher ticket items, such as wheels or bike frames, you will probably have a better chance of obtaining a pro deal discount on your purchases. Go to the Zipp website, their sponsorship page states that they offer no monetary and very few full gear sponsorships. Most of their sponsorship offers comes in the form of a pro deal discount. But wouldn't a pro purchase deal, which could be anywhere from 20-60% off retail prices, be way cool for gear you used to pay full retail for?
Show off your bling. Don't think of it as bragging, companies want to know if you are finishing on the podium. Enthusiastic, high placing age groupers are exactly the kind of athletes companies are looking to sponsor. You don't have to be a professional athlete to find sponsorship opportunities.
Youth on Your Side
If you are young, and have many racing years left ahead of you, you may end up with very lucrative sponsorship deals. Many companies like discovering new talent, and will offer a basic sponsorship package to even very young athletes. If you start doing well at races, represent their company in a positive light, you can work your way up the sponsorship ladder.
Beginning sponsorship offers may be as follows. Remember, I'm just making generalizations, you would have to contact individual companies to learn about their actual sponsorship levels. Many companies call their product discount sponsorships a Pro Deal or Pro Deal Discount.
- Street Team - 10-20% product discount, free stickers to hand out at events
- Bronze Level - 20-30% product discount, free stickers, hat with product logo
- Silver Level - 30-40% product discount, free stickers, hat & t-shirt with product logo
- Gold Level - 50% or more product discount, stickers, clothing
- Full product sponsorship - 100% discount, i.e. free product
- Monetary sponsorship - if you start racing at the elite level, or turn pro, and do well at your races, companies will be knocking down your door looking to hand you wads of cash. Well, not really, but you should be able to attract companies willing to pay for some of your event expenses such as race entry fees, uniform and equipment costs, etc... And we can all strive to be the next Lance Armstrong or Chrissie Wellington!
Talk to Your Local Store
Many local bike stores sponsor racing teams of various levels. If you are a member of the team, you may be entitled to discounts on many of the stores products. And, if you are an accomplished racer, they may even make you an offer to become a member of their pro team. COOL BEANS!
Lynn Smythe AKA the Bike Diva