Updated: Jul 7, 2020
Have you ever looked at another fighter and noticed that he has what looks like 100 logos on his shorts, gi, or banner? Do you even wonder how he gets so many sponsors? Maybe he knows a lot of people. There are some guys who just seem to know everyone in town and can sell out their local arenas. That’s true. What if you’re not that guy?
I want to help you understand what a sponsoring company wants in an athlete and show you how to present yourself in a way that makes you appealing to them.
What can I do for them?
First and foremost, this is a business arrangement. While your friends who own businesses might sponsor you because they like you, strangers need to know what’s in it for them. As a business owner myself who sponsors athletes, I feel like I have a very clear perspective on this one.
While I love to watch my sponsored athletes have their hands raised after a match, that doesn’t affect my bottom line. What I’m more interested in is how much exposure I get to their fans before the competition. Social media is a great way promote your sponsors and show them that you appreciate them backing you. It’s also where you can generate revenue for them to show them that you are a good investment. Remember, your win-loss ratio is important as a fighter, but your number of social media followers and the amount of engagement on your posts are much more important statistics to your sponsors. As a producer/seller of martial arts apparel, most of my sales from athletes come from walkout shirts. The more shirts an athlete sells, the more return I see on my investment. I like it when my sponsored athletes post pictures of their shirts, backpacks, or whatever other gear of mine they are using. I love it when they tag my company is posts and talk about the products. When you approach a potential sponsor, think about it like that. How will you drive traffic to their business? What can they do for you?
This seems like it should be an easy question, but it’s not. Some sponsors may be willing to just write you a check. Some might offer products for you to use, especially if you review the products and post about them on social media. However, if they don’t go for either of those, there may be some other relationships that you could offer to help lock in a sponsor.
One that I offer to athletes is to make a digital storefront on my site for their shirts and other merchandise. The athlete gets a cut of each sale from fans that purchase through that storefront. The payout is a percentage of the sale, so nobody is taking any risks, and the athlete doesn’t have to handle any inventory or fulfill the orders. I do offer bulk pricing if they want to do it that way, though (higher profit for them through pre-sales).
What sponsors should I get?
Choose sponsors you want to represent, because that will make them easier to promote. Some sponsors may not align with your personality, so try to seek out ones that do. If you’re known for your good, clean family values, perhaps skip the local bars and night clubs as possible sponsors. If you’re a nutritionist, a vitamin/supplement shop might be a better choice than a fast food truck. If you use and like a product, then that is an excellent sponsor to hit up.
How do I contact them?
The great thing about businesses is that they try to be easy to reach. You can probably contact them through their websites or social media accounts. Keep in mind that the company may not have ever sponsored an athlete, so focus on what’s in it for them.
After introducing yourself, I recommend offering the following information:
· Number of followers on each social media platform.
· Frequency of posts (more isn’t always better, though) and amount of interaction (more is definitely better).
· If you have any other sponsors, showing a history of how you have promoted them is a great selling point.
· How often you compete.
· Any additional ways you are visible (if you’re a school owner, instructor, public figure, etc.) that could lead to exposure or sales.
· Finally, what you want from them.
Ultimately, bear in mind that it is a mutually beneficial business arrangement. You need to be able to return the value of whatever they give you (more, if possible). If you have a friend who works in sales, he/she can probably help you with your pitch.
In conclusion, there are lots of companies that are willing and often eager to sponsor athletes. With a good social media presence and a decent pitch, you can have an impressive portfolio of sponsors. I wish you the best of luck, and I look forward to pressing a lot of sponsor logos on the back of your walkout shirt.