Anatomy of a Sponsorship – How finding the right match increases your chances to land large sponsorship deals
Getting sponsors as amateur athletes is hard. Any athlete who has tried it will confirm: it’s really *fucking* hard.
If you want to succeed, you simply can’t afford to be an amateur with respect to sponsorships. While you can’t control the outcome per se, you definitely can improve your odds by filtering out potential sponsors that are not the right fit and instead place the focus on those who are a perfect match. Which is why you need to find the right angle of approach and pitch to the right prospects.
Finding the right match is the first step to a successful partnership. The synergy with a prospective sponsor will drastically increase your chance to make the deal happen and increase its value.
By finding the perfect match, I was able to turn a cold email to the CEO of DNSimple into a $25,000 sponsorship deal. There is no way in hell I could have pulled a deal like this with a random company. It worked because it was the right fit.
So how do you find the right fit?
Find your angle
First off, you need to take a good look at yourself and find out what makes you unique. By defining what you can bring to the table, you’ll get to know what type of companies are a natural fit.
Call this your angle.
For example, a very charismatic teammate of mine is banking on his compelling story and orator skills to land various speaking gigs.
Another example of a rather unique angle comes from Mark de Jonge who is doubling down on his engineering background to land sponsors and speaking gigs in that category.
I, for one, am betting on my athlete-entrepreneur journey. I’ve come to the conclusion that there aren’t many other athletes who also happen to be entrepreneurs which gives me the opportunity to stand out. This is my angle.
Find the right categories
The key here is to find a space or category with very few other athletes competing for the same sponsorships.
Remember Andreanne Pichette who partnered with a local organic food company? This is the perfect example for a perfect category fit. She’s a foodie and an athlete promoting health and well being, partnering with Prana a local organic food company. It was a one horse race, she didn’t compete for her spot with Prana and thus was able to create much more value from it.
The counterexample would be to consider the energy drinks category: thousands of athletes want to be sponsored by RedBull. It’s a crowded space. I don’t even drink that crap, yet I always find myself fantasizing about a silver and blue themed boat I would race along with all the swag that comes with it. Don’t fall in that trap (unless you're Travis, then go for it!).
Since I’m a web entrepreneur, I really wanted to partner with a web company that shared my beliefs and would understand my journey. It’s also a scene where very few athlete are vying for attention.
This is where you’ll need to be resourceful. If you’re lucky, you can already think of companies or executives you know personally.
If you don’t have an pre existing network of business relations, don’t throw the towel. Instead, look for other kind of pre existing relationships or connections. Let it be a local company you like, an entrepreneur that inspires you, a product you heavily use or any other aspect that makes you genuinely love and support those companies.
For each prospect, take the time to conduct your due diligence. Google them and learn as much as you can about the company, its history and the team. Are they in line with your values? Is it a prosper company? Do they already sponsor other athletes?
I made DNSimple my first choice for the following reason:
I love their product and use it every day. (ie.: I could practically sell it)
Anthony, their CEO, is smart and inspiring. (ie.: I want to work with him)
I admire DNSimple success and aspire my own company to evolve in the same way DNSimple did. (ie.: I believe in the company values, can learn a lot from it and bring value to them)
DNSimple is a healthy company with a long term vision. (ie.: they have the means to sponsor an athlete and there is a future for our partnership)
These obviously are my own observations but try to dissect why you want to partner with the companies you’ve identified as prospects.
No matter how desperately you need funding, keep a hard line with your prospect. Flush those who aren’t a good fit. Primo, you don’t want to spend time with a prospect that will never work out. Secondo, sponsors tend to have a herd mentality. They look at your current sponsors as validation of your brand value.
Next up: pitching to prospects!