Athletic Sponsorship?
December 14, 2013 4:49 PM   Subscribe

How does an athlete go about getting a sponsorship as an adult competitor (mid 20s) in an expensive but not popular (relative to something like basketball, ie signed/contract athlete) sport?

Someone close to me has expressed a desire to obtain athletic sponsorship in a sport martial art and being curious myself, I wanted to ask the hivemind for advice and resources to successfully obtain sponsorship. Between the athlete and I, we have no experience in fundraising (not ever in school or work). The reason for pursuing sponsorship is to offset the expense of competing in tournaments (fees and the cost of flights, lodging, food, etc).

How impressive does one have to be to obtain sponsorship? How does one compile a sponsorship packet? What other considerations are there?
posted by driedmango to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's not fundraising, it is sales. You need to convince the sponsor they profit from the sponsorship. Figure out how the potential sponsor benefits from giving you money and make your pitch. Ypou could also look onto if any agents work in the sport.
posted by COD at 5:30 PM on December 14, 2013

From what I've gleaned from interviews, at the amateur level, the agent or athlete contacts companies that want to reach the audience that the athlete can reach and works it out from there.

How impressive does one have to be to obtain sponsorship?

Are they competing in televised events (or web streamed events)? Are the allowed to wear logos on their person in these events? Do they have a recognizable name in the sport?

If this athlete is training for the Olympics, then there's other avenues of support available (albeit not great, plenty of people take on massive debt to get to the Olympics), and they should contact their sport's olympic organization.
posted by ignignokt at 5:58 PM on December 14, 2013

My father had a sponsorship for running from Nike. Honestly, I think he got it from winning a bunch of races. He was really good for the regional area he lived in. Nationally he was great, but not "one of the best." However, he still paid the fees for running in races and all travel expenses when he did go out of the local area. So it may not be realistic to get everything covered. My dad did get a 70% discount on ALL Nike gear, which is the coolest thing my father ever accomplished.

I think if you are doing well in your sport, contacting different companies is possible and do able. Especially if people are watching!

Good luck!
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:24 PM on December 14, 2013

I used to have a major sportswear/gear manufacturer as a client, and I worked on a project with their college sponsorship dept. So I don't really know what I'm talking about here, but may know more than the average bear.

1. Make sure the company you seek sponsorship from values the sport you're in. Do they make gear for it? Do they have other sponsored athletes in that particular sport? These are important because while a world renowned stand-out superstar athlete might convince a sporty company to diversify, a pretty good athlete will have a much harder time unless the process is already clear.

2. Getting a company's gear via sponsorship is a more reasonable expectation than getting paid in dollars. Especially if you're in a spectator sport. You become good advertising because you're winning while wearing their gear, and they're walking the line between respecting your talent and hard work, and claiming that their gear improves your game, or at least makes you the best version of you. Money is invisible, so there's very little value to the sponsor in return unless you're a recognized star/public figure.

3. In my experience, gear companies sponsor teams more than individuals. Even in a solo sport, if there's some kind of team affiliation, it's just easier to get on the radar. Deals already exist between gear companies and teams, and as athletes join/leave the team, the sponsor gets to know them, and chooses who to follow from there.

Good luck.
posted by nadise at 7:23 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know anything about martial arts but i do know that in rock climbing that many gear companies will have sponsorship information on their websites. But, getting sponsor on the national level would require that the athlete be notable. And, like mentioned above, the sponsorship could be anything from discounts on gear (commonly called pro-form), to free gear, to help with travel and tournament entrance fees and more.

If the athlete isn't that notable then he/she may have to focus on getting support from businesses at the local level.
posted by fieldtrip at 10:37 PM on December 14, 2013

The athlete needs a website, a blog or tumblr, a FB page, and a a twitter feed to drum up interest. The more "fans" the more noise, and thus, sponsors will take notice.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:17 AM on December 15, 2013

This differs greatly from sport to sport. I suggest looking at athletes who are sponsored in the sport in question to see what is possible.

Generally, as others have mentioned, the first step is discounted or free gear. Often this flows to a team rather than individuals, if that is applicable in this case. In less prominent sports, much of the funding flows through national governing bodies. There is very little corporate sponsorship in terms of cold, hard cash in sports that are not highly visible - i.e. very little sponsorship unless one is in the top ten worldwide. Again, this depends a lot on the particular sport.
posted by ssg at 1:26 PM on December 15, 2013

Response by poster: COD, since your profile lists you as a "Sales Weasal" can you elaborate on the sponsorship = sale and not fundraising? They're both making pitches so if the distinction is an important element for success (getting sponsorship), I'd like to understand why.

We are not expecting to get 100% cash expense coverage, but any amount of money to cover expenses would go a long way in managing their finances. If anyone has any specific examples in a martial art sport that would be great. Please be as detailed as possible and show your expertise (like nadise, awesome answer!).
posted by driedmango at 3:26 PM on December 15, 2013

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