How to Get Sponsored: Part 1

BY Ben Greenfield

If there’s one way to enhance your enjoyment of endurance sports, it’s by partnering for a sponsorship from a business or organization that supports the sport you both love.

This is a two-part series on how to get sponsored. Part One of the series is written from the perspective of athlete, coach and author Ben Greenfield. Part Two will be written by a TrainingPeaks sponsored athlete who is new to the world of professional triathlon.

How to Get Sponsored, Part One: by Ben Greenfield

If there’s one way to enhance your enjoyment of endurance sports, it’s by partnering for a sponsorship from a business or organization that supports the sport you both love. You can create a win-win relationship when you get sponsored by receiving gear or monetary support, in exchange for your ability to bring brand recognition to a sponsor.

In 2007, I decided to seriously begin to get community support for my involvement in the sport of triathlon. At that point, I put together a series of local camps and clinics for triathletes, and in exchange for sponsorship and support of my training and racing, used those sponsors products, logos and swag in each of the classes and clinic that I taught. Since that time, I’ve continued to refine the process of identifying a product or business or service that could help triathletes, and then acting as a channel from that sponsor to as many triathletes as possible – while still finding a way for me to get support in the process. This is the ideal scenario: create win-win-win relationship for the sponsor, other triathletes, and yourself.

But when it comes to sponsorship, it can be overwhelming to know exactly where to begin. So here are five easy steps to get you started down the path to becoming a sponsored athlete:

1. Prepare Your Materials

Before approaching a potential sponsor, you’ll need to have a succinct and clear presentation of who you are, what you do, and what you can provide.

Begin by creating a cover letter that introduces you. You don’t need to tell your life story, but instead simply focus on the relevant information: where you race, why you race, a summary of your accomplishments, your future goals, and why you like or want to use and promote the sponsor’s products or business.

Good spelling and grammar are very important to maintain your sense of professionalism, so if you aren’t confident with your writing abilities, first jot down notes and a rough outline, produce a rough draft, then have a friend or family member help you edit and proofread. Besides copy editing, having a review from someone who knows you well can help highlight more of your personal strengths or achievements that you may not have thought of on your own.

On an additional page or opposite side of the cover letter to the sponsor, include your race resume highlighting podium finishes, special accomplishments, and any significant media appearances.

2. Prepare Your Channels

Social media is now an undeniable part of being able to effectively promote your sponsor, so you need to prepare your social media channels, and any other channels that will give you a platform and voice to promote your sponsor. This includes all of the following:

  • Twitter account 
  • Facebook page (rather than a personal profile, start a fan page as an athlete) 
  • Google+ account 
  • YouTube account 
  • Blog Podcast/radio or guest appearances on podcast/radio shows in your sport 
  • Newspaper, magazine or website articles 
  • Clinics, coaching or public speaking

3. Start Small

You don’t need to initially approach a national or international brand – or even a sports brand for that matter. You can instead start small, at the local community level. When I first got started in triathlon, my sponsors were 1) a local bike shop; 2) a local running store; 3) a local restaurant; and 4) a local industrial manufacturing business.

By learning how to communicate with and support those local businesses, you can “learn the ropes” and become more able to effectively promote larger sponsors in the future.

4. Promote

Once you begin training and racing, it is your duty to promote using all the channels from step 2. After you’ve “landed” a sponsorship, this is by no means a ticket to simply sit back and assume that using the sponsor’s product in your training and racing is all that you need to do.

In reality, unless large magazines, newspapers, or TV shows are following you with a camera or video camera, having the sponsor’s logo on your kit is one of the least effective ways to promote your sponsor.

Instead, you’ll need to:

  • Write articles on websites and blogs, or for magazines and newspapers with product reviews or race reports that mention or talk about your sponsor
  • Shoot and share videos that show you using or showcasing the sponsor’s product
  • Tweet or post Facebook updates about the sponsor
  • Create clinics or events in which you’re able to showcase the sponsor’s product

There are many other ways to promote, but the most important thing to realize is that you need to be proactive. Unless you’re relatively famous or a celebrity in your sport, don’t just walk around in the sponsor’s t-shirt and expect that that’s going to be moving a lot of product for them.

5. Update

Send your sponsor updates whenever you find yourself in any situation that has given the sponsor exposure, including photos of you that appear in magazines, newspapers or websites, articles that talk about you, podium finishes, race reports, etc.

You can also send sponsors signed “thank-you” photos of you racing or on the podium, send sponsors your medals and trophies to display in their place of business, and even provide the sponsor with articles or product reviews that they can use in their promotional materials.

In other words, a good sponsorship relationship involves you constantly communicating with the business that’s supporting you. Don’t just “touch base” at the beginning and end of the race season! 

One final note on sponsorship: 

It’s a complete myth that you have to be fast to get sponsored. While you’ll certainly find it easier to receive support if you win world’s for your age group, or a podium spot at Kona, the truth is that there are many fast athletes out there who really don’t do much at all for their sponsor aside from putting a logo on a jersey. In reality, a sponsor doesn’t benefit nearly as much from you being a “fast race car” as much as you being a vocal proponent of their brand, and educating others about that brand. If you can pull that off with a large audience, it doesn’t matter how well you perform or how fast you are (just make sure not to DNF your races – that never looks good!).

In short, if you are serious and passionate about your sport and advocating the products you use, there is no reason why getting sponsored cannot be an attainable goal. By preparing your materials and channels, starting small, and committing to providing constant promotion and updates, you’ll be well on your way to securing lasting sponsor support and creating excellent relationships with your potential sponsors. 

If you want more help getting a sponsorship or branding yourself, feel free to e-mail me: ben(at-sign)bengreenfieldfitness(dot)com. I’d be happy to discuss helping you create a sponsor scenario that sets you up for notoriety and success.

In the next part of this series coming out Monday, new professional triathlete Josh Hadway delves further into how to make yourself a marketable athlete for potential sponsorships. If you’re not already subscribed, be sure to sign up to get the latest training, racing, nutrition, and coaching insight from the leading experts in endurance sports.

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About Ben Greenfield

TrainingPeaks contributor Ben Greenfield, M.S. PE, NSCA-CPT, CSCS, is recognized as one of the top fitness, triathlon, nutrition and metabolism experts in the nation. For more information on coaching and training with Ben,’check out his blog/podcasts,’follow him on Twitter, or’visit his Facebook page.