sponsorship advice for athletes

joe weider arnold schwarzenegger

as a recreational athlete i always dreamed about being sponsored.

the idea of getting free goods or being paid for something i love to do was a holy grail to me.

few times i was sponsored and i loved it, made me so proud.

recently i have started consulting some clients on sponsorships.

one of my tasks is to find athletes who can be sponsored.

at first i thought this would be easy but it definitely is not.

to my surprise a lot of athletes decline sponsorships by default… and in a crisis year.

i wanted to write some basic advice to athletes looking for sponsorships:

be polite and nice.

a lot of athletes tend to be, simply put, rude, or even aggressive when they are approached.

something happens when they are approached, maybe they get scared, i do not know.

i understand athletes train a lot and its not easy to diet, train, rest and negotiate with busieness people.

but no need to be rude… it is bad style.

do not evaluate sponsorship only by how much money and products you get.

for example one company wants to print half a million copies of brochure with your photo and name.

if sponsor wishes to include you in videos, press, print media… it means a lot.

you, as an athlete can gain a big audience.

that is a good deal also.

or if a people you deal with are nice people who really want to help, new things might emerge.

if a certain sponsor is part of a business network, you should be aware of this.

respect the tradition.

tradition means stability but also means old way of thinking.

do not get frustrated but respect it.

there are good and bad sides to it.

not everything is today.

and if someone has been around for 100 years, they might be around for 100 more.

sponsors are people too.

no one is perfect, we are all learning, teach rather than demand.

sponsors usually work with millions of euros budgets, hundreds of people, ad and marketing agencies…

try to produce 20 catalogs in 6 languages, 10 videos, websites, social media,

manage 4 ad agencies, 2 million euro budget and sponsorship relationships to 20 athletes

and defend your choices in front of the top management,

while you stay on top of hundreds of trends emerging non stop left and right,

and while you travel to a new place every second week… alone.

if you can teach them and help them this is always a plus.

it is not only about a simple logo-for-cash exchange.

never underestimate the sponsor.

do not look at businesses as brands but as financial entities and people.

brand value is for consumers and this can change in a year with a slight change in marketing budget or focus.

try to understand the people and the financial potential.

sponsorships are never short term.

hardly anyone wants to work with someone for one season.

maybe the first year will not be so great, but the third year might make the whole relationship profitable.

if you say no, make sure you have very good reasons and your calculations are precise.

if you have to say no make sure you really have crunched your numbers and researched everything.

professional athletes are in the business of selling, and in sales it is not common to decline a customer.

especially if customer expresses an interest without your investment in contact.

try to reward this interest at least with proper research and a well explained decline.

also keep in mind hardly anyone will ask twice.

if you say no, it could be a definite no, so make sure you have a good second option.

do not overestimate yourself.

you are usain bolt.

you run fast on 100m and 200m.

you did not cure cancer or solve world poverty… yet.

there are people who do much more than running or scoring goals

and no one knows about them.

they are called doctors, scientists, teachers, non-profit workers…

a lot of jobs require excellence equal if not higher than sports requires,

but do not offer popularity sports do.

popularity is one thing, ability is another.

respect is everything.

hope this helps athletes out there.

i am sure a lot of these suggestions can be reversed, for sponsors.