What Sponsors want? Insights from the people who know.

Believe it or not, sponsorship is not benevolent!

Yes, sponsors are looking to increase their brand awareness! Or they may be spreading their community spirit; perhaps they are spending profits to reduce tax, but at the end of the day, their reason for sponsoring is to increase their bottom line! Ironic really; spend money to make money!

Regardless of their reasons, you as an athlete (or as an event organiser), still must understand what a company is all about and what they are trying to achieve as a company.

You cannot and should not, just simply approach all and sundry with a scatter gun approach; nothing long – term or meaningful will come from that strategy, though you might get a meat tray from the local butcher that you could raffle off, but that is never going to get you to your next World Cup, is it?

Even if you are looking for financial support to run a one-time event, you have a reputation and you do not want it soiled by a lazy approach to meeting the needs of your partnership.

You see, the reason you are approaching a sponsor, is because they are a business, and businesses make money, right? So yes, it does make business sense to spread their brand awareness through sponsoring athletes or events, but ultimately, a sponsor will be looking for a measurable ROI.

Research, research, research! Find a potential partnership by finding the right fit! It must become a relationship built on trust and it must be a win – win scenario!

But my aim with this piece is not to bang on about common – sense, my aim is to bring you real insights from people who make the decisions on whom or what to sponsor. I truly hope as you read this piece, that you get value; value by way of educating yourself to understand what needs to be done to gain a long – term partnership.

Here are some nuggets from people who know…

“Bottom line is measurable ROI. Many athletes believe that by just wearing our brand it will deliver sales. Unless they are a Curry, Williams, Jordan, Nadal etc it is just not the case. 

Social media posts, hash tags, linking trackable promotions to their personal brand gives us a measurable return. We live in an influencer world where social media professionals offer this and to expect less from an Athlete that is not a significant global name is no longer acceptable.” Tyron Brandt. CEO – BLK

“We look for people who embody what Icarus Canopies stands for as a brand…fun loving skydivers and canopy pilots with a love of pure wild flight and a can-do “F&%k Yeah attitude.

To be sponsored you do need to be doing something awesome that gets you noticed and respected (so if you aren’t, find your thing and go for it!) but that’s not all. Passion is as important as talent and effort is as important as skill.

The person who blasts their love of our canopies across the drop zone and social media, tags us in their posts, wears our brand and stickers, flies our wings before asking for a handout and emanates a genuine connection to our products is worth a hundred world champions.” Shannon Seyb – Marketing & Sponsorships Manager – NZ Aerosports Ltd

“Don’t just look for a handout. The best way for the athlete to gain notice is to promote tangible opportunities it can create for the sponsor. This goes beyond just brand awareness in the core market. It shows that the athlete understands the business, and more importantly, a commitment to adding value to them.

An athlete should look for any unique angles to position themselves with the sponsor. Is there a key activity that can happen which can then be leveraged onto multiple platforms? This begins to lead into following parallels and opportunities. An athlete may already have a strong following in a different demographic, or on a different platform, which is valuable to the sponsor.

A sponsorship will be significantly more appealing if an athlete can demonstrate some form of groundwork already complete. Build a personal following as an individual. Promote yourself on multiple platforms. Learn about the other side of the equation, and what the sponsor will want. All these things show a commitment to something bigger than yourself.

Pending the circumstances and knowledge of the athlete, it may be beneficial to start the enquiry looking to understand what the sponsor is trying to achieve. Rather than presuming you know what they want, this allows for the opportunity to establish itself organically. You show humility, desire to learn, and ability to create opportunity that benefits both parties. These are all endearing qualities that people are looking for.” Martin Lewis. Strategy Specialist – Orb Services 

“Businesses will sponsor athletes for various reasons, from brand awareness and increasing their reach, to engaging with customers, making a statement, starting a conversation or messaging by association.

Athletes should take a moment to understand why they have been chosen and what their sponsor is wanting to achieve, because a little effort on their behalf in satisfying that objective could be the beginning of a long – term strategic partnership with that business sponsor.” Andy Minahan. Founder – Come, See, Do

“One of the issues in our industry (skydiving), is that our athletes do not have a big reach out to the public; it’s (the reach) usually existing skydivers that attend or compete in the events.

As sponsors, we look for athletes that have a good chance of standing on the podium at each event. Right now, canopy swooping is a big event in the sport and we sponsor the reigning world champion in this discipline.

We require him to wear our logos on his gear, as well as holding canopy piloting camps at our drop one throughout the year. By the exposure that he gives us at events, we hope that when he is at National and World events, that people will see that we sponsor him and hopefully they will want to visit our facility in the future. Putting us on the world stage is not a bad thing.” Greg Lund. GM – Skydive San Diego

“Sponsorship is a business arrangement and a two- way street. It is support for the athletes with the expectation that there will be some sort of return. The more the better is the best way to continue the relationship.” Douglas Mickle. Owner – Spirit Skysports

And from me: Research a potential partner. You would not partner with Super butcher if you were a vegan, would you!

Understand what they as a business are trying to achieve, does it align with your beliefs, does your audience suit their audience, can you help them achieve a measurable ROI?

Your potential partnership will sustain if you both get what you need from it. So, don’t just get your money and forget them! It requires work on your part. A partner has invested in you, you must invest in them too!

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