It's that time of year again when adventure sports athletes and outdoor brands begin courting one another.
The goal for the athlete is to lock in sponsorship dollars to help them cover the cost of their adventures. Everything from travel, food and accommodations to race entries, equipment and apparel to make it through another season.
The goal for the outdoor brand is to find the right athletes that will represent their company and help drive both brand awareness and revenue.
A more intimate courtship also happens at local coffee shops, in the gondola ride up the mountain, while paddling out to the lineup or during a bike ride down the coast. The smart athletes become aware that all of their chance meetings could lead to potential partners who could fund their next project.
Therefore, we begrudgingly take off the stretchy pants, throw on a fancy dress and heels, and attend that Factor Bikes VIP party or the local Women in Sports and Entertainment (WISE) networking event. We decide its time to start tweeting again, or dust off that Facebook Business page and post a photo from our most recent group ride.
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, here's some tips to help find those coveted sponsorships, and keep them for years to come.
10 Tips to help you secure corporate sponsorships
- Do Your Homework. Does the brand you're seeking sponsorship from support individual athletes or teams? Do they have an established brand ambassador program? Do you meet the requirements?
- What Do You Have in Common? First, do you actually use their products or services? Do you live in the same town where their corporate headquarters is located? Do you both give back to the same charities? Do you know someone at the company that could make an introduction for you?
- Follow them on Social Media. Are you connected with the brand you’re seeking sponsorship from on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? If not, get on it. In addition to the follow or like, start to read their content. Respond and engage with them. Get to know more about the brand and what their interests are.
- Start looking at your data. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make it easier than ever to view your Insights and audience demographics. If you are not using a Facebook Business page, set one up now. Same goes for Instagram. Transition to an Instagram business page. These take a few minutes to set up, and are essential to tracking your reach and engagement, which is what a potential sponsor would be interested in.
- Develop a proposal or media kit. Be clear about who you are and the impact supporting you will have on a broader scale. Outline your action plan and ways in which your potential sponsor will benefit from the partnership. If content writing and graphic design are not something you want to spend your time on, hire a content writer and designer. Better yet, send up a smoke signal today, and let ushelp you create a beautiful media kit!
- Make the Cold Call or Cold Email. If you're looking for something more than just a discount on gear, you will need to do more than simply apply for their brand ambassador program. If you already have a connection with the brand, this part is easy. If not, do some research, make the cold call, or cold email, and find out who manages marketing and sponsorships. Say hello but keep it simple. Share your media kit and a bio. Ask if you can have 15 minutes of their time. This is a great way to make a connection and get a meeting on the calendar, so that at big events like Outdoor Retailer, you're not just wandering the aisles.
- Build relationships. Keep in mind, this is about building a long-term relationship. Not about short-term cash and product. It's easier to keep a sponsorship you already have for another season than to find a brand new one.
- Follow-up. They agreed to your call or meeting. Now it’s up to you to be prepared and follow up. Send the proposal, share your media kit and be on time for the meeting. Having a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in place can help you track who you've spoken with, where you're at in the relationship, and what the next steps are. If you need help finding a CRM that will work best for your needs and your budget, give us a shout and we'll help you get organized!
- Always be closing. After all this work, at some point you need to make the ask. Move your project forward by asking for what you need, and then shut up. Seriously. The negative self talk after you've submitted your ask, or the "and if you can't do $5,000 then maybe you can just do a case of granola bars each month..." Just stop. Be confident in yourself and what you can accomplish with their support. Structure a deal that adds value to both you as a brand and your corporate sponsor. Get it in writing whenever possible.
- Surprise and Delight. Congratulations on making the ask and securing a corporate sponsor! Remember, this is a long-term relationship, so check-in with them on a regular basis. Surprise and delight your sponsors with one of these:
- thank you note with a photo
- tag 'em in your Insta story
- monthly e-newsletter where you share project updates
- mention your sponsor and tag them in a quick video at your next event
- suggest a meet n' greet at one of their events
- host a happy hour to show off their products
Ensure you are meeting the terms of your agreement with each sponsor and help them impress their bosses. Make it easy for them to say yes next year!