by Will Grumke February 06, 2021 11 min read
With the worldwide global revenue from athlete sponsorship reaching about $40.2 billion, it is every athlete’s dream to be sponsored. Of course, who doesn’t want to make more money while doing what they love? But before yearning to be the face of every ad on social media or enjoying the perks that come with the sponsored athlete title … it is vital that you understand how to become a sponsored athlete, and what it takes to be a highly effective brand ambassador. Successfully implementing these methods could enable you to enjoy benefits of athlete sponsorship that haven’t even crossed your mind yet.
The thriving beauty of relationships is the give and take of value between them ... sponsorship is no different. It is just like any other relationship, whether business or professional. It is not some charity or donation for an athlete. Keeping this in mind as an aspiring athlete, will help you uncover the benefits and opportunities that you can harness as a sponsored athlete. We are talking about looking past the short-term benefits, so as to open more doors in your athletic career.
You will not only maximize your potential to get sponsored after reading this post, but you will learn to develop, negotiate, and act strategically to amplify the benefits of being a sponsored athlete, as well as that of your sponsors.
A sponsored athlete can be part of sponsorship programs in different ways and this is one reason why there are more than enough athletic sponsorships to go around, for everyone willing to put in the work.
This type of athlete sponsorship entails monetary benefits and may also include that you represent their products and services.
This kind of sponsorship provides you with certain commodities that you use either during your sports or in your everyday life.
You get to enjoy the services offered by the company or sponsors. This may include massages, physio sessions, flights, or any other beneficial services.
This kind of sponsorship puts you in a place where you help your sponsors sell products or services, for a percentage of the sale price. A target is usually set for you to meet, which is attained through different outlets to which you can reach your followers and potential clients of your company’s products and services.
In this case, you are made a representative of a company or organization. This usually boosts your network as well as their brand strength. Paid benefits are also applicable in this kind of athlete sponsorship.
The misconceptions about becoming a sponsored athlete are centered around qualifications that determine who can or cannot be a sponsored athlete, or what athlete sponsorship entails. If you have any ideas of your own regarding this topic, it is time you clear your mind of any previous misconceptions.
Saying this is the same as saying “there is not enough oxygen to breathe”. Most athletes do not bother seeking out how to get sponsored, because they feel there are not enough sponsors looking for brand ambassadors. If you read the first line of this article, you will see that there are more than enough sponsorships available for every athlete out there. You just need to look in the right place.
Oh, did I mention there is also a 1st Phorm Athlete Search taking place right now for athletes? You would do well to check them out, if you have any interest in becoming a sponsored athlete.
It is true that for every success that you desire, you’ll have to put in the work … and the greater chunk of this work falls in maintaining a sponsorship, which will be outweighed tremendously by the benefits. Obtaining a sponsorship does not require as much work as most athletes imagine. All there is to do is to make plans and take action on the companies, bodies, or societies that you can align with … and doing so in the correct manner.
It is as simple as making a phone call instead of writing an email to someone you hope to get athletic sponsorship from. Whom most of the time, you have never spoken to. Just know that this is not quantum physics, it’s not as hard as you think when you follow the right steps.
Some athletes may feel they deserve the beckoning of sponsors because of their athletic achievements. This is nothing but a sense of entitlement that has left many athletes in limbo, causing them to miss out on the tremendous opportunities at their disposal. Most sponsors are not concerned about your performance on the pitch, track, court, field, or gym; that is the concern of a coach or loyal team supporters.
The main thing that sponsors are searching for are the benefits that you can offer them. The value and the quality of your relationship can help you achieve that. Remember that sponsorship is a give and take relationship. To reap the rewards, you must also provide a benefit to the sponsor.
Usain Bolt, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and David Beckham did not just become the best at what they do, they also involved themselves in events via the media, photo shoots, marketing campaigns, and other valued services within their sponsors’ marketing efforts.
There are a lot of reasons that may entice an athlete into wanting to get sponsored. One of those is typically the monetary benefits. It is true that acquiring athletic sponsorship can help with paying your bills and serve as either an additional form of income, or even an athlete’s sole source of income. It allows you freedom to focus on your athletic career.
Also, reducing financial strain means that you don’t necessarily have to work long hours in order to fund your career. This gives you more time for workouts and training, as well as progressing toward higher career goals through participation in company events.
Now, that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a vast range of benefits of athletic sponsorships beyond monetary and financial support. So, while reading on how to become a sponsored athlete, you should look out for these benefits to be sure you seize them when the opportunity surfaces.
The benefits of sponsorship include:
• Alleviates financial pressures from you or your guardians during your athletic career, allowing you to focus more on your sport.
• As a sponsored athlete, you are provided the opportunity to use top-notch services, equipment and other athletic gear. Some of these services may include professional coaching, regular massages, and access to state-of-the-art facilities to enhance your training.
• You also get more free hours outside of work, enabling you to train, recover and focus more on success.
• Free participation in events including top-level access to services. In fact, you no longer have to choose events based on your budget, they will be included in your sponsored athlete benefits package.
• There is a saying that “your network is your net worth.” When you are a sponsored athlete, you are provided the opportunity to deal with individuals who are at the top ladder of society. You have the ability to connect with them, and open doors for more opportunities.
• Sponsorship from companies and industries to athletes helps an athlete to utilize and improve skills in several other areas, including interpersonal communication.
• Increased online and social media presence are also part of the benefits of athletic sponsorship.
• Still on networks and connections, being a sponsored athlete allows you to increase the number of your fans and followers, which can result in bigger opportunities for you as an athlete.
• If you maintain a healthy relationship with your sponsors, there are a lot of possibilities to open opportunities even after your athletic career.
• Personally, you gain more confidence, a good portfolio, and a seamless effort to be eligible for other sponsorship opportunities.
This is the very first stage of acquiring a sponsorship. It is where you lay the foundation of your search to become a sponsored athlete, through researching and creating proposals for your sponsors. In this stage, you need to understand the reasons why the potential sponsor takes part in athletic sponsorship, the values that they are in need of, and how you can offer such values.
When you have engaged your potential sponsors, it is up to you to start a healthy relationship with them. This may affect other areas of your activities, so it is best that you map out a plan and an efficient schedule. While doing this, it is crucial to also keep up with their areas of interest and build up followers.
This is a reflective stage and comes at the end of the contract term. At this step, you take time to reflect on your progress with them, the experience, and exposure. This phase involves the assessment that determines if you will continue the contract for another time period.
It is not a bad idea to map out what you want from a sponsorship opportunity. This time you should be looking beyond the goods and services that you are going to receive. It should also go beyond financial support, and stretch to areas such as social media presence, influence; both in reality and in the internet world. This for sure will open more doors for organizations and sponsorship opportunities.
Even as an athlete, you likely have visions for other areas of life. If so, then look out for companies that have opportunities in or knowledge of those areas. If you are capable, you can tackle your own desires; for example, charity. This will help you develop other professional skills and networks and also leave a foundation for you to continue after you have finished your athletic career.
Using the guides and steps listed below, you can find and create a list of potential sponsors. You will be amazed at the kind of connections, and potential sponsors that may be interested in signing a contract with you.
Use the following categories to create your initial list:
• Are there brands and services that you are passionate about? Are there companies that deal with the products you would like to use?
• Are there any companies that have connections with your friends and family?
• Also search for local businesses and establishments in your area or community.
• You can consider businesses, and industries that you already support; feel free to consider those that are not related to sports.
• Also reach out to businesses that sponsor your specific sport.
Now that you have identified a company, it is time to know the baseline details about them through research. This includes their motor, goals, mission statement, and services. Try to understand how they go about their activities, their marketing techniques, recent contracts, and events. Find out if they participate in athlete sponsorship or other sporting events. You can also find out if they have an employee health program.
The internet is an ocean of knowledge for such information. If they have a marketing sponsorship program, they should have a contact that you can reach too. Then, make enquiries on the opportunities they offer. The benefit of doing this base work will allow you to make a proposal that will hit the mark and align with the company’s needs.
Just as mentioned earlier, your performance as an athlete may have very little to do with getting an athlete sponsorship opportunity. There are other factors that will be considered integral to increasing your chances of getting a sponsorship. But in all, never forget that the value you offer will also determine to a great extent, the value you will receive.
The value of the offer could be anything. It could be offering to speak publicly on behalf of the company in an important company event. It could even be to offer sessions on team building for their personnel.
If you know your way around the social media world, you can help increase their online presence and brand awareness. You can help them get more clients and increase their networks which in turn increases your reach.
Whatever you can do to offer value to your sponsor is accepted, so be creative and let the value you offer bring you more value in return!
Keep in mind during a proposal that the focus is not on you, but on your potential sponsor.
Clarity will also put you on a higher part of the scale. You need to be specific and concise with how you can be of benefit and an asset to their cause.
Your achievements and the plans you have for their cause should all be part of the picture you paint on your application. Your document should be well drafted with a fantastic layout, using graphic representations. Be sure to be you, not someone else, as you can best express yourself confidently and naturally.
With that being said, make sure that you state your expectations and what it is you are offering the potential sponsor. A good flow is also required, to make sure anyone who is interested in reading your proposal, continues to the very end. If you are reaching out to more than one sponsor, do not just use the same format and information for all applications. They all should be tailored according to your research on the sponsor you’re speaking with.
Prior to sending in your application, you should establish relations with the potential sponsor. If possible, you’ll want to have a face to face meeting … or if needed, a phone call. As a last resort, you can also send an e-mail.
Let them know you are sending a proposal and once you’ve sent it to the right e-mail or outlet, it is important that you follow up with a phone call to confirm that they have received it. Be sure to take note of when they would like to discuss further details with you.
• Treat your sponsors professionally even though they may be close relatives, friends or family.
• Do not rush any of the process, just make sure that you take your time to gather facts; the process may take up to 3 months or longer.
• The bulk of the time should be spent finding ways that you can help the company achieve their goals.
• Also, remember that you should share similar interests with your sponsor(s), this way the work is easier, and you'll see progress toward your ambitions.
• You can find out what potential sponsors are looking for by simply asking them.
Avoid sending proposals without prior contact to the company or athlete sponsor.
Try as much as possible to avoid just sending e-mails, make sure that you call or better yet, meet face to face with your sponsors.
Proposals should not be boring or long and should be drafted according to the interests of the company. Focusing on the company and not you. It should not just be about you, but what you can do to help the company.
There is never a need to rush. Take your time, but do not procrastinate.
Don’t quit if they say no; this is not healthy for your motivation or career. Instead, be grateful and always indicate that you are available anytime they reach out to you. This is a way to ensure the potential sponsor(s) will think of you, if they require your services in the future.
Proper follow up is vital, make sure to keep tabs with the sponsors throughout the course of reaching out to them.
Following this article, it’s time to get the ball rolling toward you getting an athletic sponsorship. You should have been opened up to the world full of opportunities, in regard to athlete sponsorship. The focus is to offer value, and each action you take towards adding value to a sponsor, will pay you back exponentially.
Now that you have learned what it takes on how to be a become a sponsored athlete, you should check out the 1st Phorm Athlete Search. Sign up and be sure to follow the steps to get your started on your way to becoming a sponsored athlete.
Will Grumke is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.