SPONSORSHIP: Do’s and Don’ts

Here is a really good article from BMXNEWS.COM , it is all about the right way to go about getting “sponsored”.
I can imagine that it is very difficult to own a company and receive sponsorship letters / emails all the time that are badly worded or basically downright rude ,so if you feel the need to write to companies then have a read of this article first.

Tis the season when BMXers around the world have visions of sugarplumbs sponsorships dancing in their heads.  In the past year, BMX News has covered the topic of “what it means to be sponsored,” and started the year off with a panel on how to be more media savvy in 2013.

As the first glimmer of the 2014 season starts to show itself over the horizon, riders, parents and team managers alike are writing media outlets like BMX News to “write a story on them,” and contacting every manufacturer known to mankind, casting a line in the water for sponsorship opportunities.  Is this the best way to go about it?

We have been receiving more and more reader letters lately, and received this email from “Jason F,” last week, asking the following:

i live in (the Pacific Northwest) and race xx inter  can you send me a list of companies who might want to sponser (sic) me.

Jason F. – Pacific Northwest

*Note: we removed city and age class to preserve anonymity

Anyway you slice it, sponsorship is a business transaction.  The reason a manufacturer, or any other business entity, would sponsor an athlete almost-always revolves around that business’ desire to attract more sales.  This is done via exposure and good will in the community, as well as by other racers and potential racers seeing their product performing well.  If you can start the process with that in mind, your mission will be greatly enhanced.  “What am I doing to encourage more riders to buy an XYZ frame or ABC parts?” is a great reality check which will properly-orient your efforts.  Still, even with a right-headed intent, what are the powers-that-be looking for you to do-or-say to unlock the next level of recognition and support?

We put together a panel of BMX Industry experts, who collectively receive tens of thousands of sponsorship requests each year.  Some are approved, most are not.   This article will give you the inside-line on what appeals to these BMX business professionals (and likely most other industry-types as well).  There are a few recurring themes, but instead of consolidating them, we decided to let them be listed individually to punctuate those points which are most important, as well as each member’s slightly different take on things.

It will be well-worth the time you invest in reading it in full.

On the panel: Natarsha Birk – Sponsorship Manager, Answer BMX George Costa – Owner, Rennen Design Group Tony Degollado – Marketing Manager, Vee Tire Co. Michael Gamstetter – Senior Brand Manager, BOX Components/Promax Richard Huvard – Owner, Staats Bicycles/Ciari Parts Rob McAllister – Owner, BlackCrown Products Bill Ryan – Owner, Supercross BMX

We asked each to give us a few Do’s and Don’ts relating to pursuing sponsorship.

Sponsorship Do’s

Natarsha Birk – Answer BMX

Do know how to spell the word “sponsorship”.  It’s not sponsership, sponcership, sponchership, etc.  I’m not even sure how this can happen with spell check but I have seen 100 different ways to spell “sponsorship” and it’s a pet peeve of mine.

Do know what company you are applying for when sending in your proposal.  I understand you may be applying with several different companies and using the same form letter, but at least read through and change the email to the company you are sending it too.  I recently received a proposal that was asking for Answer BMX co-sponsorship in the email subject, had written Dear “one of our competitors” in the intro, and listed another competitor in the email and how they were their favorite brand and would only use their products.  I’m assuming our competitors got the exact same email that we did.

Do spell-out what you can offer the company you are applying to, not only with results on the track, but also what you can offer from an image and branding standpoint.  In our opinion, image and presence is more important than even results.  If your team wins all the time but is a bunch of jerks that nobody likes and your pit set up looks like a flea market, that’s not really helping the image of the team or the brand even if you always win.  I prefer to work with the teams that have a professional look about them in terms of uniform, pit area, rider personality, and family atmosphere surrounding the team.  Those are the types of teams that other riders and parents will likely gravitate too for conversations about bikes and parts and can have the most influence on others to promote our brand over others.

Do take advantage of the sponsorship program.  Each year I sign up teams that are gung-ho to get on our program and then the entire season goes by and nobody has taken advantage of it.  Then they want to renew for the next season.  We offer a limited number of spaces for teams and if you know you’re not really going to utilize the sponsorship, it’s ok to decline the offer and let another team take that spot.

Do follow the rules and guidelines set forth in the co-sponsorship contract.  After years of managing teams and riders, the rules are set up to make everything run smooth and organized.  I consider all of our teams part of our family but everybody must follow the same rules and operation procedures to ensure the process and program run smooth and stay organized.

George Costa – Rennen Design Group

Do your research about the Company/Team, (asking if we have experts who ride for us shows us you haven’t done any research)

Do use spell check

Do provide references

Do show us why we should sponsor you

Do be polite and grateful no matter the outcome

Tony Degollado – Vee Tire Co Think outside the box. Resumes, proposals and portfolios are boring and show very little character. A limited cover page or note is good, but don’t bore the person your trying to woo. How about a slide show, a small video resume or an artistic and creative way to explain what you do and how you would represent a company. FYI- A logo on the plate and jersey is worth NOTHING.

Know more about the person that you are trying to woo than they know about you. Same in a negotiation. They love Starbucks?  Surprise them with a Starbucks gift basket at work with a note that says “I really would love to be sponsored by Brand X. Here’s a little caffeine to help”. It takes money to make money.  How many people do this in our sport?  None!

Communication- An occasional update on what you have done recently as well as promotions you are working on for visibility. Emails are easy to delete. Fex Ed/UPS Priority Letters are not.  Or choose to help out the government and go with a USPS Priority letter.

Stay away from Energy Drink companies…they are a powerful group with more resources than they can shake a stick at. If they want you, you will know about it.  Plus, there’s some pressure on those guys right now to NOT promote/advertise in any demographic under 16-18yrs of age.

Stand out. Be different. Don’t blend in.  If everyone is wearing Brand X gear and Red is the most popular color, use Brand Y gear in Blue.  The whole idea of sponsoring someone is to tell the world that John Doe represents Brand X. Don’t make people have to search for your supporters. Make it easy for them. If you blend in, you’re invisible.

Michael Gamstetter – BOX Components/Promax Be a known entity locally, regionally and nationally. Have a solid reputation among your peers, track officials, track operators, the fans, current and potential sponsors. Have name recognition. Be liked. Be a performer—in other words, make mains, make podiums, win. Be friendly. Be nice to the kids.

Be marketable. Know how to market yourself, as well as the products your sponsors sell. Know how to handle yourself in public.

Submit a professional plan for your future, including realistic racing goals, your (legitimate) race schedule, involvement in rider clinics, involvement in your local racing scene, promotional ideas (beyond the required logo on jersey, sticker on plate and helmet, running of parts), race résumé, etc. Also, be specific about your needs from the sponsor.

Have a proven history as a reliable and loyal partner.

Be persistent and patient. Develop personal relationships with everyone in a position to help you further your career—track officials, track operators, coaches, the fans, company owners and marketing managers, etc. Your hard work will pay off eventually, especially if you keep in mind #1 and #2 above.

Richard Huvard – Staats Bicycles/Ciari Parts

Know the mission of the team and team management.  Do they run team sheets?  Is there a  strong manager at the helm?  What is his/her primary motivation for running the team?  For fun? For sales? For sport?  Or some combination of all three?  Believe me, understanding who you are soliciting for sponsorship and what they want from their team is key to understanding if and how you can “fit” into the program.    And “fit”, for me, is always the most important aspect of building a successful race program.  What age is the rider?  Where does the rider live?  But no one will know if you may be a good fit for their program if you aren’t seen.  Although riders have come out of nowhere to score a factory ride, most must work at it so…

Go to the national races!  As many as you possibly can.  Know that the top factory riders are hitting at least 10 and many are going to a dozen or more races every year.  Unless you put yourself out there and demonstrate not only success on the race track but the ability and commitment to get to the races, you can’t expect factory team consideration.  Going to the races also puts you in a position to…

Make friends in influential places.  Yes, if you are killing it on the national circuit you may be able to forego the other advice here and elsewhere and factory team managers and owners will find you. But if you aren’t the total dominator that everyone, or even the most astute team managers are going to notice, introduce yourself.  And do it long before you start shopping for sponsorship.  Get to know the teams and the players – personally. Even factory teams are regionalized, meaning they are usually stronger closer to home.  And many of their riders are homegrown.  Riding and training with the local factory kids or riding at the local track where you know the factory TM goes weekly is a good idea for obvious reasons.  Every TM loves to score the hot rider, but a lot like the idea of finding and developing talent that’s ready to burst onto the scene. Create opportunity and show before you ask what you might be capable of, and even though you don’t have that factory ride yet…

Act, ride, win, lose, dress and BEHAVE like a factory rider.   With professionalism and grace.  Remember the eyes of the sport are now on you.  Or will be on you.  Show through your actions on the track and off that you would promote more than a positive image for your team – but a popular one.  This goes for you (the rider) AND your family. It’s sad but true that I have had to let top riders go from the program because dad or mom or both were, for want of a better word, crazy.  Conversely, I’ve fully supported riders who weren’t the fastest in their class because they were simply great personalities and popular kids that help promote the brand, company and team.  Which brings me to my last words of advice… Remember that getting on a factory team is just the first step of becoming a factory rider.  Your job has just begun but the rewards of being on a winning program are almost always worth the extra work and sacrifice.

Most importantly, no matter how fast or big a star your become never lose sight that, for the sponsoring company and team, the team and the organization will always and should always be bigger than any one rider.   Know that you are part of a group, a team, because the moment you lose sight of that and begin to act differently is the time that I would let you go, NAG 1 or NAT 1 or not. Don’t believe it.  Look up my history – and our team went on to win still.   So, be a team player, don’t ostracize yourself from your teammates, and always ask yourself what am I doing for my sponsors.

Rob McAllister – BlackCrown Products Send a professional email with attached resume to (no typos, correct grammar, racing photo attached)

Be an expert-level national rider (we do not sponsor novice or intermediate level riders)

Let us know what YOU “the rider” can do to help promote and sell our products.

Represent our brand ON and OFF the track.

Be a good ambassador of the sport of BMX racing.

Bill Ryan – Supercross BMX

DO take the time to put together a nice resume for yourself, or your team.  This should include some background/bio info, how long you have been racing, your most notable accomplishments, who your past or current sponsors are, your local track and the name of the BMX shop in your area.  How you are doing in School? Do you teach clinics at your track? Tell us about them. Do you travel to Nationals or are you a local or regional rider?

DO support the local scene.  There is no shame in being a regional or a local rider only. If you are the local hotshot that does a ton of clinics, helps out the kids at your local track, and you have a local shop you work with, there is a great chance you may end up with some help.  Riders who only races nationals, and never show up at a local race are not as valuable for our grassroots sponsorship strategy.  If you look around, you’ll see many pros and top amateurs are involved at their local track, on some level–either racing or doing clinics and helping to support the local bike shops.  You want to know why? They get it. They understand that BMX does not exist without the local program.

DO personalize your sponsorship letter. Take the time, find out the person’s name who it should go to, and the correct spelling of their name.  We love (not really) getting the letters that are CC’d to every team manager on the planet.  Especially the ones that start: “Dear Sponsor Dude, I love ur product, it is all I ever ride and would love to be sponsored by you.”   Well, right from the CC we know you are lying.  How can you ride a Supercross, a Phoenix, a Staats, a Haro, a GT, a Redline and think that they are all the best?

DO take the time to introduce yourself at the nationals. Stop by the pits, say hello. Let us put a face to the name. But please remember at the races we are still working, we are there to support our riders and make sure things are going smooth. Come on by, say hello, let us know you sent in a resume. And a quick how your day is going. Some people think we don’t watch, but we pay attention to almost every race on the track, and more importantly what goes on off the track. If you are doing well on the track, and are a good person off the track, believe me… it will not go unnoticed.

DO make sure that along with your resume, your proposal spells out what your plans are for the next year, and how you will represent us. Do you have a Facebook page? A Twitter and/or Instagram account?  Provide links to them.  Don’t make us dig to try to find why we should sponsor you or your team.  Spell it out for us, show us. Make it easy to try to help you. If we have to dig, you most likely won’t be considered for sponsorship.  Also, be sure to include references that we can contact (and we will contact them).

Now, let’s look at some of the things you should not do when seeking a BMX sponsorship

Sponsorship Don’ts

Natarsha Birk – Answer BMX Do NOT put unrealistic or false information in your resume. Checking results and things is quite easy to research online nowadays so it’s best not to lie.  If we can’t trust you from lies on the resume, how can we trust you at all?

Do NOT trash your current or prior sponsors in an effort to try to gain sponsorship with a new company.  It’s not classy and the BMX industry is a small world.  A lot of companies are friends and it’s best not to burn a bridge.  Sell yourself and your team on what you can do and offer and not by trying to put down another brand or another team we may already work with.

Do NOT use social media or word of mouth to broadcast your team’s sponsorship details with others.  Sponsorship contract information and pricing is confidential and should be kept within the team.  Likewise, do not post sponsorship product for sale on Facebook or other social media to sell to non-team members.  This happens more than you think and goes back to following the rules of the contract.

Do NOT underestimate your team’s value to us as an advertising/promotional vehicle.  We have had teams that started in our grassroots program four or five years ago that did things right, helped promote the Answer BMX brand, and are now receiving full flow support from us.  We notice when you do great things and we’ll reward you for those efforts.

Do Not be afraid to have open communication with us about anything.  One of the purposes of the co-sponsorship program is to gain product feedback.  Don’t be afraid to tell us if something is wrong with a product or you think it can be improved.  A lot of riders and teams are afraid to say anything negative to their sponsors for fear of losing their deals.  In our case, we don’t want “yes men.”  We need that feedback to improve in our products and racer input is the most valuable way to do that.

George Costa – Rennen Design Group

Don’t ask for sponsorship via twitter/FB/Instagram. Asking for contact info is ok but don’t expect a response outside of that.

Don’t lie.

Don’t ever bash your sponsors product in public or private.

Don’t try to use another offer to boost your current position with said team/sponsor.

Don’t think that we (Industry/Teams) are not watching whats going on. Think of us like a BMX ninja always on the lookout but hiding in the shadows.

Michael Gamstetter – BOX Components/Promax

Don’t be a jerk. No matter how fast you are, no one wants to work with a jerk.  Don’t let your parents be jerks, either.

Don’t have unreasonable expectations or make unreasonable demands. If you or your kid is a Novice or Intermediate-level rider, don’t expect sponsorship from any bike company. You’re better off hitting up the local bike shop. Even experts need to realize that sponsors look for proven riders with a record of performance at the top level. Remember, it costs just as much to give a 13 Intermediate with five local track wins some parts as it does to give the same parts to a Junior Elite or A Pro with a history of national wins and world championships. All three riders are equally needy, but the latter two are far more marketable with a higher potential return on investment.

Don’t, for even a second, think you *deserve* to be sponsored. Don’t think it’s owed to you. No one is entitled to sponsorship. Sponsorship is a privilege and a “job.” It’s something to be earned. Once you’ve earned, it, you have to keep earning it year after year.

Don’t ask about sponsorship via Twitter, Facebook or other social media. Find an email address and send a professional proposal to the appropriate person.

Richard Huvard – Staats Bicycles/Ciari Parts

Don’t ask: “WHAT CAN I GET?.”  Most factory teams will provide a bike, uniform and other “stuff,” but if you’re primarily looking for “stuff” then save-up some money, buy a bike and ride for yourself.  If you truly want to be part of a factory program and are willing to do all that it takes to be “factory” then put in the work required.  Go to the races, get to the teams and industry players, ride and train with them at your local tracks and at the nationals, be a positive personality and tell your parents to chill.  Then the factories will find you.

Rob McAllister – BlackCrown Products Don’t ask “Will you sponsor me?”

Don’t send me a message on Facebook. “Are you looking for new riders for your team?”

Don’t ask “How do I get sponsored?”

Don’t ask for FREE parts. (Nothing is FREE)

Don’t tell me how good you’ll be next year or how you “hope to be top 10.”

Bill Ryan – Supercross BMX

Don’t send a Facebook message (or Twitter message) simply stating – “Could you guys sponsor me?” This is a good way to get ridiculed around the office, and guarantees that you will not be sponsored–probably by anyone. You didn’t take the time to do anything on this. And if this is the effort you put into the “courtship” phase of your sponsorship requests, we have to ask “what kind of effort do you put in to your racing or representing your sponsors?”  If you do send a message like this, don’t expect an answer. Sending it again and again does not help the cause.

Don’t send in your sponsorship letter, then follow it up with 200 “tagged-as-urgent” voicemails checking to see if we got your resume. True story: we had one guy call on Tuesday letting us know he was sending in a resume, and then proceed to leave voicemails marked “urgent” at all hours of the night to make sure we called him because he wanted to make sure we got it. And then after we confirmed we got it, he left “Urgent” messages wanting to know when we were going to send him his stuff. Even if we wanted to help sponsor this person, if they make themselves this much of a pain, it isn’t worth it.

Don’t presume “sponsorship by association.”  We have had a few calls where people assume they will be sponsored because they know someone. That is great that you know someone, and we will take it into consideration if that person vouches for you, we have a lot of riders that will ask if we can help out a friend, and usually we do, but we get strange requests that expect to get sponsored, because they know a guy that used to run a support team years ago and he said that we would sponsor their team for them. That is a bad assumption.

Don’t bad mouth previous sponsors or other companies while trying to get sponsored.  We hate that.  Most of the companies in BMX are working very hard, with a deep passion, to support the sport and the riders they help.  It really pisses us off when you send in a resume saying “I am sponsored now by “XYZ company, but they suck” or “they never have anything in stock” “or I broke three of their frames” or the best one “someone else on the team got something before I did.”

Don’t send a sponsorship request stating you are already sponsored by “Brand XYZ,” but you are only getting a 30% discount; and if we would give you a 50% discount you would ride for us. We are not playing the game of “comparison Sponsorship shopping.” We really don’t want you to ride for Supercross just because you can get it cheaper than the other brand. That may work with some companies but not with us. We want to work with riders that are passionate about our brand and passionate about BMX, not riders just looking for the best deal.

Wow! Some great tips in there, from people who make the actual “Yea” or “Nay” decisions on who gets a deal and who doesn’t.

The over-arching theme is to do what we noted at the top of the article: treat your BMX sponsorship like a business transaction, where you are selling a product (your services as brand ambassador), and to help you do that job, the company provides you the tools to do that work (free or discounted product and other materials the company deems necessary).  Your proposal to them should be professional, and presented in a businesslike fashion (no text-speak, and very light on the track slang).


Here’s a bonus for those of you who HAVE a sponsor already, and want to keep it.

Tony Degollado – Vee Tire Co

A recent Pro recently told me “I’m not going to the Grands, but I want to be there for my sponsors, so I’m having 3000 posters made up for the goodie bags”.  This is quote possibly the smartest thing I have ever heard in my 25+ years in this sport. How’s that for giving back?  Amazing!  I’m hoping that Donny Robinson (oops, I let it out) sends one of these posters to each of his sponsors and lets them know about this.  Makes me want to support the punk.  But I can’t get over my mental anguish of he and his Powerlite team putting sugar in my gas tank on the Ferry in Canada back in 98.

Pull on their heart-strings.  It’s harder to let go of someone who’s part of “the family” versus just a racer on the team. Does the company need extra help packing orders or setting up tents/pits at the races?  Offer up your services. Do they need help with their social media sites and updates? Do it for them FOR FREE. Christmas Presents are always a nice surprise. In our sport the athletes EXPECT everything and often give nothing.  A nice dinner for two or a company gift (pizza’s, Mexican food, Starbucks cards, etc) is a nice gesture and will always have you in their sites come renewal time.

Greatest Hits- When I was at Haro, I did a quarterly report for the corporate sponsors we had. At that time, we had near $600k coming in, so I did all I could to make sure we were on their radar at all times…visually. We created a little book we named the Greatest Hits that contained all of our media exposure, events, promotions, etc for that quarter. At the end of the season, we put all these books together and added more for a “Greatest Hits: Year End Grand Finale”.  To put a book in your sponsors hands of you and everything you did media wise is nothing short of awesome. Do it. no excuses.

Separate Business and Personal- It’s hard to not get offended, have an opinion, etc.  It’s even harder not to rant about it on Twitter or Facebook these days.  EVERYONE is guilty of it.  EVERYONE.  Suggestion- Create 2 pages. A personal one and a Business/Athlete one. John Doe Athlete page should show personality, some rated G to PG-13 jokes, updates, and sponsor call outs with promotions, etc.  Your personal page should be harder to find…maybe change your name around (use your full name and not what everyone knows you as) so it stays more private for your friends and family.  Despite what you think, your views on Religion, Gun Laws or ObamaCare don’t belong on a page that represents your sponsors…or you as a promotional product/athlete. Keep it to yourself….or on your personal page.  Example: If you think ObamaCare is awesome because it could benefit you and your health, that’s great. But your sponsor may not think the same (for business reasons) and might be fighting.  Two people representing the same brand…with two VISABLE opinions on this particular subject.. In the end, who wins? You who is receiving or They who is giving? Answer- Not you.

Be appreciative….of EVERYTHING. The minute you start expecting over appreciating, your sponsor will know it and begin to change his/her feelings about you.  Everything costs a sponsor money. Stickers and Tshirts may not mean that much to you, but someone has to pay for them, correct?  How about that recent order that got shipped to you?  Who paid for the shipping?  You?….no. Your sponsor did.  That is money that will never be given back to them, so appreciate the fact that it got sent out in the first place.  APPRECIATION goes a lot further than race wins….


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