Now that it is the post-Championship season and almost the New Year, companies are starting to look for new athletes to sponsor. The Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) industry is currently fairly lucrative with sponsors. Maybe it is because we are still a growing sport or because most races have sizeable entry fees that send out a message that racers are willing to spend money. Maybe it is because OCR tears up clothing, rips apart shoes and permanently stains some light colored clothing a shade darker. Whatever the reason, there appears to be a decent number of sponsors willing to throw free product towards racers in exchange for advertisement. As athletes get sponsored, people start asking, “Why am I not sponsored?”
Over the next couple of articles, I will explore this question and other aspects of sponsorship. If you are a lower end of the pack, age grouper, I encourage you to stay with me because I think some of this will be eye opening and the final article in this series will have some lessons that you can take away to improve your race performance.
Let’s start off with that first question of “Why is <insert name> not sponsored?”
Reason 1: Performance
This is the obvious first reason. Companies want athletes who perform well and consistently. No one wants to buy supplements from the guy coming in last place or hear about his training techniques. To get sponsored you need to have a decent to a high level of performance. Let’s say you were not born with great genetics, what can you do? The answer is the same regardless of your ability, work harder. Consistent hard work built upon each other season after season for multiple years produces positive results. If this is your first year racing or competing, you probably need to build an athletic resume of positive results to show companies that you are capable of performing over the long term. In fact, if this is your first year competing in any competitive athletic event you probably need to focus on training instead of reading this article.
Reason 2: Presence
Maybe you have put in a decade of hard work and/or are winning all your races but you are still not sponsored. What gives? The answer is a presence. If you only show up at races and win but then retreat to your cave, it limits the exposure you have to potential customers of your sponsor. Companies want people who are active in both social organizations and social media. Both will get your sponsors name noticed by more people.
Lagging performance can be compensated for by presence. If you are not reaching the podium at races but have your YouTube channel with followers that regularly produces videos, that can make up significantly for performance. Presence includes activity on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. or maybe writing for Mud Run Guide.
I have seen applications where they ask for a number of followers on Facebook as part of the application. I have also seen ones that say “Do not apply if you have less than 10,000 Twitter followers.” Companies want athletes that can reach people on a daily basis. Social media allows for instant reach, which can help supplement your effect of personal interaction.
Reason 3: Applying to the wrong company
I have seen this one numerous times on Facebook with people tagging companies saying they want sponsorship when those companies are not a good match for an OCR athlete. This problem runs so deep I separated it out into another article. Make sure you check back for Part 2: Choosing the Right Company.
Reason 4: Not applying to any company
This is another one that is so obvious; people miss it. If you are not applying to any company for sponsorship, your probability of being picked drops drastically. The Hollywood dream story of someone coming up to you in the gym or on the course and offering sponsorship is low unless you already a staple in this industry. If you do not apply to a company, how does a company know that you want to work for them? This also separates the free loaders from the hard working athletes. By applying you are showing the company that you are interested in representing them and are willing to do work in exchange for free or discounted product.
Bottom Line: Sales
What do all of these things mean for the company that is providing sponsorship? The answer is sales. With high performance and large presence combined with applying to the right company, you can get sponsored. However, some expectation management is in order. If you are expecting all complimentary races, free travel, free lodging and free product you may be in for a surprise. Companies will offer what they can when they can. Furthermore, the more work you do for the company, the more likely they are to give you more free stuff. After all sponsorship is about business, and they are not going to invest on an athlete that results in a net loss.
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