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So, you want to be sponsored?
As a manufacturer and retailer of archery equipment who does a significant amount of sponsorship I regularly get asked if I can sponsor someone or something.
I’ve decided to write this guide to give those seeking sponsorship a better understanding of the process, as well as giving an insight from a sponsor's point of view. In this case, me!
Other companies may have a different outlook, so keep that in mind. These are my thoughts on the subject, and hopefully you will find them useful when planning your sponsorship goals.
I organize my sponsorship into 3 categories
- Sponsorship where the goal is to increase the sales of our company.
- Sponsorship where the goal is to promote archery.
- Sponsorship for charitable reasons.
If you are an archer wanting to apply for, and achieve sponsorship, this is the category that will most likely apply to you.
When an archer applies for sponsorship, a decision will be taken based on the commercial benefit to our company as a result of you joining the team.
It is important to be up front about this because understanding the purpose of this category from a Sponsor's perspective will make you a better candidate from the outset.
If you are a club, organisation or individual looking for our company to support you in promoting archery or improving participation then this will most likely be the category that you will be applying for.
There may not be any immediate commercial benefit for us from this type of sponsorship, but we all do better when our sport is healthy and growing, and so I do as much as this as I can manage.
This type of sponsorship comes in many forms; from supporting events, hosting have-a-go-sessions, providing facilities, to other channels that raise the profile of all types of archery.
This is when I offer sponsorship without any consideration to the commercial benefit.
The motivation for this type of sponsorship is purely personal, and so there is not an application process and no advice I can give. (Only that direct applications are virtually guaranteed to fail!)
The focus of this article will fall under Category 1, since most of the applications that I receive are from individuals that are looking for sponsorship to support their development and performance in their archery career.
What is on offer?
Companies often offer support at different levels, depending on what they are looking to achieve and their sponsorship structure.
This could consist of a product discount, equipment provision, contingency payments and even salaries for the highest levels.
For clarification, Merlin Archery is our retail brand and Mybo is our manufacturing brand.
Therefore, I offer two distinct tiers of sponsorship for Merlin Archery and Mybo.
- Mybo Pro-Team
Within these 2 tiers, individual contracts will be negotiated.
The Mybo Pro Team is our top tier of sponsored archers. These are high visibility, elite level archers who have consistently demonstrated that they can perform at high profile competitions, often internationally.
It is important to add that there are other considerations when it comes to selecting and maintaining the Pro Team. This could include their geographic location, number and profile of the shoots entered as well as their final placings and results.
These archers receive the highest level of support, with contracts being agreed between the individual and the company.
Our Ambassadors are the second tier of sponsored archers. These could be individuals who have demonstrated loyalty and commitment to our company, and are often active members of the competition community and their home clubs and counties.
These archers receive support from the company in different ways; this is often through an agreed discount at the Merlin Archery shops, the loan of equipment or personalised set up of the bow to optimise their performance.
Our ambassadors could also be elite level archers in their own right, but who have independent sponsorship agreements with other manufacturers. Since Merlin Archery is a retailer who represents many different brands, we also support archers who represent many different manufacturers.
Benefits of being part of a team are not only financial. Being part of an excellent team is a great confidence booster! Shared knowledge, advice, encouragement and much more comes with a great team.
What do I look for in our sponsored archers?
It’s quite simple really. I look for people who can positively promote our brands and influence people.
Sound like you? Great!
Then break it down on how you will do that.
If you started by thinking that you would advertise us by wearing our shirt at competitions and posting nice pictures on social media, then that is unlikely to be enough.
Everyone can do that!
Think about what makes you different.
A lot of emails sent to me are variations of the following.
I would like to apply for sponsorship with your company. I really like your products. Attached is a list of my achievements.
I look forward to hearing back from you.”
Your achievements might be good, but you are assuming that sponsorship is only about performance. It is not.
Sponsorship isn’t a reward, like winning a medal. Remember that companies who are selecting archers to join their sponsorship programme are looking for someone that can help grow their business.
If your performance is extremely high, and you are on the podium with your photo being shared around the world, then ok, performance is the main reason. But if you are in that position, you won’t be applying for sponsorship anyway. Manufacturers will be chasing you!
Until then, here are some of the qualities I look for:
- Product Knowledge
No single quality is more important than the other. You may be strong in some areas, but weak in others. That doesn’t matter. But you need to excel somewhere. Remember, you are there to increase our sales. How will you do that?
I can’t answer this question for you since I don’t know you. If you are the one making the approach, then you need to have this worked out in advance. It’s up to you to convince me why I should sponsor you.
For example, you may not be winning everything, but you maybe the that super helpful person at the club everyone goes to for coaching advice and string repairs.
Maybe you are that person everyone knows because you are out there at a different tournament every weekend.
Or are you that rare person who is awesome in every department? If yes, then Jackpot! You’re on the team!
What is my selection criteria?
Another simple answer. There isn’t one!
There are no fixed milestones to achieve. I make each selection based on what I need to create a well-rounded team which varies over time.
Sorry to disappoint you if you were expecting a tick list.
One of the challenges that I have when reviewing applications, is figuring out who is just fishing for free stuff without any genuine passion for who they want to work with and the aims of the company.
I often find myself looking at CVs that have been submitted and noticing that the archer has been shooting a number of years and has generally used competitors' products or shopped elsewhere.
It may not always be the case, but this often feels like the person may be fishing for free stuff, rather than being invested in our brand and what we stand for.
In these cases, it is hard to see how this person could be authentic when talking about our company and products, given that they have very limited experience of either.
It means a lot to me when an archer has been a customer of ours for a while, uses our products already and understands our values. Above all our team members must be genuine and sincere.
Knowing about our products and what we do is crucial if you are to represent us.
Pitfalls of sponsorship
Sponsorship may be desirable, but it can also be a burden. So be sensible!
If you are progressing well, offers of sponsorship may start to come your way.
Do not be blinded by any offer from any company. You will be required to sign a contract, which will lock you in to that company for a year or two.
It’s a nice ego boost to be approached for the first time but ask yourself these questions first.
- is the product right for you?
- Is it the right time to make a switch?
- Do you genuinely like the product?
- Do you like the company?
- Do I need the sponsorship?
- Will I benefit from the sponsorship?
In the same way that I need to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of sponsoring an archer, you must do the same when accepting sponsorship.
Also, don’t develop a reputation for promoting stuff just because it was free. If you jump from company to company, it will get noticed and your reputation might suffer.
Responsibilities of sponsorship
If you are lucky enough to gain sponsorship, that is only the beginning.
You’ll need to keep your sponsor happy, so they know their investment is paying off. The best way of doing this is by keeping them in the loop. Send them updates. Not every day! A quarterly report on how you have been benefiting the company would be welcomed.
You will be a representative of that company, and as such you will be expected to behave in a wholly professional and positive manner.
Be helpful and open to questions. If you have been sponsored with a product, make sure you know it inside and out.
You will be asked why you are shooting it. How will you answer? Remember that word ‘Authentic’, mentioned earlier? If you are faking it, it will show. That is why you needed to ask yourself the right questions before you accept sponsorship.
If you accepted sponsorship for the right reasons, you will never have a problem talking to people about the product.
Deal with problems discreetly and give feedback to the manufacturer.
Do you still want to apply?
Because achieving sponsorship has obvious benefits, would you be surprised that manufacturers can get overwhelmed with applications? I certainly do. So much so that I can’t reply to everyone.
Occasionally I have had complaints from archers being rather rude that I have ‘not even the courtesy to reply’.
Perhaps I should reply to everyone, but unfortunately, I can’t.
So here is a free tip; Don’t get angry! If you don’t hear back from a manufacturer it doesn’t mean they didn’t read your application. They may just have the same problem as me, too many applications!
Before you fire off an email to a company asking to be sponsored, really think about what you can offer. Learn about the company and its products and understand your own role. Try to get a recommendation from an existing team member.
If you make a genuine, properly thought out application, then you are more likely to get a response.
Are you certain you are ready to apply?
Then feel free to send us a email to [email protected], and good luck!