An introduction to sponsorship for sports professionals
As a sports professional, sponsorship can be a pathway to products, services and funding that can take your career to the next level.
It’s not all about the material gain, either. Attracting commercial backing is a major statement that proves you’re making waves in your chosen sport.
With the UK sponsorship market currently valued at £400 million, there’s plenty of opportunity out there. But, there’s plenty of competition too.
Below, Play-Ex looks at how you should be approaching companies that could sponsor you, and how you can boost your chances of getting that all-important deal.
1. Maximise your network
Sponsorship isn’t going to happen overnight; you need to get out there, press the flesh and meet people who can point you in the right direction.
Reach out to colleagues and fellow competitors who are in the same game. There’s every chance they will know of a company that’s looking to take on a rising star.
Attend as many relevant sports gatherings as you can – places where sponsors from your field are likely to be. If you’re competing, hang back after your event to introduce yourself to fresh faces and expand your professional community.
Speak to senior figures at your own club about companies that have been associated with club members in the past. Those firms are more likely to understand your situation and will be better positioned to help you.
2. Consider your target
Everyone wants to land a big-name, but the super brands typically only go for established, global stars. Besides, they’re not necessarily going to offer the best support.
Smaller organisations based in your area may be more available, easier to talk to and work with. They should want to help you too – you are the local hot talent after all!
Call up or send an email to the companies that look promising, asking if they have formal information about partnering with professional athletes.
Try to find out the right person to contact – a brand manager, marketing manager or even head of sponsorship – people who will be best placed to give you straight answers, or at least, good advice.
3. Reaching out
Approach your chosen company with a formal email to explain who you are and why you deserve to be considered for sponsorship. Like the covering note on a job application, keep your language clear and concise. Be confident in your ability and commitment as a pro, and leave the reader wanting to know more.
Add a high-quality shot or two of you in action – make sure you stand out as the winner you are.
Do include links to professional social media accounts that showcase your story, talents and personality as an athlete. Don’t link to personal social media accounts – no-one wants to see pictures of you at your mate’s stag or hen do!
Attach a proposal document to the covering letter to give more detail on your profile. This will flesh out your career so far, highlighting titles won, championship appearances and/or teams represented.
Again, use images and bring in press coverage if possible, making sure the company knows the value you will bring to their team.
It’s professional and proper to follow up your letter with a phone call a week or so later. Do not assume your message has been read, just be clear that you’re keen to know the company’s thoughts on the matter.
3. Meeting face-to-face
Your application has made all the right noises, and you’ve been invited to a meeting in person. It takes a lot of work to get this far, so take heart!
You may be asked to make a short presentation to bring your proposal to life, and this will look best in a PowerPoint format. You may want to pull in the help of someone who has experience in graphic design to make your presentation look slick.
Points you could discuss include:
- How you discovered your passion for sport
- Challenges you’ve overcome on your journey
- Training regimes
- Career milestones and achievements
- Personal ethos & future goals
- How sponsorship could help you excel further
- Why you’re a great choice as a sponsorship candidate.
Practice makes perfect, so go through your pitch with family, your coach or friends – people you can count on to listen and give constructive feedback.
Be honest, confident and enthusiastic when you speak, leave a business card if you have one, and follow up your meeting with an email to thank the company for the opportunity.
Make it happen!
Getting a sponsor on board can be a game-changer, and with so much at stake, it’s understandable if the task feels daunting.
But stay true to your experience as a sportsperson and approach your goal methodically. Keep looking for small ways to improve your personal profile, whether that’s growing your networks, polishing your portfolio, or simply improving your performances.
And remember, it’s a two-way deal; companies are searching for you too. Take confidence
from knowing that you’re highly valued. Stay focussed on the marginal gains, and you’ll be soon be reaping the rewards of all your hard work with a commercial contract.
How Play-Ex can help
At Play-Ex, we understand that being a professional sportsman or woman is a full-time job.
For this reason, sports pros can find it difficult when it comes to finding the services they need to organise life beyond the field of play.
To help, Play-Ex is a free-to-use platform that connects professional sports players with the essential services they need, things like specialist insurance, mortgage advice, financial guidance and far more.
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