I am writing this article in response to what I consider to be a major problem for the strength community: The problem of successful athletes struggling to support their lifting career. In my opinion, there are just way too many high level athletes that have to scrape by in order to compete in the sport they love. Yes, it is absolutely their choice to compete in a fringe sport that does not get a lot of recognition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they NEED to struggle financially in order to compete.
What I am going to cover in this article are some things I look for when I consider bringing someone onto the LBEB sponsored team. However, let me preface it by saying that the LBEB team is absolutely full, and I am not considering new athletes, so no need to send me a sponsorship application. And, although I can’t speak for every company out there, there will be some generalizations I will discuss that can be applicable to most companies when they consider sponsoring a competitive athlete. These are some helpful tips to consider when applying for sponsorships.
1. You HAVE To Compete
This one would seem like a no-brainer, which of course means some people can’t comprehend it. Sponsoring an athlete basically boils down to two things: The business provides the athlete with compensation and exposure, and the athlete brings the business more exposure and income in return. There is not really any point in sponsoring someone who doesn’t compete (In fact, you aren’t even an athlete if you don’t compete) because they will not be bringing the business any exposure. The rare case where this is not true is when someone doesn’t compete, but is some sort of fitness celebrity who has a large following on a social media platform. However most of those people compete in something, so it is really few and far between.
I can’t even recall the amount of emails I receive that start off with something like “How do I get sponsored? I started lifting 6 months ago, and I hope to compete soon…”. That is about as far as I get when reading the email, simply because this person does not need a sponsorship. In fact, the harsh truth is that they don’t deserve a sponsorship, yet. They haven’t had to put in the time, effort, and sacrifices that more successful athletes have had to put in to get where they are. If you are brand new to the sport and you don’t compete, you don’t need a sponsor: You need to lift more and compete more. On top of that, you need to prove yourself to your fellow lifters and earn their respect before thinking about sponsorship.
2. Have a “Thing”
This one is a little more relatable to my brand, but it is absolutely something I think about when considering new athletes or not. Whether they know it or not, most successful athletes have a “thing”. I like my athletes to each have their own “thing” that they do, to make them stand out, or to make them leave a lasting impression in people’s minds. Because you are representing the brand that sponsors you, the goal is to make people think of your brand when they are out and about, living their lives. For example: Streaky is known for looking like a runway model while lifting, Joan is known for being small and stronger than you, I have my beard and spandex, and even someone like Kalle Beck of Juggernaut has his hair. These things aren’t always related to the sport you do, but it makes people think of you, and in turn, think of the brand you represent.
Having a “thing” (can I stop saying that now?) is also useful to help people identify with you on a more personal level, so you aren’t just another person on the internet that lifts weights. If you see that your idol has a big beard, wears colorful clothing, or has an impeccable hair style, you tend to want to do those things too. That further helps fans identify with the brand you represent, which in turn makes the business more successful.
|Kat’s “thing” is being a tall, sexy, successful Masters athlete|
3. Ask Not What Your Brand Can Do For You…
If you were to apply for a job, would you walk in, sit down and say “Hey I want money, how much can I get from you?” Hopefully your answer is no. So, why would you do that when requesting sponsorship? If someone sends me an email and that is the opening sentence, I immediately send that email to the trash. In fact, I will go into the trash bin and click “delete forever” because I don’t ever want to see that person’s name again. It is incredibly disrespectful to approach a company and ask what they will give you. A business first wants to know how you will help expand their brand, following, and customer base. Being strong is an important part of this, but it definitely is not the whole picture. I don’t care if someone has world records: If they start an email by asking for money or gear, I won’t give them a second thought.
You could be a world-record holder, but that doesn’t tell me what kind of person you are, how you deal with fans or customers, and how you will help expand my business. If you want things from a company, but you don’t do anything to increase their fan base or income, how can you expect them to afford to bring you on? If you want a sponsorship, the first thing I would recommend doing is telling the brand all the ways you will help increase their revenue, and how you will do it. I personally hate having to ask athletes to create content for me to share, and I don’t know many bosses that want to spend their day asking you to do things while you sit around and wait for direction. Be proactive, and create content for them: It’s what they pay you for.
4. Pick a Brand That Is Right For You
This one is fairly straightforward, but still needs to be said. You need to pick a brand that is the right fit for you, for your sport, and for the values you appreciate. If you are a 105kg+ female lifter, don’t be upset if you approach a brand that caters more to petite people and they turn you down. It is not on them to sponsor someone that doesn’t align with their business image, and it shouldn’t upset you if they say no. Your time would be better spent approaching brands that reinforce the values you appreciate. No brand wants to spend their time redoing their public image to accommodate a lifter that isn’t aligned with their interests, and they shouldn’t have to. It is up to you to approach the right brand, and it doesn’t even have to be a lifting brand: I know athletes that are sponsored by speaker manufacturers, auto-shops, and car companies. Again, it all goes back to how you will promote their image, and sometimes all it takes is a little gumption on your part.
Some people say that I shouldn’t be telling athletes how to approach sponsors, that if you have to ask for a sponsor, you don’t deserve one. That is just silly to me. We are in absolute fringe sports, and most people don’t even know we exist, so most of the time it will be up to you to approach brands and show them what you bring to the table. Just make sure it is in both of your best interests to promote each other.
5. Your Public Image Matters
Because I run a website, how my athletes act on social media platforms matters greatly to me. When I consider sponsoring someone, the first thing I will do is some light internet stalking to see how they act online. Your personal views on things don’t really matter to me, as long as they are person. However, if your Facebook feed is with images about how much you hate the president, how you hate immigrants, or that you don’t know how to spell, that reflects on the brand you want to promote. You may have plenty of people who agree with the things you say, but what you are really doing is effectively drawing a line in the sand between the fans and customers, and turning many of them off of following you. Think about what you post or say before you post it, because everything you do reflects on the brand you sponsor. This is one of those cases where the shit really does roll uphill. I don’t care if you are the strongest whatever in whatever weight class: If you are an asshole, and drive fans away, you aren’t a good fit for my brand.
I hope some of these tips help you all as you approach writing sponsorship letters. There are just too many world class athletes that have to struggle just to compete, and I hope some of you will heed my advice as a business owner and sponsor, as you approach your own sponsorship dreams. Good luck, and let us know what you think in the Facebook comments.