I was asked to do a little write up on how to get sponsors for your club/team. I assume this is due to my perceived super powers in attracting big names like Pabst, Great Lakes Distillery, Panaracer, Nomad World Pub, Griessmeyer Law, and Milwaukee Bicycle Co. See what I did there…
Lesson 1: Always mention your sponsors whenever you can. That’s what they pay for (either through product or cash) so don’t be shy about saying their name.
Lesson 2: You are too late already. If you are reading this in March 2014 it is too late for most sponsors to help you out this year. Most companies set their advertising/sponsor budgets in September-November for the upcoming year. That being said, a sponsor still might be willing or able to come on mid seasons, so be welcoming to smaller donations. Don’t turn away anyone who wants to help you (see also Lesson 9).
Lesson 3: Start with folks you know. You think I just sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and they said “Sure, we will give you money and product”? Umm nope! I knew the rep in our city and I asked him nicely. He has since left and we have been passed on to each new rep to work with because we built a good relationship with the company through the years. So if you are a socially awkward introvert, maybe someone else in your club should do the schmoozing.
Lesson 4: Know your ask ahead of time. Did you read the GQ article on the Beavers? The Sram guy asked Dillman what he wanted and he wasn’t ready with an answer. Now I love Bri Bri and he probably didn’t expect Sram to ask that question so straight forward, but that leads to the next lesson…
Lesson 5: Be ready to strike a deal at any time. You never know who you’ll run into or who is interested in sponsoring you, so be ready all the time. Which again leads into next lesson…
Lesson 6: Make the ask appropriate for who you’re asking. Don’t ask your local bar for a $5000 sponsorship right off the bat; they will think you’re crazy, or worse…dumb. Now, they may be willing to go big for you, but let them offer to do that. In direct opposition to what I just said “if they don’t say ‘No’ you aren’t asking for enough.”
Lesson 7: Start Local. I know we travel around the globe playing this game, but only a few companies are going to be interested in reaching the person in Japan who follows your club on Facebook. Most clubs have the biggest impact and exposure locally. So go after those local bars, bike companies and shops, or law firms that are in your town before calling up Chris King.
Lesson 8: Keep in touch and send them a Year in Review letter. This should include what events you attended and how you placed, how many hits your webpage got, and maybe a short funny or cool story or two. This will help in making the ask for them to stay with you for another year of support as well. Don’t just do it at the end of the year; keep in touch throughout the year by sending them pics of your club and others with their product. Be sure to show them how you used their money in the shot.
Lesson 9: Be creative in your partnerships. Don’t be mad when they won’t give you cash, maybe they can offer other services. This Is called “in-kind” donations. Maybe they can give you tons of beer, get your jerseys printed for cheap, or offer up a free rental space to host a fundraiser. Be open and willing to work out deals for things other than cash.
Lesson 10: Don’t have competing sponsors. You know how you hear “Rogain; the official men’s hair regrowth product of Major League Baseball” etc. For instance, we had approached New Belgium Brewing about some partnerships but they were concerned about our partnership with Pabst. Although Pabst and I saw it as not really being in competition since they’re different types of beer, New Belgium felt that beer was beer. This is not to say you can’t approach competitors or mention you might be talking to one of their competitors, that’s just business, but be wary so you don’t lose both opportunities because you got greedy.
Lesson 11: None of what I said will help you. Each city, club, potential sponsor is different. These are just some things I have learned over the years.
I hope this helps your club and the sport grow. Good luck!
– Captain Jake
Milwaukee Bike Polo