Do's and Dont's of Sponsorship - UPDATED
You may remember that I did a post like this a few years ago...it was SO well received that I thought I would write an updated version, to include some of the things I have learnt since the last blog was published!
Equestrian sport is expensive, it just is, no matter what way you do it, so it's not surprising that more and more riders, both amateur and professional, are looking for sponsorship. Here are some tips, as well as Do's and Dont's.
Choose a company who fits with your values.
Put your sponsor's goals at the heart of your initial application
Know what the company actually does - this might seem obvious but I have had so many emails that don't seem to have a clue!
Mention products of theirs that you already use and love.
Build a relationship first, ask for sponsorship second - Think about blogging. If I can manage it, anyone can! If you like certain products and companies, write about them! Get noticed by the companies you love, your name will stick in the back of their minds...
Work hard for your sponsors, you get out what you put in.
Have an active social media - If you don't have a website/horse specific social media yet, create one. Take some time building it up. Social Media and an online presence is so important to companies these days, it's how everyone in the equestrian industry engages nowadays. Facebook and Instagram and probably the biggest and therefore most useful social media platforms to utilise.
Be polite and kind
Make your application different, right now video is HUGE, why not show companies how engaging you can be with a fun and informative video? Before approaching a company, find out who else they sponsor. They won't want too many people who are the same, find a way to market yourself as different to the other people they already have on the team.
Find a connection between you and the company
Don't just ask for free things! Sponsorship is a two-way street its not just a company giving you free things and that being the end of it.
Don't send a generic email/message to EVERYONE, I promise you companies can tell, it makes it seem like you don't care about the company.
DO NOT post on a Facebook group "anyone looking for a sponsored rider? I will accept anything and will promote you well" - It's something I see far too often, and whilst I don't know for sure, I'm guessing no companies message them offering sponsorship, I certainly wouldn't.
Ideally, don't get a parent to write on your behalf
Don't focus on your needs, focus on what you can do for the company.
Don't let your sponsorship programme go stale. Keep chatting, keep posting, keep things happy.
Don't pester after a no...I know its upsetting but a no does mean no....dont be desperate.
DO NOT Embellish! Rich Neale mentioned that this week he saw the front page of a local newspaper which had a story about a rider looking for sponsors to help them in their 2020 Olympic bid. The story is worrying because the said rider isn't even FEI registered! Going from local shows to FEI in the 18 months left isn't possible. Rich said, "I would be the last to crush anyone's dreams but this felt more like fraud than a realistic shot at the Olympics!"
DON'T GIVE UP! It may take a while but keep optimistic and keep trying.
Why did I choose my EquusPhoto riders?: They are real, they want me to succeed, they are genuinly lovely people, they work hard for me, we all help each other.
The holy grail of sponorship is financial sponsorship, its also the hardest type of sponsorship to get. If you are insistent on only getting this type of sponsorship you wont have much luck. Be flexible and remember that product sponsorship can be just as beneficial for you. It may even progress into financial sponsorship down the line when the company knows you better. Financial sponsorship can be scary for a company, they need to know they can trust you.
Remember that you dont necessarily need to be out winning every weekend in order to be sponsored. Many of the most social media savvy, engaging people I know are those at BE90, who dont really know what they are doing but are having a laugh along the way. Lets take Tina Wallace "Life on the left rein" and Victoria Brant "Diary of a Wimpy Eventer" as examples. We all LOVE them, they are funny, post reguarly and show real life, and therefore companies LOVE them too.
Dont necesarrily limit yourself to equestrian companies. There may be some great local companies who would love exposure to some new potential clients. Because they arent 'horsey' they wont be inundated with requests like many other big horsey brands, meaning you possibly have a better chance.
From the brands and riders themselves:
Apt Cavalier Ltd - In my opinion brand ambassadors work best when they truely love the product and want to see it do well! My brand ambassadors are also lovely people and genuinely fun to be around which shines through in photos.
Victoria Brant - I think brands choose to work with me because I'm not just a rider. I have a marketing degree, 15 years experience in marketing products and services and I try really hard to stand out, because I know that works for me!
You need to be able to offer something back in order to get subsidised. If you can't, it just wont work!
Also, people respect honesty and I give my honest feedback of products on social media and blogs, and straight to the brands themselves.
Jemima Gray - I am lucky enough to be a Brand Ambassador with Taurus Boots, Stormchase hand and wristwarmers and Stance Equine.
We met Jonathan and Sally (the then owners of Taurus Boots) at their stand when we bought a pair of boots for me, and things went from there - that was about seven years ago and we have now become good friends. Piers from Stance Equine lives close to us. Mum happened to run into him and got chatting - again, we were already using Coolstance Copra and I am now doing their social media for them. Last, but not least, I was using Storm Chase wristwarmers as I have raynauds, and got chatting at a show.
All these products I promote as much as I can via social media (Jemima Gray Eventing on Facebook and Instagrm) and just generally when I meet people as I believe in them!
Total Impact Equestrian - Total Impact Equestrian chose their sponsored riders based on the fact that they were super professional on their social media and very active. One is an established show rider at the top of her game and the other is a young up and coming dressage rider who approached us very eloquently and actually offered something in return which she has kept her word on!
The Mane Hub - Our sponsored riders are at the top of their game ie Katie Jerram but they tried our products (Shapley’s superior grooming products) loved them so much she asked her PR lady to find us. To me this shows she truly believes in our products and she is more than happy to talk to anyone on how she uses them!
Equissentials Dressage - You don’t need to be a world class Olympian to be attractive to a brand but you need the right approach.
My top tips would be:
Tailor your pitch, explain WHAT you love about the products we stock
Provide stats and data - how much engagement does a typical review post get?
How many followers do you have on SM?
What’s your organic view rate on your blog?
This all really helps:
Think about what’s in it for the brand or retailer your approaching - it’s all well and good to say that you’ll help get products noticed if I can provide them for free.. but how? What’s the return for me?
If you’re approaching wanting to collaborate - have an idea or suggestion otherwise, you’re just asking for free stuff and asking me to tell you what to do in return for the free stuff. You need to put some effort in and sell yourself.
Stand out - I get on average 20-30Messages a week asking for sponsorship and free stuff. Why should I pick you - what’s different and what can you bring that I don’t already get from other relationships.
Hope this can help a few of you. Some of the tips might seem obvious but I have honestly recieved some of the oddest emails from people seeking sponsorship!
Huge thank you to everyone who contributed