What You Didn’t Know About Becoming A Sponsored Athlete
So you’ve dieted down for a photo shoot, won a bikini contest, or competed in your first couple of shows. Or, perhaps you’re an experienced personal trainer, coach, or competitor -regardless of your accomplishments, you now deem yourself worthy of a ‘sponsorship’. There are dozens of reasons why you may think you deserve to be a sponsored athlete, but what can you really offer a company, and what sets you apart from the millions of others who feel the same way?
Over the years, I have been very fortunate to have worked with some wonderful companies focused on supplements, tanning, media publications, competition suits, and athletic apparel. I have found the common denominator in initiating each and every one of these working relationships to be a strong understanding of the party’s core business, as well as the ability to demonstrate how the partnership can be synergistic. Partnership you say? Yes, partnership. Mutual gain for both parties, give and take, and, above all else, respect.
You may think that sending off a couple of modelling shots is going to somehow make a company representative jump out of their seat and pick up the phone, but that is not how it works. Attractive people in the fitness industry are a dime a dozen, and looks do not build a relationship nor do they help you speak articulately about a company, or create engaging social media posts to drive traffic to their sites.
When asked which traits are most desirable when considering athletes for sponsorships, the Director of Marketing for a prominent Canadian supplement company responded, “Organized, aware, professional, and an excellent communicator.” Do you see ‘ability to flex, looks great in a bikini, or top contest placing’ here? No. Why is that? Because companies want to work with someone who is on the ball and reliable, knows what is going on in their respective industry/field, and can put this all together in polished, professional communications. Being sponsored is about branding – becoming a representative who can speak eloquently and intelligently about a company’s products or services, while continuing to generate interest in their own goals as an athlete and informing their followers about the happenings in the industry.
Now I am not saying that having a great portfolio is not important when promoting yourself (quite the opposite), but there must be substance behind the face and physique. One of the most rewarding working relationships I have had to date is the one that allows me to write for all of you, and that is my partnership with Mark Bradfield of www.trainingandfitnessmag.com. In the beginning, Mark and I started out at as simply a model and photographer, but we have since expanded that into creating magazine submissions, video logs, articles, and other large projects that you will be hearing more about in the coming months. All this in less than a year! Unplanned partnerships such as this demonstrate where fit comes into play, as Mark and I have found an alignment between our motivations and values, and have created new opportunities from our shared passions.
If you believe you have what it takes to represent a company, here is what I recommend:
- Put together a 3-5 PROFESSIONAL photo compilation (varied shots, and include a stage shot or two if applicable). Absolutely no selfies!
- Create your industry resume including relevant accomplishments, goals, accolades, and events.
- Write a personalized, professional letter to the company CEO or athlete manager. Please find out who this individual is – the worst letters start off with ‘To Whom it May Concern’. Outline who you are, why you love the company, and what you have to offer as a representative of their brand.
- Provide relevant references. Now I know you may read this and say, “I’m not applying for a job so why would I need references?”. Yes, you are applying for a job! Being a sponsored athlete means being compensated by a company for representing their brand. It is a job and one that you should take seriously.
- Put all of this information together in an easy to peruse hard copy or electronic format, and send. Follow up with a note in three to four weeks if you have not heard back in order to reiterate your interest and offer the opportunity to answer any follow-up questions they may have.
- Be gracious and professional regardless of the outcome of your efforts. Whether a company is interested in working together or not, thanking them for their consideration and maintaining a positive attitude will be remembered.
Good luck with your submissions and, as always, please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.