Getting sponsorship

If there’s one issue that always seems to come up in any multisport discussion it’s the question of sponsorship. Specifically: how do I get some?


The two keys are to look in the right places and to ask the right questions.

The right place to look is to start locally and look for small companies with products that need exposure. Local companies are often quite happy for local exposure especially if they have sound business reasons for developing a higher profile within the community.


This type of approach is often more successful outside Asia where these companies are often trying to establish their brand names.


Within Asia there are normally two ways of locating sponsors. One is to look for distributors who are keen to build up their profile with the brand owner they represent. Often a quick bit of homework will find that these companies are out to get regional deals with the brand owner. Simple example: a Hong Kong company represents a US brand and wants to expand into a couple of other markets. The brand owner says fine as long as you can demonstrate an ability to build the brand. The local company can’t do this on price discounts alone so along comes marketing and hopefully along come you to be seen wearing the products.


The sale of Montrail products in Hong Kong is an excellent example: it would be no surprise to see Go Lite follow if the amount of their gear now seen on Hong Kong trails is an indication.


The second route in this part of the world is to seek out manufacturers or buying agents who have piles of product that needs to be tested. Remember a large chunk of European and American products are made in Asia and the buying offices always want feedback on how their products stand up.


And it’s not just the obvious foot wear companies either: chain sports stores often manufacture their private label gear in Asia and this needs just as much testing as a major brand. Look in the right places and there are more sponsorship deals available than you might think.


Having found them however it’s important to handle the opportunity correctly. The best approach by far is to work out in advance what you can do for the company you plan to approach.

Many of you on this circulation list are successful outside sport: this gives you a fantastic opportunity to sell yourself to a potential sponsor.


In general (and I am generalizing here) parents in Asia encourage academic achievement far more than sporting achievement. Few parents understand the concept of the good all rounder that can achieve both academic and sporting distinction. These parents (sometimes relatively affluent) often represent the very market that consumer product companies target and for them to get a successful business person to stand up in front of a school or university and explain how to mix work and play is often a heaven sent opportunity.


You might be more valuable than you think!


It you get this far don’t spoil it by asking for a pile of cash. Cash is always king and only in relatively few cases is it handed out with abandon. Even at the top end of sports sponsorship product is more common than cash (although performance based payments are common).


I’ve been lucky enough to have had the same sponsor for seven years now and they have stuck by me thick and thin (most of it thin lately) but I’ve also been on the other side of the table negotiating deals.


Several years ago (when he played for the Utah Jazz) the Lakers’ Karl Malone approached me to sponsor him. He didn’t want cash but he did want drinks: lots of them. So many in fact that we included his house on a delivery route. Karl’s logic was that he’d checked his wife’s shopping basket and worked out that if he did a deal with us his grocery bill would be cut in half.


At that time Caterpillar also sponsored him and I asked him if he had taken the same approach with them. It was admittedly, a tongue in cheek question, but the answer was in fact yes.


Karl had bought a large plot of land in Louisiana which needed a lot of clearing work and every year at contract time Caterpillar simply sent him the latest catalogue, he chose a piece of equipment he needed for the land and the contract was renewed.


So if you want to snare a sponsorship or two think local, do your homework and think how you can be of benefit for the company who are approaching. And, if one day I see any of you driving a yellow earthmover down the road I’ll know it’s worked.