Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sponsorship (or as way too many people spell it Sponcership)

‘Tis the season for the stacks of letters and proposals to completely take over my office. In one corner I have three large paper boxes. Each one has a specific label. One labeled Teams, one labeled Solo and one labeled Races. As the mail comes in I make a donation into each box. Each box contains the dreams and life stories of hundreds of passionate people who are doing what they can do be part of this crazy bike culture. Racers, advocacy groups, charity events, blind dog sled racers (yeah, we get some strange stuff) all looking for a handout. In one hand it is totally flattering that so many people want to be affiliated with our brand. On the other hand if we sponsored everyone who would buy our stuff from dealers?

A few years ago a group of us started emailing the craziest and most ridiculous proposals around for all to share in the amusement of what people honestly think they are going to get. Some of the more amusing ones have been donations for a high school cheerleaders bake sale, a pro bull rider willing to throw a logo on his vest in exchange for cash and one guy looking for chain lube to ride his unicycle around the world. I didn’t even know unicycles had chains.

For those playing the home version of the game here is a user guide on how to properly ask for sponsorship from small bike accessory companies with super-busy marketing directors:
1. Take the time to know who you are sending your proposal to. For the first couple of years I worked here I considered changing my name to Whom It May Concern Wiedemann.
2. DVDs, CDs, etc are great but there are not enough hours in a year to look through every one riding their bike in Moab.
3. Pictures are good, words are bad. I am a visual person and they help to show me what you are doing.
4. If you do use words, use spell check. It is one of the greatest inventions of the digital age.
5. Nothing will get your proposal into my trashcan faster than a letter addressed to me but praising my competitor’s products.
6. Please don’t call everyday to see if I have made a decision yet. In the time it takes me to answer my phone I could get through another two proposals and one could be yours.
7. Don’t ask for the world. Most companies in the bike industry don’t have GM sized marketing budgets. Know your audience and company size.
8. Be happy with what you get. If we were a charitable organization we would be a .org not a .com. Budgets are budgets.
9. Don’t threaten to go to my competitors if you are not happy. It is a small industry, people talk! And you don’t want to be on one of our secret industry blacklists!
10. If you don’t get something this year, try again next year. All three boxes should be empty by then.

Posted by Karl Wiedemann at 1:49 PM


  1. Blogger Donna Tocci posted at 2:13 PM  
    Welcome to the blogosphere my friend!
    Great post! I'd add one thing, which isn't how to get sponsorship, but how to continue getting it, I guess. Send a 'thank you' note. Doesn't have to be lengthy or terribly personal. It isn't hard. Sit at the computer and bang out a couple of lines letting the company know you got the product and, if you are an event, how it went. That goes a long way for year 2..and 3...etc.
  2. Blogger Yokota Fritz posted at 9:48 PM  
    Dear Mister To Whom It May Concern WIDEMANNN:

    I found you're email adres in a dierectum of honest upstanding marketingers. I am widow of former Nigerian National champion bikecycle racer Barrister Richard ADENUGA. I know personally you are person of high repute which you must since represent highest quality products -- your performance Murray bicycles are known evern here in Nigeria.

    You will soon flooded with proposals from my countrymen you revealed your name and career. I will offer my services for our mutual benefiction. For the sum of THREE MILLION US DOLLARS ($3,000,000) and like amount in product, I can be representative for all Africa and I will choose reputable winning Nigerian psyclists for your corporation to sponsor.

    Please contact me at your earliestest conveniences so we can make arrangement to wire funds to my agent in LONDON.

    Your servant,

    Miriam ADENUGA
    Lagos, NIGERIA
  3. Blogger Jeff Kerkove posted at 5:01 AM  
    That was a good post. A lot of people that submit for sponsorship should read this.

    It's not about what the company can do for the rider, but rather what the rider can do for the company.

    Thanks bicycle industry! You guys...and gals...rock!!!!
  4. Blogger Jill Homer posted at 10:16 AM  
    Ha! Good letter, Fritz. I'm one of those aforementioned people trying to get trickles of "sponsership" for a crazed-blind-dog-race-type event. I haven't turned to the bicycle industry yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.
  5. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 10:23 AM  
    Excellent tips! I only wish the riders I was working to recently sponsor understood those important points and the amount of work involved in getting companies to kick down some pro deals, let alone free product and cash.

    I would add to that list the following:
    Sponsorship is advertising and marketing nothing more nothing less.
    The only reason you are getting sponsored is because the company believes that you, as an active billboard for their logo and brand, will generate a return on investment (ROI) for them -otherwise they wouldn't sponsor you.
    Good race results are fine, but its how many events you plan on attending, how much you ride, what you do to support the sport in a positive manner.. IMBA, CORBA, trail building, etc...
    You are representing the company(s) that have given you sponsorship - be their ambassador; say and do good things.
    Once you get sponsorship of any kind, be grateful.
    Be patient when waiting to hear from sponsors

    The following is my first hand experience on how sponsorship worked and then failed in an instant.

    I only wish that the team I was putting together understood those points. They seemed to thing that companies would just give them cash and all the free stuff they wanted. Yeah, right! I was able to do something that is extremely difficult to do: I secured a title sponsor for a California based Pro and Semi-pro team that was going to provide a large sum of CASH and on-site race support. Yes, thousands of dollars in cash - quite unheard of, especially for a regional team.

    Unfortunately, after I spent 3 months corresponding with many companies and sending proposals for sponsorships, the captain (of my newly assembled team) thought I was not doing my job (even though his efforts failed miserably last year- getting ZERO sponsorship). Why would he think this? His number one reason was: because we had not heard from any sponsors except the title sponsor. I could not make it more clear: sponsors will decide and notify us in December/January. We need to wait and be patient.

    The captain of the team ultimately shot himself in the foot by sending out separate proposals (behind my back) and to top it off - they were poorly worded and had misspellings everywhere. They also failed to describe what he and the team could do for the company(s) he was looking to get free stuff from. In fact, he seemed to expect free bikes, helmets, clothing, shoes... for the whole team - he thought he deserved it. He also realized that he didnt know that the title sponsor was going to expect to use them as a marketing tool - press releases, photographs, advertising. At the end of November he then informed me he was backing out from the current proposal and would not need my help anymore - he had found other sponsors who "were not interested in the ROI aspect". Needless to say the title sponsor was unhappy.

    By last week I had great pro-deals coming in from the biggest names in the industry and some free product to help with the season in 2006.

    Long story short, his lack understanding and lack of patience undermined what I was working to do and also embarrassed me and the title sponsor as I had to then notify new and potential sponsors that the team would not exist for 2006. The title sponsor was very sad as they had worked hard in hopes of having a team to promote their brand.

    thats my story!
    thanks for the blog! It rocks and I read it every day.
  6. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 1:39 PM  
    As a sponsored rider by two companies, I would like to relate my experience. The first company is a bicycle manufacturer. Basically, I'm getting deals and steals on bikes, clothing, parts and the like. The other sponsor is a technology company. They are utilizing my back and butt as a way to increase alternative exposure. I used to work for this company, so maintaining sponsorship wasn't difficult. However, it does highlight a point. Many cyclists and professional athletes go after "gear" companies. This is flawed. Professional athletes should go after companies with a marketing hat strapped firmly on their head. For example, I spoke to a coffee shop owner (4 store chain) about creating a cycling team. He was delighted to hear about the idea. What excited him even more was the merchandising potential the jerseys would create. In return, maybe he would provide some revenue, gear or lots of coffee. My point is the opportunities are out there. You just have to take off your mirrored sunglasses to find them.

  7. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 6:26 AM  
    Sounds like sponcership can give a marketing pro an ulsor

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