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    The Ultimate Guide to becoming a Sponsored Athlete in Combat Sports

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    The Ultimate Guide to becoming a Sponsored Athlete in Combat Sports

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    The Ultimate Guide to becoming a Sponsored Athlete in Combat Sports

    It is one of the key aims of any aspiring athlete or fighter to be able to concentrate 100% of their time on their training.  Unfortunately most people, especially when early in their sporting career, have to work in some sort of job or alternate paid activity to support their competitive aspirations.  This juggle is not an easy one to balance.

     

    The demands of competing at the top level in any combat sport mean that any individual wanting to get to the top (or stay there) will need to train a lot.  With some disciplines (such as MMA), this will mean spending almost the equivalent hours of any normal 9-5 job honing body, mind and craft on a weekly basis.
    It is no wonder then that most athletes will at some point look towards finding sponsors.  It is a common dream to get sponsored and thus hopefully not have to worry about needing to work to support their training.  Speak to any athlete in the world today though and I am sure they will tell you that this endeavour can feel like a gargantuan task, almost akin to chasing the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  Is this just a pipe dream perpetuated by urban myth then or an achievable goal if approached in the correct manner?

     

    The reality is that there are both truths and misconceptions in this area.  There are many pitfalls an individual will need to avoid though when looking to reach this elusive goal.  At the bottom of this post I go through all the different aspects I think are important to consider when trying to become a sponsored athlete in combat sports.  Before that though, below I speak to some of the world’s leading combat sports brands and athletes to hear what their opinions are surrounding sponsorship;

     

    Scramble

    What do you look for in fighters/athletes to sponsor?

    We look for a combination of social media reach, achievements, and having some kind of USP (Unique Selling Point) to set the person apart.  The person has to be of good moral standing too, for the most part.  Although we are not the morality police, I’d rather sponsor someone who is a good role model.

     

    Why do you personally sponsor fighters/athletes, what do you expect back from them?

    Sponsorship has changed hugely over the nearly 10 years Scramble has been around.  In the beginning, athletes were overjoyed simply to get free training gear, and we were happy to have people who were keen to represent the brand, no matter their rank or how well known they are.

     

    Nowadays at the top level of the sport and at the top level of the jiu jitsu business, there are sponsorships worth thousands of dollars a month.

     

    For us personally, we expect to have a good two way relationship, with the athlete promoting the brand in exchange for whatever Scramble has agreed to provide the athlete. Essentially the athlete’s main job is to promote the brand through social media, that is where the majority of their influence and value is.

     

    We usually start the relationship fairly casually and make sure that we are a good fit for each other.

     

    What can fighters/athletes do to make themselves more attractive to sponsors?

    I’d say to pick a brand you like and make sure you buy and wear that brand for a long time.  The first thing we do when somone applies is to take a look at their social media feed.  If the feed is completely lacking in Scramble, then we know that they are not really a fan of the brand and they have no connection with it.

     

    I would also wait until brown belt before applying for sponsors.  There are a handful (literally) of purple belts and below in the entire world who would be a good fit for a sponsor, my advice to anyone who is not yet at that level would be just to keep your head down and train hard and try to make ends meet yourself.

     

    I feel that asking for sponsorship before that shows kind of a sense of entitlement that is not normally justified.

     

    Where do fighters/athletes go wrong when seeking sponsorship?

    Asking too early, putting the wrong brand name in the email, not already being a fan and supporter of the brand, sending rude one-sentence emails… the list is endless!

     

    Can you give me an example of how you came to sponsor one of your current top level fighters/athletes?

    One of our running themes at the moment is “jiu jitsu counterculture.”  We are a counterculture to the upper echelons of the sport.  At that level, there are wild amounts of money being thrown around.  Thousands of dollars per month.  Contracts changing every year to the highest bidder.  We simply could not sustain that, nor do we want to.

     

    We are more interested in sponsoring outliers, good people, people who share our sense of humour or our outlook on life.  Most of the people that we sponsor are either people that we know or who have been introduced to us by a mutual friend.  We have the Finnish power couple Emilia and Santeri, both black belts living in Spain.

     

    They are great to work with because they understand the two-way street thing.  They take high quality photos of themselves wearing new products without prompting, they regularly update their social media with all the tags, and they teach and compete all the time.  That’s just one example, we have a really good group of athletes that we sponsor.

     

    I think I met Masakazu Imanari when we invited him over for Polaris, and after speaking to him and getting on well with him, we asked to sponsor him.

     

    Some of our sponsorships involve money but to be honest the best relationships we have are ones that have grown organically over the years.  When an athlete needs something, we are usually there to help them out, and the amount of help we can give is directly related to the relationship we have.

     

    What would your best advice be to any fighter/athlete looking to become sponsored?

    This is pretty much the same as the previous question, but I would add that school owners are particularly attractive as sponsorees because they will automatically be promoting the brand to their students.

     

    What myths around sponsorship would you like to dispel?

    I don’t know if there are any real myths about it.  Just work hard, have a healthy social media presence (not just in numbers but in content), and don’t feel that you’re going to walk into a salaried sponsorship unless you’re literally one of the top 10 in the world.

     

    You can get in touch with Scramble here through their Website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for further information on their amazing brand and excellent range of products! 

     

    Tom Barlow – Scramble Sponsored Athlete

    A photo of sponsored athlete Tom Barlow

     

    Was it difficult becoming a sponsored BJJ athlete?

    In some ways, yes.  When I was a lower belt and my profile was not as large as it is now, it was challenging to find a sponsor.  As my profile grew, so did the offers of sponsorship.  The struggles that I had came as a result of trying to become the best I could in the sport, but I wasn’t necessarily seeking sponsorship as an end goal.

     

    What difference does it make to you being sponsored?

    It’s been hugely beneficial to my career.  Aside from the financial benefits (i.e. not having to pay for equipment, apparel, or competition fees), my sponsors have also elevated my profile within the community.  This has allowed me have far more opportunities than I would have had without them.

     

    How did you get to be sponsored?

    I try to build positive relationships with people throughout the BJJ community.  I’ve also been at the forefront of British BJJ as it has grown, which has given me a lot of visibility in the sport as well.  I connected with Scramble back when they were a very small company, and since I believed in their vision and their abilities, I accepted sponsorship with them and have stayed with them for most of my career.

    What are the common misconceptions other people have about you being a sponsored athlete?

    Probably the biggest misconception I hear is that a sponsor will make all your Jiu Jitsu dreams come true, and that if you get a sponsor, you will be able to give up your job and train full time. Being a full time athlete is very difficult, and takes a lot of time, energy, and investment.  You might even have to move to one of the larger schools to train if you want to be a full-time, professional athlete.

     

    What would be your best advice be to a young aspiring athlete in order to gain sponsors?

    The first thing to understand is that sponsorship is a two-way street.  By that, I mean that a sponsored athlete should be doing as much for their sponsor as the sponsor does for the athlete. You need to be actively working on developing your profile within the community and helping your sponsor reach more eyeballs.

    This can happen in a lot of different ways, not only competition— but obviously, successful competitive athletes have a much easier time finding sponsorship.

     

    You can get in touch with Tom here through his Website, Facebook or Instagram for further information on him and all the excellent projects he is involved with!

     

    Venum

    What do you look for in fighters/athletes to sponsor?

    We are looking for an interesting fighter/athlete or fight/event which can offer nice visibility to the brand.

    Why do you personally sponsor fighters/athletes, what do you expect back from them?

    When we do one shot deal sponsorship, we have some criteria: the fight must be on a major show, the show must be televised and the fight must be on the main/televised card.

    A sponsorship deal is a 2 way partnership.  We will support the athlete, and in return, he will promote the brand.

    What can fighters/athletes do to make themselves more attractive to sponsors?

    We only consider pro athlete for sponsorship programs, so their fight records is important.  If they have a nice following fan base on social media, it’s a +.

    Where do fighters/athletes go wrong when seeking sponsorship?

    Most of the requests received are incomplete.  Some people don’t even mention their names, or even their discipline.  It’s is really hard then to be able to give them a proper reply.

    Can you give me an example of how you came to sponsor one of your current top level fighters/athletes?

    Usually we have some target names.  We will then contact them and see if they are available for sponsorship.  If they are, then we start the negotiations.

    What would your best advice be to any fighter/athlete looking to become sponsored?

    When you send your sponsorship request, please remember to give you’re the necessary information for our consideration (name, age, fight records/ranking, and social media accounts)

    What myths around sponsorship would you like to dispel?

    It is not all glamorous and there is a lot of hard work behind each deal

    You can get in touch with Venum here through their Website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for further information on their amazing brand and excellent range of products! 

     

    Christi Brereton – Venum Sponsored Fighter

    A photo of sponsored athlete Christi Brereton

     

    Going right back to the beginning, I have been fighting professionally since the age of 13 years old, fighting ranked women twice my age at the time after starting the sport as a hobby when I was 10 /11 years old.  I always wore the same kit for training in.  I remember getting my first pair of Thai shorts/gloves, feeling so proud to have them and being thankful that I no longer had to borrow the used smelly boxing gloves that everyone’s hands had sweated in at the gym I trained at in Plymouth.

     

    The shorts in question were the ones I wore for all my fights and training sessions.  I remember binning them after my WPMF title win for the Kings birthday celebration in Bangkok Thailand 2007, when I had just turned 15 years old.  The shorts were hanging by that point as I am sure you can imagine!

     

    From then on I managed to pick up little sponsor gifts or donations from small businesses here and there. One paid towards private extra maths tuition as I was struggling with my maths GCSE at the time.

     

     

    At 16 years old I took a year out to finish my GCSEs.  Whilst this was happening, my first gym closed down due to financial difficulties and my trainer left.
    Then at 17 I was offered a job teaching Muay Thai Classes at this same gym after it had been taken over by new management, which I enjoyed and it helped with my confidence.
    I didn’t have a structure for myself and no training regime as there was no one to coach me.  I threw myself into things that I shouldn’t have done, for example, putting myself into a fight even though I wasn’t training for it.  You can imagine the result….

     

    Then, my students and I went to an interclub and I bumped into a man called Steve (who is now my coach and partner ).  I travelled to Cornwall to his gym for training, had a few more fights and found myself back on the right track.  I approached some potential sponsors at the time but was pushed back – which confused me as to why?  As I was a young, world champion.Fast forward, Steve and I developed a strong relationship and moved to Okehampton where I have my family.  After staring a gym together I became pregnant with my daughter 2011-12, so I didn’t return to fighting until 2013.

     

    In 2013 my first fight back was on Enfusion.  This wasn’t meant to be the first as I had a bout booked in a month before but my oponent pulled out the day before my scheduled fight.  Not wanting to wait I took the fight opportunity even though there was a large weight advantage favouring my oponent and rule set different to what I was used to.

     

    I lost on points but my determination was there.  After that I went on to win the WBC National title before taking the UK Number 1 -55kg spot from the current reigning 5x World champion Alexis Rufus.   From this point on I felt a stronger and more mature young woman.  As I was only 20 years old, it felt like just the beginning, so I went on!

     

    I haven’t stopped training since 2013 and have taken fight opportunities whenever they have arisen.  I have had opportunities to travel across the world including destinations such as Malaysia, Thailand, USA and China.  I became Roar Combat league World Champion in 2016 competing against international opponents and have defended my belt 3 times.

     

    I can only describe my journey so far as a stormy sea voyage.  One minute you’re up, and then the next, you’re down, doors close as others open.  You just have to keep plugging on towards your goals, whilst putting all your time and dedication into training.  Present yourself how you want to be seen and think which audience is going to be looking up at you.

     

    Over the 6 years Steve and I have been running the gym Team Chaos, we have coached over 15 young athletes to becoming champions.  Our gym feels like a family, we have met so many friends along the way and have great memories.

     

    In terms of sponsorship, over the past few years I have started building a portfolio of professional images (I am very lucky that my cousin Fred Wonnacott is a Photographer so was able to get some amazing shots from him) in order to help build a profile.

     

    Last year I was lucky to become a sponsored athlete and ambassador for Venum.  I am very grateful to the Venum team for recognising my achievements and years of hard work.

     

    There’s no easy route, all I can give you is my story and the advice to keep working hard for whatever you dream of.  Opportunities will arise when you least expect them, storms eventually clear and waters will be calm once more!  Don’t give up, stay ready 😉

     

    You can get in touch with Christi here through her Facebook or Instagram for further information on her and all the excellent projects she is involved with!

     

    Revgear

     

    What do you look for in fighters/athletes to sponsor?

    This is quite a complicated question and not as simple as it first might sound.  There are a variety of factors.  One of the key ones being having someone invest some time into our brand.  An athlete who has been using our equipment for some time prior to seeking sponsorship is always a far more attractive option as opposed to someone getting in touch just for free gear.

     

    We don’t want athletes onboard who just want free kit.  We want people onboard who actually like what we do and like the equipment we make.  The first questions I will ask an athlete if I have any interest in them at all is what Revgear kit you currently use.  If the answer is I don’t have any or I’ve never used it, my simple reply is “why do you want to be sponsored by us then?”

     

    Putting some skin in the game i.e. actually buying kit in the early days from a brand you want to work with (or be sponsored by) is some solid advice I can offer you straight off the bat!

     

    What can fighters/athletes do to make themselves more attractive to sponsors?

    Going past the obvious stuff, having a really strong media following is helpful, someone who is generally interested in our brand and someone who is already using our equipment range through choice.

     

    The next main thing is management.  If you are ready to be looking for big sponsorship then you are almost certainly ready to have a manager.  I am not talking about your coach here, I am talking about a professional manager.  Most professional athletes in MMA and boxing will have a manager.  A manager would most certainly be a stepping stone into getting endorsements from larger brands.

     

    Good quality media.  Making sure you are being photographed well, understanding your role, understanding the industry and understanding your image does not sell products.  Unless you are GSP, Conor McGregor or Michael Bisping, you might want to accept that your image is not necessarily a sales tool so you have to develop a relationship.

     

    Overall I would advise, be business-like, develop a media following, make sure your photographs are good and put some skin in the game by making sure whoever you are asking for endorsements you have actually been using their equipment prior to approaching them for sponsorship.

     

     

    Where do fighters/athletes go wrong when seeking sponsorship?

    First big mistake is not creating a relationship with the brand they are interesting in being sponsored off prior to asking.  So, to break this down, it’s simply approaching a sponsor like “I am a fighter of ……… level, you won’t have heard of me.  Therefore, the fact that you have not heard of me means that my image is not really going to sell anything.  But, I am now fighting ……… and I would like some free gear.  Would you send it to me?”

     

    You can see now that when it is put across in this way, it is not really an attractive proposition to any brand being asked for sponsorship in this manner.

     

    A more attractive proposition would be “I have been using your gear for the past two or three years in my amateur career.  I am about to step onto the next level and turn pro.  I was wondering if you would like to develop a more formal relationship and perhaps give me a discount for my purchases for this camp?”

     

    Now, asking for a discount instead of free gear initially will make you much more attractive because you are literally saying that “you still want to buy the equipment, you believe in the brand, would you believe in me?”

     

    That is almost impossible for a brand to say no to as opposed to a very difficult thing to say yes to.  Switching things around a little like that and build it stage by stage until you get to the point where you say “I am heading towards this title now, would you be interested in me becoming a part of your team?”

     

    If you have produced over a period of time a record of being reliable and been someone who is generally interested in what the brand does, you will be very difficult to turn down.

     

    Can you give me an example of how you came to sponsor one of your current top level fighters/athletes?

    So, to give you an example of how a relationship was established with a fighter you will probably already know, I am going to use the example of UFC fighter Arnold Allen.  I could use any number of the Americans we work with but Arnold is a European fighter and someone who did a lot of things I have gone through in my answers to the previous questions above.

     

    Arnold at the time was pretty much at the top of Cage Warriors, he was managed by Intensity Management and at the time we working with them in Santa Barbara.  Intensity Management sent us a list of about 6 – 8 fighters that they would like us to work with.  We were only going to pick one or two from this.  All of these guys were European.  They were all fighting at a similar level and they all had similar records.  Arnold’s main standout feature was that he was already using Revgear equipment and was a fan of the brand.  That was singularly the thing that made him stand out the most from the others.

     

    At the time we could have been interested in a few of the others on the list but Arnold was the standout for that reason.  We got all the fighters that were interested to get in contact with us.  Arnold was straight up and quickest off the blocks.  He showed that he already had an interest/knowledge of the Revgear brand and that he was already using the equipment.  He then came up with his team from Norfolk to our office in Newcastle and did a photoshoot.

     

    Basically, he was willing to put an amount of effort in and had already pretty much endorsed us so how could we turn him down?  This was a relationship that continued long past his UFC debut.  When he went over to Tristar, we switched providing him gear from the UK to our offices in the US.  We then built a relationship with a photographer over there who has helped provide a steady stream of great imagery from Arnold.

     

    Any time we need a hand with anything regarding the brand, he is always there for us.  This has been a really successful relationship and we would always endorse him just as he has always endorsed us.  We believe in him and he believes in us.  That is the sort of relationship we at Revgear want with all our athletes.  I also imagine this is what most brands would want as well.

     

     

    What myths around sponsorship would you like to dispel?

    I think a lot of the myths around sponsorship probably came way before the Reebok thing happened with the UFC.  Some people seem to think that every brand is rolling in cash that they just want to throw out to fighters/athletes.

     

    People are under the assumption that fighters/athletes create sales.  The brands create the sales but they need subject matter.  In combat sports the fighters/athletes are the subject matter and are therefore an important/integral part of we do in fight sports brands.

     

    We need fighters for sure.  They also need us.

     

    What would your best advice be to any fighter/athlete looking to become sponsored?

    My best advice to any fighter/athlete looking for sponsorship are pretty much everything I have covered already but I will bullet point them here;

     

    1. Get management
    2. Keep professional social media
    3. Be a professional in everything you do
    4. Develop a relationship with the brands you are interested in being sponsored by i.e. don’t use Fairtex and then go knocking on Rival hoping for their endorsement
    5. Build your following
    6. Work hard in training and on your competitive career
    7. Don’t act entitled.  Don’t assume everyone wants to sponsor you
    8. Create a relationship with the brand.  Be there for them as much as you want them to be there for you

     

    You can get in touch with Revgear here through their Website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for further information on their amazing brand and excellent range of products!

     

    John Wayne Parr – Monster Sponsored Fighter

    Was it difficult becoming a sponsored fighter?

    Yes.  Extremely difficult considering Muay Thai is not a main stream sport and also because it is a blood sport where the main goal is to knock people out.

     

    What difference does it make to you being sponsored?

    It helps financially if you can get a sponsor paying you a monthly so you can focus on your sport instead of having to work full time.  Plus if you are getting free apparel off a recognised brand it definitely helps lift your profile.

     

    How did you get to be sponsored?

    I’ve been lucky to have 132 fights with 99wins.  In that time I’ve won 10 world titles fighting all over the world.  I’m fortunate to have a good profile so sponsors approach me.

     

    What are the common misconceptions other people have about you being a sponsored fighter?

    Not sure?? Maybe that we are rich ha ha?

     

    What would be your best advice be to a young aspiring fighter in order to gain sponsors?

    Win a lot and be amazing at the sport that you have chosen.  Kids these days think they are entitled to be sponsored when they still haven’t achieved anything.  Being sponsored is a complement from a person or a business that believes in your ability and wants to be associated with your success.  As amazing as sponsorship is, it shouldn’t be taken for granted

     

    You can get in touch with John here through his Website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for further information on him and all the excellent projects he is involved with!

     

    Made4Fighters

    What do you look for in fighters/athletes to sponsor?

    Level of Exposure, social media following, influencer

     

    Why do you personally sponsor fighters/athletes, what do you expect back from them?

    Updates, image rights, content, social media activity, represent the brand

     

    What can fighters/athletes do to make themselves more attractive to sponsors?

    More thought out proposal identifying clearer benefits

     

    Where do fighters/athletes go wrong when seeking sponsorship?

    Generic application, not specific to the company or brand they are applying for.  Not specific in what they would like that shows a return for the sponsor

     

    Can you give me an example of how you came to sponsor one of your current top level fighters/athletes?

    Colin Fletcher, through a friend’s introduction.  Excellent profile and return and willingness to help support the brand.

     

    What would your best advice be to any fighter/athlete looking to become sponsored?

    Clearly identify what exposure and evidence of that exposure eg number of followers, what are you looking for eg specific items/branding, and a clear explanation of how that is good value to the sponsor.  The sponsor has many options to calculate a return on its marketing budget.

     

    What myths around sponsorship would you like to dispel?

    That all sponsorship represents a value of return

     

    You can get in touch with Made4Fighters here through their Website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for further information on their amazing brand and excellent range of products!

     

    Liam Harrison – Yokkao Sponsored Fighter

     

    Was it difficult becoming a sponsored fighter?

    To be honest, yes it took many years of hard work, getting myself on the top of my game and headlining big shows worldwide before the sponsors jumped onboard. I think it’s slightly easier now though as the sport has become much more main stream over the recent years.

     

    What difference does it make to you being sponsored?

    It helps massively, especially financially.  I have clothes sponsors, food sponsors, equipment sponsors, supplement sponsors and sponsors who pay me a wage so it makes a huge difference to my training and everyday life.

    How did you get to be sponsored?

    All of my current sponsors approached me, I’ve rarely really gone out there and looked for it, I try to market myself well on social media a lot more these days though which helps massively.

     

    What are the common misconceptions other people have about you being a sponsored fighter?

    I don’t really know of any to be honest.  Some people are cheeky bastards though and always ask me if I can get them free stuff.  I always reply with “they sponsor me not you” 😂

     

    What would be your best advice be to a young aspiring fighter in order to gain sponsors?

    Keep making a name for yourself, keep selling your self on social media and be a likeable, marketable person.  No one wants to sponsor a dick 👊🏻

     

    You can get in touch with Liam here through his Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for further information on him and all the excellent projects he is involved with!

     

    So, now that we have heard from all these amazing individuals, let’s break it down so that we have a clear plan as to how someone can best achieve the goal of sponsorship.

     

    If we look to Wikipedia, their definition of sponsorship reads;

     

    Sponsorship is a cash and/or in-kind fee paid to a property (typically in sports, arts, entertainment or causes) in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that property.

     

    While the sponsoree (property being sponsored) may be nonprofit, unlike philanthropy, sponsorship is done with the expectation of a commercial return.

    While sponsorship can deliver increased awareness, brand building and propensity to purchase, it is different from advertising. Unlike advertising, sponsorship can not communicate specific product attributes. Nor can it stand alone, as sponsorship requires support elements.

     

    Talent/Achievements

    • It may seem like common sense but it needs stating. Becoming a sponsored athlete means you need to be an actual athlete to begin with.  You cannot have just trained for 6 months in a beginners martial arts class and expect to fall into this bracket.
    • Training is the foundation of your potential in every respect.  Talent is developed through the accumulation of hours spent honing your sport so make sure you commit to this weekly endeavour above all else.
    • Compete as often as possible.  Obviously this will depend on the sport you train in, the physical demands it places upon you and any constraints that affect this, but get out there and be seen.
    • If you are just starting out, don’t rush.  Work your way up through the system i.e. have multiple fights at inter club/Novice level, compete in the white belt, beginners categories etc.  If you are already experienced/high level, target the bigger competitions/events for maximum exposure and more high profile scalps, medals and titles.

     

    Following/Reach

    • Community.  Get to know relevant people in the industry as well as those in your local area. Be nice, engaging and remain humble.  Help others as much as possible.  Gain the respect of the communities you are a part of.
    • Social Media.  Set up athletes pages/accounts on social media you will enjoy keeping on top of.  For example, there is no point having twitter if you are not going to use it.  Consistency is key.
    • Sell Tickets.  If you are a fighter looking to progress onto big shows, there is no getting away from this.  You have to promote yourself constantly in order to develop a regular following who support you at each event.
    • Support.  Make sure you support others in your gym/team in person and online.  Don’t be afraid to be vocal when being positive about anyone or anything.  Just ensure you do not post or say anything so negative that it paints you in a bad light. What goes on the internet often stays on the internet.

     

    Personality/USP

    • Find your voice.  Everyone is different but if you are wanting to gain sponsors and become one of the world’s most sought after athletes, you need to figure this out.  Saying nothing or avoiding the spotlight glare unfortunately does little to further an individual in modern times.
    • What is your USP (unique selling point) to a potential sponsor?  If you are a young female Judoka then the demographic you are going to appeal to is going to be vastly different to an older male Boxer.  This should be one of your main considerations before approaching or aiming to get into any relationship with a sponsor.
    • You have to become a role model in every area of your life.  Sponsors are looking for people to essentially be an ambassador for their brand so you need to bear that in mind when interacting with others online or in person.  Many is the athlete who has lost their sponsors with an ill thought out tweet or quoted insult in an interview.

     

    Reality/What do you want

    • Reality.  As stated on numerous occasions in the interviews above, you should not expect vast sums of money (unless you are literally one of the best in the world in your particular discipline) off the bat with any potential sponsor.
    • Have an understanding of what exactly it is you want from each sponsor you approach.  If they produce custom gum shields then it would obviously make sense to ask for one for use in training as opposed to asking for money to buy alternate equipment.

     

    Relationship/ROI/Small local/large national

    • Relationship.  Most long term sponsored athletes have grown what they receive from the brands they work with from having developed a good relationship with them.  This means you have to put work in to make it a success.  Be polite, professional and do more than what is expected.
    • ROI (Return on Investment) – Have an understanding of what they are looking for as a return on sponsoring you.  This might be mentioning their brand on your social media posts, wearing their apparel when training/competing or attending any events they put on.  Be creative and come up with your own ideas as to how you can help promote their brand in return for the sponsorship.
    • Small sport specific brands or local businesses are often easier to speak to in the initial stages. Local businesses run by people you already know or that are based in your area are your strongest chances for gaining monetary support to begin with.  Smaller sport specific brands or those just launching are often keen to get their products out so will usually be amenable for product sponsorship i.e. send you whatever it is they sell for you to use.
    • Large brands obviously have the bigger pockets when it comes to sponsorship but they also usually tend to have a higher list of demands and boxes that you would need to tick in order to gain their support.  It is only usually worth approaching them when you have a substantial list of achievements and/or relevant social media following.

     

    Social Funding

    • There are now in existence social funding sites such as gofundme and gogetfunding which have been widely utilised by some athletes as a means to get the necessary support in which to compete etc.  Unfortunately though, through their overuse by people after money for all and sundry, they are now heavily stigmatised against in some areas (especially if those in your particular community think that you have not earned this privilege i.e. white belt wanting funding to go to a world level BJJ tournament).
    • These can prove to be a good one off method to gain some monetary support for a particular competition or event but it is doubtful they would be a good idea for anything ongoing or long term.

     

    Media Pack

    • Media Pack. A media pack is a document that outlines the key facts and statistics about you as an athlete.  Generally, a media kit is given to potential sponsors or brands that you want to approach.  It lets them know all about your achievements, your sport, what your aims are and how large your social media following is.
    • If you want to approach a brand re sponsorship, you should definitely have a media pack ready to send.  Not only does it make you look professional, but it also shows a potential sponsor why they should work with you (although this would need to be attached alongside a more personalised covering letter outlining what the brand’s ROI would be and a more in-depth Bio).
    • Here is a link to mine as an example (although bear in mind that it is written as a blogger and not an athlete)

     

    Research/Contact/look for synergy

    • Synergy. It is mentioned earlier on in this post but it is important to look for some kind of synergy and connection between yourself as an athlete and any potential company or brand you wish to gain as a sponsor.  For example, it is virtually impossible to conceive that a baby food company would sponsor a tennis player, given that there is likely no correlation whatsoever (unless of course that tennis player is also a well known mother of 3).
    • Connections would come in the form of a personal relationship or shared location (as mentioned in the local business section above).  Synergy is all about hitting the same demographics or audience as the brand you want to partner with.
    • Once you understand this, you need to research and build a list of potential brands, companies and contacts you can get in touch with regarding potential sponsorship.

     

    Network/Be genuine

    • Network.  From a professional point of view, networking is one of the key ways a lot of athletes end up with the very best sponsors.  When at competitions look out for key industry figures to introduce yourself to, attend events such as Body Power to try and speak to different brands in person, interact positively with the social media of relevant brands on a consistent basis and always be on the lookout to promote any you want to work with in a positive light i.e. use their equipment and let people know that you do.
    • Being genuine.  It is a difficult line to tread trying to stay genuine whilst wanting to promote yourself, network or build relationships for sponsorships but it is one you need to get right. No one wants to be involved with a self absorbed narcissist, especially not a successful brand or company who has their choice of potential athletes to work with.

     

    Don’t give up

    • Although hard not to take rejection to heart, you really must not take it personally.  You are very likely to get rejected a lot before you ever find a suitable brand or company to sponsor you as an athlete.
    • Remember why you are an athlete, you are doing it because of your love of the sport and your desire to be the best version of yourself that you can.  Your worth is not determined by how many sponsors you have.
    • Keep going, don’t give up!  Just as in competition, success comes to those that don’t stop pushing to reach the goals they have set themselves!!

     

    I hope you have enjoyed this Ultimate Guide to becoming a Sponsored Athlete in Combat Sports!  Have you found it useful?  Do you think there are any important tips or points of view that I have missed off?  Let me know what you think in the comments below!!

     

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