Getting and keeping a main sponsor is undeniably hard work. Sponsors won’t just bathe gratefully in the reflected glory of the rider’s talents. They expect to see real benefit in return for investment.
Top show jumper, Only Fools On Horses mastermind and British Show Jumping Association marketing director Tim Stockdale says: “It’s not easy. The days of a rider walking around a corner and someone saying: ‘You’re a good rider, let me give you some money,’ have gone.
“Nowadays, businesses have to justify their accounts and budgets and they need to equate a value to any sponsorship. My responsibility is to create value for my sponsor.”
Tim’s title sponsor for the past five years has been Fresh Direct, the UK’s number one trade supplier of fresh produce.
Fresh Direct chairman Les Harris says: “Tim’s presence on continental TV has been superb for brand awareness among our suppliers abroad. My board has been pleased with the results.”
How to get a sponsor
- Before thinking about what you need, think about what you can offer
- Start small and consider what your niche is
- Pick companies whose values fit with your objectives
- Prepare your approach and do your research
- Use meetings as an opportunity to learn how business works and how marketing managers think. Then improve your pitches
- Banish the thought that sponsorship will fund your career — companies are looking for people who would survive with or without a deal
- Try to evaluate what you can offer. If you are at 50 shows or events in a year with your sponsor’s logos or products present, a tangible value can be attached
- Supply a good biography — discuss you background, personality and goals. Provide good photographs
- Supply horse biographies, too — there may be modelling opportunities for them
- Don’t give up if you get knocked back
How to keep a sponsor
- Always meet and exceed their expectations. Enjoy representing your sponsor
- Maximise opportunities. If you can’t ride at a show because your horse is lame, attend on foot to talk to sponsors and journalists instead.
- Develop a commercial mind: seek every opportunity to raise your sponsor’s profile
- Nothing in life is free — sponsors will want their pound of flesh. Be prepared to get up early for a photoshoot or spend an evening entertaining the crowds at a retailer’s
- Act professionally in public — you aren’t just representing yourself any more
- Don’t expect sponsorship money to fund your business
- Reappraise the arrangement every year. This will ensure you don’t stop trying and
Read Seamour Rathore’s complete article on rider sponsorship in today’s Horse & Hound (1 March, ’07), which is the third and final show special of 2007, including listings of 3,500 training days and competitions