Calls for riders to work smarter to help sponsors *H&H Plus*

  • Since H&H’s report in February on the ways sponsorship can help both parties, consultants and riders have expanded on how sponsorship should be approached so it works to provide the maximum benefit for all involved...

    Riders hoping to work with sponsors must “play by the rules” and work in a manner that benefits all involved, experts agree.

    H&H reported this year (news, 13 February) on the ways such deals can work for both sponsor and sponsored. Consultants and riders have since expanded on the ways sponsorship should be approached so it works as intended.

    Sarah Skillin of Equiconsulting, who works with both brands and riders, said that with her former hat on, she has seen riders approach to ask for sponsorship based on their social media following.

    “I get people saying, essentially, ‘I’ve got 25,000 followers and love your product; can I have a free saddle?’ because they’ve been conditioned to think the ‘influencer’ is key, and if you’ve got a big social media following, free stuff is a god-given right. What they don’t take into account is everything else that has to go into it, and the work ethic.”

    Ms Skillin said as well as lower-level but better-followed riders, there are pros who get in touch to say they like a brand and “what are you going to give me, as I’m a five-star rider?”

    Ms Skillin said riders need to consider how they work with their sponsors, how they present themselves and whether they are good ambassadors in general.

    “I want to work with people who already use the product, and say how good it is, and ‘how can I help?’” she said, adding that riders must bear in mind what they can offer the sponsor, when looking for deals.

    When she works with the riders, she added, she will have marketing plans setting out what they can do, such as targeted social media posts, and depending on the brand. A sock company might just want people to know a top eventer wears its socks, while a manufacturer might want direct referrals to their business.

    Ms Skillin also advises riders to work with companies whose products they already use and support, as this is “doing it for the right reasons”, and being genuine in their support, rather than being given a new product to try, as this will inevitably sway their opinion. She also warned that endorsement of companies with which a rider has a deal, including amateurs who are agents for insurers and earn commission, for example, need to be clarified as such, or fall foul of the Advertising Standards Agency.

    “I’ve had brands say they gave a rider £1,000 of stuff and got nothing so they won’t sponsor anyone now,” she said. “The more you generate for a brand, the more they’re likely to give you but also, the better it is for the industry; if the whole industry plays by the rules, it’s better for everyone.”

    Claire King, who also works with riders in a similar manner, agrees that people should work with brands they know and like already, so they can provide a tailored approach.

    “And pitch to your audience,” she told H&H. “If you’re an eventer and a company doesn’t have a presence in eventing, don’t go to them. Be very focused, and look at who a brand has already and what you can add to the mix; if their ambassadors are all male and you’re female, you might have more of a chance.”

    Ms King advises researching brands and comparing their identities with your own, to see if there is a fit. And while 50,000 Instagram followers does not guarantee free products, lower-level grassroots riders who have engaging, interactive social media followings are also valuable to brands.

    Eventer Imogen Murray told H&H working with Ms Skillin has changed the way she works with sponsors. Now, if a brand makes an approach, the team will discuss with it the ways they can work together and what expectations are, such as when Imogen will be available to meet people at a big event.

    “There’s a great girl who sends me clothes and just wants me to wear them, which I did anyway; she makes my cross-country tops and if I’m interviewed in them, she’s over the moon,” Imogen said. “Other brands need you to do more and that’s fine, it’s all about being open and honest so it works on both sides.

    “I wouldn’t take sponsorship if I didn’t or hadn’t used the product as it’s difficult to promote something you don’t believe in – and I wouldn’t do anything that would compromise the horses’ care, and every horse is different.”

    Fiona Nellis, general manager of Horselyx, told H&H the company has regional ambassadors among its team of associated riders, but it also has a physiotherapist and a farrier on board.

    “Our thoughts here were looking at different aspects of the health and wellbeing of the horse and how Horslyx can be of benefit during what could be stressful times for the horse,” she said.

    “The benefits I would like to think are as much for the supported individual as for us – it gives the rider to opportunity to feed our balancer, we offer training to the ambassador about the features and benefits of feeding Horslyx which can be bespoke to each individual horse, and they see the results. For us, they bring further credibility that riders competing in the public forum want to use our products.”

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