Behind The Scenes... Sponsorship

G'day, its been about a month since my last race/entry. If you read my previous entry, then you know what I'm talking about, if not, well then I'll just wait here for a few minutes while you go and read it. Go ahead, I'll wait...

 ...Done? Great, so where was I? I had a 9 day span where I didn't run due to the injury I sustained in Alabama's XTERRA Southeast Championship race.

In the interim I sought treatment from Toby Marchand. We aggressively tackled both the contusion on my right knee as well as the strained bicep femoral on my left leg.  I also swam a ridiculous amount while I rested my bruised and sore muscles/ligaments! A typical pool session would last anywhere from 45 to 90 mins, where I'd cover 2,500 - 4,000 yards.

Aqua Man

Aqua Man

So apart from traveling and rehabbing, the down time served as a chance to reevaluate my racing schedule and touch base with a some of my sponsors. As elite/professional athletes in non-team sports, we make our living a number of ways. There's are myriads of sponsorship opportunities and tiers out there, soI figured I'd shed some light on a few. 

When working with current or prospective sponsors, an athlete and the company/sponsor will seek to reach a mutually beneficial deal. There are different levels or tiers, which depend on several factors. The age of the athlete (young always trumps old, as there is more upside/time in the career to invest in), their event (Road racing vs a fringe track or field event) their past/recent credentials (NCAA All American vs Also ran or Olympian vs 10 x 4th of July local 5K champ). Another factor that is weighed in and many people (athletes included) fail to realize, is the athlete's marketability. Do they have an interesting "story" (Lolo Jones is a great example), do they photograph well (can they be used in regional/national/international ad campaigns)? Are they well spoken, is this someone we'd like to have out there promoting our product/company outside of just putting down fast race results? These are a few of the factors of amongst others that are taken into consideration. 

Once all these factors are weighed in, the athlete and prospective company/sponsor will reach a deal. There are several levels or types of sponsorships. Below are some of the common tiers or levels.

1) "A Kit deal": This generally means a sponsor will provide the athlete "x" amount of material (shoes/socks/shirts/equipment etc) at a discounted rate or for free. In turn the athlete wears and represents that given sponsor during their competitions and/or public/promotional appearances. Many companies will do this with many up and coming athletes or older athletes that race a ton at the local level. There's minimal risk to the sponsor and the athlete provides cheap and visible marketing at their local and regional competitions. 

Will Run For Food

Will Run For Food

2) "Bonus structure": Here, there's generally a kit or product deal already in place. The addition of a bonus plan or structure is then put forth. This means that the athlete and sponsor have agreed on "xyz" payment for "xyz" achievement. This could range from local/regional/national racing success all the way to World Championships and/or Olympics. If the athlete achieves an agreed upon standard (can be both athletically and/or marketing - magazine cover, interviews, etc) then the sponsor will pay the athlete the agreed upon bonus. 

3) "Full Time Sponsored Athlete": This 3rd type of sponsorship is the most desirable, and encompasses the previous two. At this level, you have a legally biding contract which includes a salary. The salary can range from a few hundred to several thousands dollars per month. The athlete is contracted by the sponsor for a fixed duration (anywhere from one to five-plus years). During this time, the athlete has contractually agreed to represent themselves and their sponsor(s) to the best of their abilities both on and off the competitive field.  The athlete is being compensated with the "kit" or materials they need to train/compete as well as given bonuses for achieving pre-agreed upon standards. Often times these can amended at the conclusion of each year during the life of the contract. Some companies even exercise a "reduction" clause. This more or less means that if the athlete hasn't performed well or has been injured, then they may get some of their salary docked until they reach their previous levels of success/performance. At the same time bonuses or a raise in salary can be achieved during the lifetime of the contract IF the athlete performs above and beyond the previously agreed upon bench marks (ie. from also ran, to winning a national title) and continues to show great potential. These are typically agreed upon during the lifetime of the contract during renegotiations which can happen once a year or so.

So there you have it. In an effort to keep it short and simple, I'm sure that I've skimmed a few areas. If there are any specific questions out there, please feel free to reach out. I can't speak for others, but I've been in the sport professionally now for the better part of a decade. I've also openly spoken to many good friends/athletes on the subject while living and traveling all around Europe on the racing circuit. I've had the pleasure of working with many different sponsors covering all three of the levels outlined above. 

Lastly, to wrap this up. I'll leave you with a relatively new way for sponsors to reach out and market themselves. In the fast changing world of marketing and social media, it's important to stay fresh, relevant and find innovative ways to raise your product's profile. This is why I was more than happy to help one of my local sponsors, RecoFiT Compression, push the envelope a bit with their recently released cheeky ad campaign via Indiegogo

The more exposure they get, the more brand awareness is created. Expanded brand awareness then may brings more customers and more marketing dollars. New money trickles throughout the company so they can then invest more into the products they create and the athletes they support.

Cheers again for reading and feel free to post/email me any questions. 

Link to video + Indiegogo fundraising campaign here:

Happy trails...