How to Become a Sponsored Athlete in 5 Steps

3. Figure out what kind of sponsorship you want.

They range from getting a discount on products to getting free products, race entries, travel expenses, all the way to getting paid. Generally speaking, the more attention you can get, the more you can ask for. There are no set formulas as every company does their own cost/benefit analysis to determine your worth. Still, it's useful to have a goal in mind when you contact potential sponsors.

Be realistic. If you have a blog that attracts less than 100 hits per day, don't expect companies to offer you loads of cash to represent them.

4. Figure out who to contact.

Think about your audience. What products or services would they use? Knowing the demographics of your audience helps.

When researching potential sponsors, don't dismiss small local companies. They are more likely to know you personally and it's relatively easy to develop a local audience. Once you find a few companies that appear to be good fits, figure out who to contact within the company.

Most large companies handle sponsorship through their marketing departments or PR firms. It's usually futile to contact their general information or sales people; they are likely to ignore you.

To find the correct people, the best place to start is to ask someone who is already sponsored by that company. Be aware—most sponsored athletes do not give out that information since their contacts typically get many such requests. Respect their decision. You may have to do your own digging. For small local companies, it may be appropriate to contact the owners.

5. Make contact.

Once you have an audience, a goal, and a company and their contact, you can begin formulating the actual proposal. Keep it very short and to the point. Tell them who you are, the size and demographics of your audience, and what you are seeking. Shoot for between 50 and 100 words. The people you're contacting don't want a biography; they want to know what you can do for them and how much it is going to cost. Be courteous and humble. Arrogance is almost always a recipe for failure.

If you're contacting a relatively large company, it's likely they receive tens if not hundreds of requests like this per week. In most cases, the companies have identified and already reached out to the people they want to represent them. You're fighting for a tiny fraction of the remaining marketing budget pie.

Fortunately for you, 99 percent of the people that solicit companies for sponsorship really don't understand what sponsorship is entails. Following these steps can give you a huge advantage over your competition and help you begin your journey to becoming a sponsored athlete.

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Jason Robillard is sponsored by Merrell and travels the world with his family, running trails and racing ultra marathons.

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