I’ve been blown away by the lovely positive response that my little blog how to be a sponsored rider received – it was nice to have so many people read it, share it, talk about and, hopefully, take something from it. I regularly read tweets and Facebook posts from people moaning that companies in the equestrian industry don’t sponsor and support riders and, from the other side of the fence, the vast majority of riders give them no reason to want to be involved. There has to be a payback, a return-on-investment…and a lot of riders simply don’t give this. Actually, the same can apply to events and competitions requesting sponsorship, but I digress. Before everyone leaps around and says that I’m being negative about the whole industry – rest assured that I am not. I love the equestrian industry and there are a number of riders and a number of events that do an exceptional job for their sponsors. They really do go over and above. But there are many that do not…and, in many cases, it wouldn’t take all that much to make a big difference.
Anyway, as a sequel to last week’s blog (think of the Harry Potter series, but with a little less magic), I thought I should do a follow up blog on top tips to keep sponsors happy. This is not a definite guide and lots more can be done if you just think outside the box a little. So…
1. Do what you say. If you say you’re going to do x, y and z…DO IT. Don’t wait to be reminded. If you promised someone that you’d send regular reports, pictures, products reviews…do it. And, a personal bugbear…if you send someone a picture, make sure that they can use it. If it’s a professional snap, permission needs to be obtained BEFORE it can be used. You do the legwork and get written permission. Please.
2. Go over and above. Promise what you can easily deliver and then apply yourself as to how you can do even more. Be innovative and use your initiative.
3. Wear the kit. If you’ve been given embroidered and branded kit to wear then please, PLEASE wear it. Wear it at shows and competitions, wear it when competing…wear it as much as you can!
4. Recommend what you use. There are some great forums available and places where people are asking for advice and help with equestrian products, and there are limitless opportunities on social media to promote the products and companies you work with and love. Mention them on social media, make a film showing how you use the kit, take a picture at a show of the product in action, tell your friends…the company will be sponsoring you to increase its exposure, help it do this.
5. Make the link. Can you have a code that friends/students/fellow riders can use when they order to show that the introduction came from you? Speak to the company and see if they can supply you with a promo code or something that perhaps gives a small discount/free P&P but shows the lead. It shows ROI and will help you to be more of an asset at the same time as increasing sales.
6. Give feedback. If you have a product that you love – let the company know. If you have a product that you feel could be improved – let them know. Feedback is an essential part of any business and allows people to assess and adjust as needed. Provide the necessary feedback.
7. Be squeaky clean. Your reputation is something that you have to protect. If you lost everything tomorrow, it would be your reputation that could remake you or break you. Keep your social media profiles clean, remember your manners at competitions and think about how your actions could change how an outsider could view you and your brand. If your actions compromise your brand, something has gone wrong and you could be compromising your sponsorships. I have been astounded (not in a good way) at some of the things that people say on social media. I’m not saying remove your personality, far from it, but launching attacks on others in a PUBLIC FORUM is not acceptable. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, just don’t. There are times when everyone wants to scream and tell the world all about how x has stitched them up or y has copied them or z is clearly out of their tiny mind of thinking what they think…but social media isn’t the way to vent. Call a friend, go and muck out, go to the gym/run to vent your frustrations. Some of the things I have seen on social media from riders has cemented the fact that I would never want a brand I was responsible for to be involved with them.
8. Offer your services. If you have a quiet time out of season, why not say you’re willing to give a free lesson or two for a competition, work on a campaign, do a Q and A on Twitter, offer a yard tour or be involved with a photoshoot? Approach your contact and see if they’re interested. It’s soul destroying contacting all your brand ambassadors and asking for their assistance with a project and having one get back to you. It can make you feel like you’re asking for their first born when, actually, you’re asking for a bit of their time to do something that will promote your brand as well as theirs.
9. See the association. Being associated with a good brand is good for your personal brand too. If you can approach other, non conflicting companies and say ‘for x I’ve done this, that and the other’ it makes you far more attractive. Much better than ‘yeah – I wear their saddlecloth when I remember’…
10. Communicate. Even if you have nothing of interest to say, make sure you drop your sponsor an email explaining what you’ve been up to. Maybe your horse is out of work because of x, y and z and you haven’t been to any shows, but let them know. They may have an idea that could turn a negative into a positive or, at the very least, they’ll know that you are still thinking of them and haven’t fallen into a black hole! You don’t have to write reams each time you contact them, just a quick email between classes at a show, or even a vlog that they can use on their social media that you’ve recorded through your phone. Technology is there to be used and harnessed to make our lives easier…so harness yours.
Sponsorship is a two way thing but, as the sponsored rider, the onus is on you to do what you say. I know that you’re very busy, and that’s fine… but the chances are that you will have agreed to something in order to gain a company’s support, so uphold your end of the bargain. If you’re too busy to work with the company, don’t approach them in the first place. Go over and above and really show what you can deliver. From small acorns do mighty oaks grow… and you never know where a sponsorship can end if you give it the right amount of attention.