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  1. #1
    Part of the unwashed, middle-American horde stoney's Avatar
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    Sponsorship: Doís, Do Notís, and General Etiquette

    I have been cleaning out some old HD's and found this document that I wrote a while back. I don't remember why I wrote it, but surely it was as part of a rant to some grom jumping onto the board about getting sponsorships. Thought it might be worth putting out there again.

    First off, this is not an all encompassing, “do this and you’ll get sponsored” how to, nor is it a guarantee that you will lose a sponsorship if you do something stupid. This is a culmination of my experiences with sponsorships.

    I guess my “credentials” would be a good place to start. I started riding/racing DH in 1999, picked up my first sponsors in late 2000. I raced expert from 2001 - 2004, acquired my semi-pro license then quit racing after accumulating too many major injuries and a few overnight stays in the hospital. During this time, I ran sponsorships for the Cal-Berkeley mountain bike team, managed the Cal mountain bike Team, worked at a bike shop for 5 years, started and managed Final Cause Racing for two seasons, and started a failed venture into a North American pro team. Since then I was in charge of promotional materials and sponsorships for a triathlon shop's pro team. All in all, I would like to think that I know my way around the company-racer relationship side of mountain biking.

    The most important thing to remember about sponsorships is that they DO NOT exist for the sole purpose of you getting a good deal on parts. Sponsorships are a two way street where you and the company both benefit. Companies use sponsorships as a form of grass roots marketing (ie. Advertising). You as the sponsored rider are advertising the company in a very focused manner to a very specific region; one on one to local riders whom you know and meet. You are in essence an extension of the company, how you act reflects on the company.

    Before I get into how to get a sponsorship, I want to focus on the etiquette of being a sponsored rider. First and foremost, sponsorship is a privilege allowed to you by the companies gracious enough to sponsor you, it is not a right. You must act accordingly if you want to keep a sponsorship. He basic rules to being a sponsored rider follow.

    1. Unless you are Brain Lopes, you cannot demand anything from a sponsor. Even top professional riders are given limits to the amount of product they receive and when they receive it. Remember they are helping you. If you’re looking for sponsorships it’s probably because racing is expensive, you need them more then they need you.

    2. You get your product when you get it. Being a sponsored rider has he perks of getting he newest gear for less then MSRP, the cost of this is that you are on the bottom of the totem pole. If customers’ orders are back ordered, your order is going to be at the bottom of that list. Companies make money off paying customers, not riders who get price breaks. If it’s not there in time, ride your old gear. If your old gear is a conflict to your current sponsor, cover the logo with electrical tape.

    3. If your sponsor makes a part, you need to run it. If you do not like that part, unless you have commitments to another company, you should be running it anyways. If you DO have a commitment to another company, make sure the company whose product you are not running knows why. It might be uncomfortable, or hard to tell them, and it might change your pricing, but it’s better then them finding out some other way.

    4. As a spokesperson for the company, you MUST NEVER speak badly of the company. EVER. Flat out. EVER. If you have a problem with a product, call the company and tell them. It might very likely be something they did not know about, or if they did, something that they can fix. NEVER under any circumstance speak ill of your sponsors. If a product fails, take personal blame in public; let the company know about the failure. They’ll probably replace it. If it happens repetitively, drop the sponsor or get smoother. The best way to lose a sponsor and not get a new one is to talk loudly in a demeaning manner about your sponsor. The industry is small and word gets around fast.

    5. If you do not like or support a company’s products, do not get sponsored by them. You need to trust what you ride, to ride fast. There’s no point getting on some product you won’t be able to go fast on because you don’t trust it.

    6. Don’t sell your new product for immediate profit or hook your friends up. Your hookup is also a rider. He’ll know how fast you can go through product. If you’re milking them, they are likely to not re-up your sponsorship when the time comes around again.

    7. Advertise your sponsors. Wear their jerseys, put their logos on your bikes, car, helmet, toolbox, everywhere people will see them. When people ask about some part on your bike, talk to them about it, tell them what you like, why you like it, how light/strong/performance enhancing it is.

    8. Talk to other riders. If you meet people on the trail, talk to them. Tell them how much you like your new frame, how well it pedals, how light it is, how great the suspension is. Let them ride your bike. Most frame/forks are too expensive for shops to carry them. The only way to test gear is often to ride somebody’s bike. If you let them ride your bike, there is a chance they will buy one. Having people buy products based on your interactions with them is why you got sponsored.
    The below is another response to a 'cattle call' type team member request that came up on the board a few years ago. This should also be worth re-reading.

    Clubs vs. Teams: A team consists of riders, that race on the national circuit and their sponsorships are a direct result of their race results. A club is a group of riders, who love the sport and might race, but despite their love of the sport, are not good enough to garner individual sponsorships.

    Teams often come together as groups of fast riders who tend to train and ride together reach a level that they can start giving productive feedback to their sponsors, who will often give them prototype goods for the feedback expected from high level racers (see the SEI racing as an example of this). These individuals often are good enough to garner sponsorships as individuals, but take advantage of the group to leverage their relationships AND also because as teams form, riders tend to ride the same gear. Team tend to be very selective about their equipment and turn down sponsorships if their performance will suffer. There are requirements to ride only sponsor equipment. Most teams get Level 1 pro-deal pricing.

    Bike clubs will often describe themselves as teams, but are loose bands of riders that will work as a marketing group to get large number of individuals to buy product from mid-tier producers to blanket an area in said product. Often Level 3 pricing (ie 15%-25% off retail), these riders join the club for pricing discounts. Think team Wrongway or Southridge (with exception of the 2-3 pro's under this umbrella becuase they have a mgmt role in the "team").

    Riders are selectively chosen to join teams. Clubs have open membership and cattle call enrollments.
    Often you will hear about cycling clubs coming with sponsorship agreements and quite often they are great for you, the rider. When a club is setup with this structure the participating companies know that their product will blanket a given region. This is great for getting a foothold in an under developed market. Companies that do this well are Azonic, and Mongoose and GT especially, as well as some tire companies.

    Knowing how to approach companies based on what you are looking to do for THEM helps them determine how they would like to work with you.

    Remember that the most important part of being a sponsored rider is being professional. Look at the interviews of Aaron Gwin after winning race runs for example. He's thanking his team ("we did a great job today") and his sponsors before he says anything else.

    I'm sure I will get some snippy comments, but it might be a good reference for the new riders and racers out there.

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  3. #2
    Turbo Monkey
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    Good stuff. Sticky?

    (Point 5 has an error.)

  4. #3
    Part of the unwashed, middle-American horde stoney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whoops View Post
    Good stuff. Sticky?

    (Point 5 has an error.)
    good catch. fixed.

  5. #4
    Monkey cableguy's Avatar
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    7. Advertise your sponsors. Wear their jerseys, put their logos on your bikes, car, helmet, toolbox, everywhere people will see them.
    I think this qualifies


  6. #5
    Tube Smuggler sanjuro's Avatar
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    7. Advertise your sponsors. Wear their jerseys, put their logos on your bikes, car, helmet, toolbox, everywhere people will see them. When people ask about some part on your bike, talk to them about it, tell them what you like, why you like it, how light/strong/performance enhancing it is.

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  7. #6
    Monkey
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    I like this post. Using the Gwin comment as a jump-off point: motocross and pretty much any other sport with that much money invested into it, you will always hear the athlete (participant, driver, whatever) go straight to "we" because yes, their skill got them to the level of being sponsored, but it was the dollar that got them to the event. What Gwin is doing is something rarely seen in our sport - though I'd say a few guys like Peaty (to name one) do this is a more subtle manner, in the sense that the words are, "...the bike was great/thanks to my mechanic/etc.etc". But Gwin's steady use of "we" is definitely something to note in a positive way.

  8. #7
    Monkey
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whoops View Post
    Good stuff.
    indeed

    reminds me of discussions on pro deal/bro deal. wise words here.

  9. #8
    Turbo Monkey
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    Good primer on sponsorship requests. My pet peeve from years of being on the receiving end was despite telling applicants I wanted to know what they were asking for, very few ever came through with any semblance of an idea. Ask for the world or have a modest request but at least have an idea of the support you're looking for and what you can do in return.

    Regarding Gwin I'd be willing to bet he picked up a few things from the motocross scene over the years and there's a very good chance that 23 Degrees either provided or sent him for some media training. It's pretty much required for Nascar, motocross, etc. I don't want to pick on Danny Hart because he's young but he's a good example of someone that could really benefit from media training. He has the talent to end up in front of the camera on a regular basis and it's not too pretty right now. The sanctioning bodies and teams should really be helping the riders and themselves by providing the necessary training.
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  10. #9
    Chimp
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    Mike B.

    Just want to clarify that Gwinny is not a 23 degrees managed athlete. He's managed by Team Houseman Racing, and races for TREK World Racing owned by Martin Whitely / 23 degrees.

    Also he hasn't attended any official Media Training courses, but is learning on the fly and doing a great job!

    You can always get better with it though.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Big HOuse

  11. #10
    Outwitted by a rodent Da Peach's Avatar
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    Does Danny Hart speak English? Knowwah-ehmeen?
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  12. #11
    Monkey
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike B. View Post
    The sanctioning bodies and teams should really be helping the riders and themselves by providing the necessary training.
    You're assuming the UCI and/or USA Cycling have the capacity to do something beneficial for the sport they govern.

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