Thursday, 20 November 2014

Getting rich through sponsorship.

   I read recently this excellent piece by freeskier David Lesh from Virtika - in truth it echoes many similar articles that have been written by professional outdoor sportspeople and by frustrated industry types, the latter as they trawl through a hundred misspelled and poorly thought out requests for financial support. It also mirrors my experience, both as an athlete and during the many years that I was CEO of Nookie. Want to get rich through sponsorship? You won't!
Fact is, being sponsored is more of a status thing in most adventure sports. Sure, it saves you a bit of expenditure, but it also ties your hands and you give a lot of hours, days and months for a return which, if quantified, might not feel like such good value! But you'd rather work at your sport than in McD's. I get that...
A few top athletes do get serious money. Think Kelly Slater. I've been considering what it takes to do that, and I think it's this; you have to be up at the level where people you don't even know chase around after you taking your photo, writing shit about you, bigging you up or badmouthing you and trying to sue you. You are so awesome everybody wants a piece of you, or to hear about you, and you can't have a drink in a bar because you'll get too much attention. If you are still the guy who's paying people to shoot you (or worse still getting your friend or your mum to do it) and doing all the talking about you yourself, you are not there yet.
Take a look at this list. Surfers, kayakers, skiers and boarders are not on it. Or in the top 100, for that matter. Super rich dudes like racing car drivers are not even hitting the top ten, despite being the most sponsored people on earth, most of them.
Still... there is no harm in trying to change the world for the better, so:
Doug Cooper
Don't underestimate the power of personal recommendation. Kayaker Doug Cooper was recommended to Red Bull by Shaun Baker, who told them he wasn't just another wannabe, but had the communication skills as well as the drive, talent and dedication to endorse their brand. I am lucky to have made a name for myself in kayaking, so whenever I am working on a book, mag article or other project, kayaking industry peeps are falling over each other to give me stuff, pay for stuff, and basically leverage my ability to get exposure. But when I was working on the Haynes Skiing Manual, I thought I might get some help from the ski businesses because hey, I know how to sell myself - I got nowhere. Most ski companies didn't even reply. Because they'd never heard of me. Then I was at an outdoor show, meeting with one of my other strategic partners, and when I told him this story of woe he said "I'll call my friend who represents Atomic..." Ten minutes later Tord Nilson from Iconic Agency is standing in front of me - I tell him about the book and he says "You can have anything you want" - because it was a personal recommendation from someone he trusted (Rory Atton from Dewerstone).

So, it's not what you know, and it's not who you know. It's who knows you.

Beyond that though, never forget that it is what you can offer the brand that matters. No one wants to give you things just so that you can look cool or have more fun. It's often better to approach companies about specific projects and quantify what it will be worth to them. A marketing executive is more likely to give you £100 for a day's work that gets him the photo/video/result he needs, than he is to sponsor you year round. And that's great, because you aren't then tied to any one brand. The downside is that the brand won't be interested in marketing you by name, and as I said at the beginning, status is often what truly motivates an athlete.
As Tez Plavenieks said to me on Facebook the other day:

"Sponsorship is overrated. There are other ways to turn the sports you love into a job you love - as you'll no doubt agree."

I do agree...


Bill Mattos endorses:

No comments:

Post a Comment