There are plenty of great blogs written on how ambitious equestrian riders should go about getting sponsorships. However, this blog is for equestrian businesses – and how you can go about finding (and managing) the right members of the equestrian community for your brand/s to sponsor.
If you already have an established business with a healthy brand presence, chances are you’re already receiving requests from riders wanting to be considered as a sponsored rider. However, rather than just evaluating those that come knocking at your door hoping for funding or product, what you should really be doing is looking for the best people available to bring awareness and credibility to your business. In the very same way you would select the right media if you were wanting to advertise your business, so you should seek out the best ambassadors to deliver the best outcomes for your equestrian brand.
an ambassador’s message is more likely to be absorbed simply because it is not seen as being a paid advertisement, it is more interesting, more real. It cuts through.
1.Why Sponsorship is Important?
Beyond creating or reinforcing basic awareness of your brand, the sponsorship of riders and other active participants within the equestrian community can provide your business with powerful, favourable associations in the eyes of equestrian consumers. Third party endorsements are always more powerful than advertisements because they are provided by a knowledgeable source who has used the product and are seen as being more credible than a manufacturer. Whether the sponsored rider is an elite athlete or just someone competing on the weekend consumers are far more likely to relate to their fellow equestrian. Also, an ambassador’s message is more likely to be absorbed simply because it is not seen as being a paid advertisement, it is more interesting, more real. It cuts through. And in our social media crazy sport organic endorsements are a super cost-efficient way of getting your name out there.
2.Does Your Brand have a Solid Foundation?
Before you embark on sponsorships it is essential that your brand reputation is rock solid. Your products and/or services must deliver a great customer experience. Make sure that your after sales services are exceptional also, that faulty products can be exchanged and complaints dealt with in a positive fashion. Negative comments on social media are damaging and contagious, and sponsorships, particularly high-profile sponsorships, are difficult to maintain with disgruntled consumers out there.
find equestrians who via their personality, riding ability or choice of discipline, match the way you have positioned your brand
3. The Right Fit For Your Brand
Many riders are very professional today and are actively building their own brand image and this will provide a great insight into their potential to promote your brand effectively.
Basically, anyone that you consider must be professional, hardworking, and genuine. Their social media profiles will reveal much about them, obviously avoid anyone posting fake or imagined scenarios. But it is reasonable to expect an active presence online and a level of professionalism in the approach that they take to the promotion of themselves or other products.
But it is also important that you find equestrians who via their personality, riding ability or choice of discipline, match the way you have positioned your brand – with similar attributes and values to the products and services you promote. Make sure that their online presence aligns with your brand values.
Carefully consider someone who may have fewer followers but who is professional, organised, responsible and makes great online material. They should be considered higher than someone who merely has more followers. There may be negative reasons as to why that person has a high follow rating – reasons you may not want to be a part of.
And don’t be afraid to look beyond the obvious or to try something different. For example, if you promote nutritional products look beyond the riders…many therapists are visiting lots of customers each and everyday, spending quality time with their customers…and are great potential influencers.
Finally think about who your target audience is. Not just how old they are and whether they are male, female or both. But what disciplines they are involved in, what they care about and what is important to them (you don’t want a great rider who sees their horse as just a tool). It helps to make a checklist of these things to make sure that their values align with your own.
4. Before Approaching Anyone…
If you know of a rider whom you feel would be a great fit for your brand, before you approach them make sure they are not affiliated with a similar brand to your own – eg a health supplement or apparel brand in direct competition with yours. This is not only unprofessional but potentially embarrassing for the rider. It is up to them to end arrangements with their current sponsorship before engaging with any new sponsor in the same category.
in marketing quality is as important as quantity and different ideas get noticed more than familiar ones
5. Drawing up a Written Agreement
It is important that you formalise your agreement with everyone that you sponsor. A written agreement will ensure that the parameters and expectations are understood by both sides. A simple document will allow you to measure the agreement and will make it easier to sever the relationship if things don’t go to plan.
Agreements such as these are always more successful when both parties have input, so rather than just deliver a contract, have a meeting to discuss the sponsorship and what it might include. By talking it through you might come up with some new and different ways of promoting your business beyond the simple posts that most sponsored equestrians deliver.
Remember, in marketing quality is as important as quantity and different ideas get noticed more than familiar ones.
Obviously, this agreement should outline the products and financial commitments you are prepared to provide to those that you sponsor and exactly what you expect in return. How many posts, per week or month? What these posts will look like and contain. Is there to be any video content, and so on. What platforms are their posts to appear on. Perhaps there is an opportunity for your more competent equestrians to promote your brands at a trade level? And so on.
Don’t expect too much initially. It is far better to start small and grow than it is to expect too much and overwhelm those you sponsor. Make sure that your agreement has a clause for you to evaluate how it is travelling and what might be adapted or improved upon.
6. Professionalism is Powerful
Not all relationships are going to work, and you may find that some just aren’t worthwhile. Maybe you are chasing your rider for their posts, maybe they are not posting in the style or way that you feel best benefits your brand. On the other hand, the rider may feel that your expectations are too high.
Always try to discuss any issues with them first, before agreeing to part ways, making sure you don’t burn bridges in the process. The last thing you want is for negative comments to be flying through the equestrian community about how horrible your company is to deal with.
You want people knocking your down your door to represent you because they love your products and you treat them well.
At the end of the day remain the professional brand that you are. Be realistic in your expectations and adjustable in your dealings with sponsors. Remember they are busy people; many have full-time jobs and compete one or multiple horses or could be studying as well. They should not be expected to be at your beck and call 24/7.
There are many examples of great sponsorship partnerships in the equestrian world – done well, it will bring great value to your brand and your brand’s profile as well as increased sales. It is an undertaking that should be beneficial to both brand and rider.
Keep in mind these few points and you should have many happy sponsorship relationships for your brand for years to come.