Get sponsored in mountain biking: Five things you should NEVER do

Are you considering getting sponsored in mountain biking?

It’s transfer season and it’s that time again when our favourite bike brands set their budgets and you guys will be out hunting for that mega-deal that will assure your wealth, glory and fame in the bike industry.

I’m going to offer you 5 tips for things that you should never, ever (ever) do when you come to hunting out a mountain biking sponsorship deal for next year, no matter how small.

When approaching sponsors you should …

1. Never ask for something for FREE

‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’ – yep, the old cliché is 100% true. You get nothing for nothing in this world and that’s especially true in the bike industry. Sure, you know that you probably want a pair of cool-guy goggles for zero money – but as a sponsored rider you’re paying for those goggles 10 times over with time spent promoting your sponsors.

That means writing race reports, talking to kids in the pits, arranging photo-shoots, getting in videos, putting your images on facebook. If you can show your potential sponsors that you understand that in your pitch you’re on to a winner.

Nothing is FREE – you pay for it in hard work so acknowledge that before you even consider approaching a sponsor. Make it clear to them how you will pay them back for their investment.

2. Never base your pitch on what YOU want

A prospective sponsor does not give a shit what YOU want to do. If they had money to spend sending you round the world on an all expenses paid road trip they’d send themselves on an all expenses paid road trip.

They don’t care that you want to travel the world, realise your dreams, race the Mega Avalanche, learn to back-flip or race your first World Cup. They want to know what you can do for THEM. What can you GIVE them that they don’t already have with the hundred other sponsored riders that they already have … and the thousand other paying customers that they already sell stuff to?

Business relies on making more money than you spend – it’s a sponsored riders job to promote a business and sell more stuff. If you take more than you give you will equal a loss on that bike brand’s spreadsheet and you won’t be worth a jot to ‘em. Oppositely, if you show them that you’re a seller – that you can OFFER your sponsor something, that you understand your purpose is to GIVE rather than TAKE – you’re already on to a winner.

3. Never sell someone the POTENTIAL of you doing well

“I intend to train super hard over the winter and get into shape – by Summer I’ll be fighting fit and guaranteed to do well at the races”. Bloody brilliant. And I’m going to start picking my pants up off the bathroom floor and get in to work bang on 9am every morning.  As if.

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Sponsors see a lot of applications from a lot of riders – most of them will already be fit, fast, experienced and getting good results. Don’t sell yourself on what you hope to do – sell yourself on what you CAN do and ARE doing. You don’t need to ignore the fact that you intend to grow as an athlete … but unless you can supply facts to show you’re worth working with you aren’t worth a jot. Give your potential sponsors real, measurable, actual results.

4. Never forget to CHECK your spelling, punctuation and grammar

I’m not saying you have to be Tolkien but when you send a pitch to a potential sponsor … check the damn thing through!! If you can’t be bothered to spend a minute to re-read your proposal, why should they bother to read it? Also – why should they think for a second that you’ll then be organised enough to write decent race reports, wear clean race kit or keep your bike in good knick. Your computer has a spell checker, your email probably has a spell checker – chances are your mum, your aunty or your granny can read. Ask them.

Also – it is spelt ‘sponsorship’ not SPONSERSHIP! Spell that one wrong and you might as well write “Dear sponser, your mum is fat. Give me freebies.”

5. Never forget what the point of you being sponsored is – to SELL stuff

Why do sponsored riders have the names of companies on their chests? Why do they swear by almighty god that their particular bike brand is the absolute best of all others? It’s because the point of their existence is to SELL their sponsors products. Riders are walking, talking, riding adverts for their sponsors brands. They exist to sell more product. In the same way a magazine advert does, a website banner does and a logo on a video does. The basic rule of being sponsored is that you should always be aiming to make people buy your sponsor’s products. You should be selling more product than you’re given by as big a margin as you possibly can. You’re not sponsored because the brands get a kick out of seeing you ride, you’re doing it to pay their mortgage. So make it happen!

Ok – I lied – I’ve got two more…

6. Never think for a minute that being sponsored starts and finishes on the race track.

So many younger riders think that their jobs as sponsored riders are all about racing. Again, again, again it is not. You race for your sponsors but you are (again) a walking, talking ambassador for their brand. It’s your job to represent them in everything that you do – that’s on the hill, in the pits, on the podium, on training riders, at work, down the pub … Everywhere. You’re not being given sponsorship to race – you’re being given it to promote a name and that doesn’t stop when you cross the beam! Make them know that you understand that and that you’ll be a their man 24 hours a day, 365 a year.

7. Last but not least – Never, ever, ever, ever BE A DICK.

This is the most important one, bar none. The bike industry is a very small and very inbred place. If you act like a dick you will almost instantly get a reputation for being … yep, a dick. Word travels like wild fire in our industry and it’s easy to get a bad rep very quickly. The first thing I do when considering a potential rider is ask my existing team and sponsors what they think about them – if the answer is “whinger”, “gobshite”, “primadonna”, “has a pain in the ass dad”, “won’t wear the correct kit”, “slept with my mum” or anything similar then the chances of a six figure deal and a Ferrari are probably reduced.

Be polite, be a good ambassador, thank people for their time, don’t get pissed off when people say ‘no’ to your bulletproof sponsorship proposal, don’t bitch and moan when you ride like a weapon. Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t think you’re worth what YOU think you’re worth and never, ever, ever, ever, ever throw your bike or helmet on the floor!!

That’s it. Good luck!

Stay tuned and we might just tell you some tips on what you SHOULD do when approaching a sponsor. 

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