Sponsorship (Partnership) & The Business of Triathlon

I thought that I would write a short blog on sponsorship (partnership) within our sport (the business of triathlon). Perhaps this will be helpful for some looking for support (athletes and companies).

The first sentence is a concept that many new Professionals fail to realize.  Triathlon is a business, Ironman is a business and because of how it is run, it is more of a business than many other sports out there.  The goal is to make it as profitable as possible.  I am not saying that this is good or bad thing.  I simply stating this because I think that it is important for both parties to think about when coming together. As a business owner and Professional athlete, I see both sides very clearly.

I hear the word "entitlement" a lot within the triathlon world.   I will be the first to say that an athlete doesn't deserve anything...UNLESS they can show that they are worth the investment. Conversely, the same goes for companies. 

It is simple and complex at the same time. While I am sure there is an algorithm out there somewhere, I am going to breakdown what would be helpful for parties to think about when coming together.

#1 - Tangible benefits.  In other words, "if I partner with you, what am I going to see in return that I can measure?" 

For the company - This can be sales, hits on a website, number of views, athletes exposed to on a regular basis (defined), customers in my store, etc. When I go to a company, I want to be able to say I have done "x" before with other companies and this is what you can expect as well.

For the athlete - What are the $$ I am seeing in return, what equipment is being provided and what is the value of it.

#2 - Exposure - While some of this is measurable, some of it is not.  Each situation is unique and it is up to both parties to sell themselves to the other, mostly the athlete. Is there a benefit to having my name on your kit, website and blog?  Tough to say and probably not if you have won a few local or regional races. This is likely more applicable to the Olympians, World Champions and International Race Winners.  

What I have done specifically is taken my triathlon coaching business and leveraged it with my racing.  So now when I come to a company I say that I not only have exposure on my kits, but on 40 or 80 or 120 athlete's kits.  Those athletes race and train, some in social groups and some at a high level.  NOW you have their attention. Combine that with events outside of racing and you have yourself a valid point to sell.

#3 - The long term.  We want to align ourselves with someone who is going to help us move to where we want to be in the future. Would you rather invest in someone who is going to race for 2 or 3 years or someone who could grow with you over the next 10, 15 or 20 years? To me, the answer is simple.  

Revisiting #1 - While measurement is important, to make sure we are not wasting our money, #2 and #3 are much more important. Counting pennies is shortsighted, aligning yourself with people to help you get from point A to point B is where it's at.  Both for athletes and companies.  

My example is simple.  If I have a product and I am looking to not only sell it, but grow my company, would I rather have a few guys rockin' it for a few years or someone who I can partner with, invest in and grow with over the long term? Someone with not only race results, but who has a similar vision for their company as you do your "brand." If you want to grow your business large, you may want to go with someone who would like to do the same.  If you want to stay small, then align yourself with those folks.

I encourage all athletes and companies (most do this...I think) to think about where they want to be in 5, 10 and 15 years.  Then invest in those who can help you get there.

The ideal situation for an athlete is to have exposure within their racing and within their community.  Next time you approach someone for a partnership, don't ask, tell them what you provide them with.  Ask them if it's something they could use, or if it's something that will help them grow toward their goals.  If it is, then let the discussion begin on what services, cash and products are exchanged.


Unknown said…
Great stuff Blake. Measuring Roi is always tricky when you bring something more to the table than just dollars. Good businesspeople get this and rely a little more on their gut than just spreadsheets.
sentania said…
Great post!
Matt said…
great one,thanks for writing it!

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