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The How-Tos of Becoming a Sponsored Triathlete

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Say you have been racing triathlons for a couple of years and consistently finish in the Top 10 of your Age-Group or better yet, you win. At this point, the idea of sponsorships may enter the minds of many, but what does getting them entail and what are the perks? As an athlete who has been a sponsored for various companies since 2009, allow me to shine some light on this topic.

When I first began contacting companies I wanted to work with, I thought results were all that mattered. That is mostly untrue. Results matter to a certain extent, perhaps more for professionals, but your social network and what you can offer the company matters more. After all, races only occur so often and training is something that, well, seems to present endless opportunities. For example, if you ride or run with a group consistently, that is an ideal time to subtly display and/or talk about the endorsed product. I say “subtly,” because athlete ambassadors should not come across as car salesman; desperately pleading to others to buy the product, because it is simply “the best ever!”

Not that there is a code for attaining sponsorships, but if there was, one of the first rules should read: Approach companies whose product(s) you are familiar with and genuinely believe are the best on the market. That will elicit honest responses when asked about the product and your words will have greater impact to the potential buyers.

Regarding your social network, the bigger, the better. Since the advent and tremendous growth in Facebook and Twitter, companies often ask their athlete ambassadors to post to such sites regularly (e.g. once a week; mentioned in a certain percentage of blog posts, etc). I know what you’re thinking, “that’s redundant” and I wholeheartedly agree. If that is written in the sponsorship contract and you don’t want all your friends hiding your posts, because you talk about the same thing all the time, then that sponsorship probably isn’t right for you.

So, what are your benefits to be had by wearing a company’s logo on your race kit? For me, I get a sense of pride, in that, I’m being entrusted to represent a company that I believe makes the best product on the market. In terms of tangible items, you will usually gain a generous discount code. It is very rare that you will gain any monetary sum from a company, unless you become a part of a company’s affiliate program. In that scenario, whatever product is sold using your promotional code, you will earn a small percentage of that sale (usually around 10%).

There is also the longstanding notion that sponsored athletes get lots of free stuff. Again, not entirely true. Most companies don’t have deep pockets, hence the discount code. That’s not to say free product cannot be obtained, but it’s just not as likely. However, professionals of a certain status do receive plenty of free product.

While sponsorship applications are generally accepted each fall, there’s no harm sending in your request at any point of the season. When you do, be specific what you are looking for and be realistic with those expectations. Most importantly, be sure to include what you can offer the company! If you are a part of a team, that will usually increases the odds of getting a sponsorship. In the end, enjoy the process and enjoy your new personal bests! After all, you will be using all the best and the fastest equipment on the market.