Courtesy of Jack Baruth at www.bmxbasics.org
How many of you saw the movie “The Cell?” It’s wasn’t all that bad until the very end, when Jennifer Lopez tells the bad guy, “My world, MY RULES!” Too cheesy for me, and I have quite a cheese tolerance. I don’t much care for “J-Lo” anyway. She’s no Harriet Wheeler, I’ll tell you that. But I digress. Anyway…when I write articles it is “my world”, so we abide by “my rules”, and I’m about to set out the most important of “my rules” when it comes to sponsorship. You see, I was having dinner a few weeks ago with my brother’s fiancée, and she was driving me nuts, because she kept using the word “deserve”.
“Don’t all children deserve…” “Everybody deserves…” and so on. Let me tell you something, dear readers, the only thing any of us really, truly, “deserve” is a swift kick in the butt, and only some of us will get it. What you receive in this life has nothing to do with what you “deserve.”
So it is with sponsorship. The biggest obstacle to finding a good sponsor, or any sponsor at all, is having a feeling that you “deserve” a sponsor. You don’t. Let’s say you just won 17 Expert at the Grands. So what? About fifty people have done that in this sport’s lifetime. Can you name any of them? Would you buy a product because one of them used it? Get over the idea that you “deserve” a sponsorship and you will be much closer to getting one. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three methods by which you can use to go after sponsorship.
Cru Jones Method
There are three ways to obtain sponsorship. The least likely is the “Cru Jones” method, named after the hero of the movie “RAD”. In a “Cru Jones” situation, a kid comes out of nowhere, wins a big race, and everybody wants a piece of him. Most riders think that once they win the Grands, or a National, or 12 Rookie at their local track, the sponsors will come to them. It happens sometimes, but not as often as one would like to think. After Raul Ruiz shocked the world by winning the ABA Worlds in 20″ and the NBL Worlds in Cruiser, only one sponsor approached him – and that sponsor wasn’t a factory. So, if winning the World Championships on a tri-moly bike doesn’t get you instant sponsorship, chances are that almost nothing will. Let’s forget about the “Cru Jones” method and go to the next one.
The next method I call the “standard” method. That’s “standard” with a small “s”. This is how most people get sponsors, so let’s devote some attention to it. In the standard method, you will gather up all the materials I told you to get in Part 1, and you will go look for a sponsor. This works differently depending on what type of sponsorship you are looking for. If you are a local Novice, this means calling every bike shop in a fifty-mile radius and asking to speak to the owner. When you get the owner on the phone, you will say,
“My name is ___ ___. I am a BMX racer. I would like to know when I could come in and talk to you about your shop’s BMX racing program.”
The shop owner will probably tell you,
“We don’t have a BMX program.”
You will then say,
“That’s okay. I’m a local rider with a history of success, and I am looking for a shop to affiliate with. I can help you sell more bikes. There needn’t be any cost to you. When can I come in?” Be polite. The phrase, “There needn’t be any cost to you,” may get his attention. Most shops are selling at least some BMX bikes nowadays, and the owner might be interested in selling more.
Send him an email with a link to your profile. Once you have an appointment, put a tie on, dress up a bit, and go see the guy with a printout of your SponsorHouse profile. Be on time. When you meet with him, make the following points:
- BMX is a large part of the youth cycling market. He already knows this, but it will show him that you are “business-aware”.
- You are a successful rider, and other riders might make their shop, bike, or product choices based on that person’s association with you. Prove that you are a successful rider by showing him your photos, resume, and, if possible, videos.
- If he already has a team, you would be a useful addition to it, because you are a smart guy/girl and you have a history of success.
Now, he may ask you what it costs. Suggest that he obtain a jersey for you, give you dealer cost on parts, and see what happens, and that if you bring people into the shop, maybe you can look at more “help” at that point. If he agrees, and you get your jersey, now it’s time to market the shop, and yourself -more about that later.
Riders who are looking for a National-level sponsorship should contact every existing sponsor out there. Be polite. Make appointments. Provide photos, videos, and send emails with a link to your profile. Get, and remember, peoples’ names. I would suggest making a spreadsheet, putting every possible sponsor on it, and keeping track of your contact with each sponsor. On this network right here, you have the ability of keeping track of which sponsors you contacted, on what date, and what your notes to them were. Use this as well as any other system you have to stay organized.
Every time you talk to a potential sponsor, schedule a follow-up. “Mr. Jones, I know that you don’t have room for a 14X right now. May I call you in three months and talk to you again?” Most people will say “Yes”, if only to get you off the phone. So, in three months, call him again. “Mr. Jones, we spoke three months ago about your potential need for a 14X on the team. Since then, I have made three National mains. I’m not wearing anyone’s jersey, Mr. Jones. I’m getting good exposure. Could your team use me?” If no, make another appointment, and so on.
Does this sound like hard work? Like selling vacuum cleaners over the phone? It should, because it is. You might even want to read a salesman’s handbook, like the ones written by Zig Ziglar and others, because you are selling a product – and that product is you. It doesn’t have to be the best product – after all, more people buy Camrys than Passats every year, even though nearly everyone agrees that the Passat is a better car – but you have to sell that product aggressively.
Now’s the part when we come to the reward. If you do what I have suggested above, and you are a decent rider, you will more than likely come up with some form of sponsorship. At that point, you have to market yourself and your sponsor, something we’ll talk about next time.
The last method of finding a sponsor is perhaps the most interesting. It doesn’t require any riding talent whatsoever. In fact, you can come in dead last every time. It simply requires that you be brave enough to do what I recommend. I call it the “Squid” method, because it is the method I used for many years, back when I was known as the “Squid” because I injured so many other Beginner and Novice riders, usually on purpose.
The Squid method works as follows: You make sponsors, whether by contacting businesses with no cycling or BMX involvement, or by finding ways to get free stuff from people, or by creating your own business and becoming self-financed and self-sponsored. All of the following tactics are bona fide and have worked, for me or for someone else:
- Go to a Bob Evans and offer to hand out coupons at a race if they will pay your entry fee for the day and give you a “Bob Evans” patch to wear on your jersey.
- Call every business in your local phone book and ask them for ten dollars. If they give you ten dollars, you will put their logo on your jersey and promote their business at the local races.
- Call BMX companies all the time and promise to promote their stuff on your controversial website if they’ll give you stuff free and/or at cost. (*cough*hetzel*cough*)
- Start your own mail-order bike shop.
- Print T-shirts and sell them at the races.
- Tell a local bike shop you will buy a jersey from them if they will give you twenty bucks for every National main you make while wearing it.
- Get an MX shop involved in BMX by offering to wear their MX jersey and pants at BMX races.
- Have a long-sleeve T-shirt printed with a logo of your own design. Wear matching pants. Call people up and offer them low-cost “co-sponsor” slots on your “team”.
The world is full of potential sponsors who don’t know that they need to sponsor a BMX racer. If you knock on enough of their doors, eventually you will find someone willing to help you out. Don’t forget to bring a print out of your profile with photos, BMX-related statistics and to dress appropriately. In the long run, you are unlikely to fail.
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