Every week, the Social Paintball inbox is flooded with sponsorship requests. From teams wanting us to film them, filmmakers wanting us to hire them, or players and teams who are interested in getting our new Grit apparel for free or at a discounted price, we get it all. Sometimes we see a note from a friend recommending a specific team that catches our eye, but more often than not these messages are responded to with a simple “Thanks for the email, but we’re not interested at this moment.” While talking to friends and other workers in the industry, we came to the realization that there hasn’t been a good guide to getting a sponsorship published in a while and that the general player base seems to be forgetting what the word actually means. So, we decided to talk to some of the top names in the game to get their perspective on what makes or breaks a team’s brand in their eyes. Needless to say, if you’re a new team wanting to get your first custom jersey with a few name-brand logos or an experienced team looking to take your sponsorship to the next level, this series of articles is for you!
In our last post, we defined what the majority of the industry is calling a paintball sponsorship. If you missed it, here’s a quick recap: Field time, group buy, playing incentives, and full. In this post, we’re going to break down what it takes to acquire a sponsorship and what you can do to further your chances to make a good impression.
First, you’ve got to remember that when you enter into an agreement with a company – be it an online store, local field, paint manufacturer, local restaurant, or whatever – that it is a business agreement. If a company is willing to risk money on your paintball team, they expect you to treat their decision as professionally as possible and while the stated agreement may ask you to only place a logo on a jersey or banner, it’s best to treat it as more than that. When you wear a sponsor’s logo, you not only get a cool graphic on your jersey, you also represent their brand; meaning that every action you make while wearing that logo reflects upon them. Frankly, there are thousands of teams and players looking for sponsorships. You can’t afford to trash a company’s reputation. From an industry perspective, many teams are “easy come, easy go.” There will always be another team in the wings waiting to take your place.
Because of that, it’s important to maximize your team’s ability to reach a wide and diverse audience and be considered outstanding ambassadors of the brand/sport. While being a winning team is important, and often a necessary part of a sponsorship, there are other ways to prove to a potential sponsor that your team deserves their support. Also, we have to remind you, when you enter into a sponsorship agreement, it is imperative that you realize this is a relationship and that you must treat it with the same effort you would a romance. People know when they’re being taken advantage of or when you’re not living up to your end of the agreement and – of course – they hate it. However, treat your sponsors like close friends and you’ll only help your case for the next season when you ask for more support. Here are some easy ways to do that:
- Keep your sponsor informed of any recent news and achievements. Providing them with pictures from events of their gear or logo in action for their own use will go a long way in forming a working relationship.
- Respond to their emails in a timely manner, and address them as professionally as possible. This means spell check, use proper grammar, and use formal addresses (ie- Dear Mr. Company…Sincerely, Team XYZ)
- Deliver on your end of the agreement, and provide proof! If a sponsor asks your team to share their social media posts, do it, screen shot it, and let them know you’ve done it. In fact, sending an email asking “What more can we do?” is never a bad thing.
- Go above and beyond! If your sponsor is at an event, help them set up the booth, run customer service, and provide other manual labor.
- Be involved in more than the paintball scene. Most paintball companies are already known by the majority of those within the industry and the regular players, however there are millions that don’t have the slightest clue company XYZ exists. Attending charity events with your team (ie: cancer walks etc.) and providing your sponsors with a short article and some pictures provides them with a ton of really positive press that not only makes your team look awesome, but them too!
- Never assume. Do not simply assume something is “ok” or “guaranteed”. If there is any room for doubt, ask and do not be condescending when you do. There is nothing worse than someone who feels they are entitled to something without reason or does not know how to ask in a proper way.
We don’t have enough time in this post to cover what type of promotional materials one should have to further your chances, however a good starting point is to always have a professional portfolio that provides some history of your team, pictures, achievements, and a letter of recommendation from your local store or field. Remember, your store and field owners work with the major companies on a regular basis and can be a potentially invaluable resource. They already have relationships with the industry and can point you in the right direction!
In our last post, we’ll be talking to Bea Youngs Paxson, founder of the all-female Team Destiny, Joey Blue, manager of Tampa Bay Damage, and Israel Lagares, owner of Social Paintball, to get some inside information on what they’ve done to help maximize their sponsorship appeal.