In the upcoming USAC competition season there will be 150 local comps, and each host facility will be looking to provide fun and valuable prizes for the climbers and spectators. But where does all that swag come from and what’s the best way to get it?
In CBJ’s continuing series on helping climbing gyms host better competitions, we take a look at how gyms can get sponsorships, the right way.
It’s Not Free Stuff, It’s a Partnership
Asking companies to sponsor your comp may feel a bit like begging. But it should be more like entering a business partnership than asking for a handout. A sponsorship needs to be beneficial to both parties, which means that each party receives a direct or indirect benefit from the arrangement.
The first step to a successful sponsorship is to define what each sponsor will receive in return for their support. Here are are a few key questions you should be able to answer before contacting a potential sponsor:
- How many people will be exposed to the sponsor? This includes all the competitors, spectators and volunteers at the event plus all the people that will exposed to the comp’s marketing campaign.
- Who will be attending the event? Provide as many specifics as you can about their location and demographics.
- How will the sponsor’s brand be promoted? Where will their logo be displayed? Will they be promoted on social media? Will they receive special mention during the comp? How will their product be displayed at the event?
- Will they receive any direct benefits, such as an agreement to purchase a specific amount of their product in the future?
Less can also mean more for your event. Chose between 6 – 10 companies so that each brand can have a real and meaningful presence during the event, and won’t feel that their brand is being drowned out by the other sponsors.
Leverage Retail Relationships
The next step is to decide which companies you are going to approach for sponsorship. The best place to start is with brands that you already do business with, since maintaining and growing that business relationship will be a factor in their decision to sponsor your event.
Josh Helke from Organic Climbing, a manufacturer of bouldering crash pads, told CBJ that the best way to find sponsors is to approach the companies you already have a retail relationship with. “Once you have a history of purchasing from a company they will likely help with some prizes for your events,” said Helke. “Its tough for many companies to supply free items when you do not support their company through your retail shop.”
Even if you do not have a pro shop you still have opportunities to establish partnerships with companies that provide your rental shoes and harness. Also don’t forget about the companies from which you buy rope and climbing holds; they may be especially eager to expose their brands since their products do not have prominent logos.
Another good option is to is to team up with local businesses that want to expose their brands to the climber demographic.
Working with a local gear shop is a win-win for both your gym and the shop. Gear shops and climbing gyms share customers but are not competitors; the shop gets the exposure to the local climbing community and your gym will get goods or gift cards that will be sure to please the crowd.
However, don’t limit yourself to climbing companies. Look to small companies in your area that are looking to get their brand in front of new customers. Restaurants may not be able to give you free gear but they can provide gift certificates to be raffled off or help provide lunch to your volunteers. Look for other opportunities to team up with local businesses like coffee shops, breweries, movie theaters, yoga studios and even alternative health providers and mortgage brokers that are looking to reach your audience.
One important rule: make sure you are not signing up two companies that are competitors. This is a serious no-no and companies hate having their logo next to their competitor’s logo. If you’ve asked two similar companies to sponsor your event and they both say yes, do not necessarily pick the one that will give you the most stuff — chose a sponsor that will be the best long term partner.
Top Three Do’s and Don’ts of Sponsorship
- Do send a clear explanation for how you will provide meaningful exposure for the sponsor’s product or brand.
- Do send polite reminders to sponsors about 2 weeks before your event if you have not received the agreed items.
- Do send post-event thank you’s to all sponsors and include a brief recap of the event.
- Do not request specific items unless you have a previous relationship with the company.
- Do not complain about the prizes you have received, that’s a guaranteed way to kill any future sponsorship deals.
- Do not let volunteers or employees take prizes that were intended for event participants (and never sell donated products).