A question I often get asked by fighters is how to go about getting sponsored. As both an amateur and professional I was heavily sponsored by some great business owners and companies. The money and products that they provided me with offset the money that I would have lost had I funded my training myself. These companies stepped up and wrote me checks, gave me equipment and provided me with services so that I could chase the dream of making it to the UFC.
They didn’t owe me that, they chose to support me. Now, let me tell you why. Every company involved inside the business of mixed martial arts and combat sports gets hundreds to thousands of “Hey bro” e-mails a week. Now you may be asking yourself what a “Hey bro” e-mail is, let me illustrate; “Hey bro, I’m a fighter, I’m good. I know I can make it to the UFC and win that belt. This is a good chance for me to help YOU out by advertising your company on my shorts. My last fight I sold like 25 tickets, so I’m a pretty big deal. Best Ammy 145er out there for sure. You can make the check out to…”
I think you get the idea. Let me explain something to you, you’re not that good. It’s ok, most fighters aren’t worth a business writing you a check so they can slap their logo on your butt, so that amidst the fight that will eventually break out inside the cage, you might stand still long enough for a hundred of the 1,0005,000 people in attendance to see their logo on your shorts. You have to realize that you are owed NOTHING and that sponsorships are not gained strictly based on your win loss record or the fact that you have a “nasty” right hand. Here are a few tips to helping you become a SPONSORED athlete:
- Realize that they do more for you than you do for them. You putting their logo on your shorts and banner isn’t going to drum up a lot of business for these companies. If they sponsor you it’s because they believe in you and it’s something that they want to do.
- Social Media Use social media to your advantage by posting pictures with you endorsing the company, their products, and services. Make posts if the business is running any sales/specials. Thank your sponsors often publicly. Now on the flip side of that, social media can hurt your chances of getting sponsored too. If you act like a knucklehead on Facebook and Twitter do not expect any sponsors to come knocking on your door. Make sure you keep your social media activity professional.
- Realize that sponsorship is not “charity” and that you need to look at sponsorships as more of a partnership. Be vocal with your sponsors and ask them if there is anything that you can for them to help their business grow.
- Stay out of trouble. Companies to do not want to be represented by thugs. Keep your nose clean.
- Do what you say you’re going to. If you make a commitment to a sponsor it is your responsibility to see it through.
- Give them tickets to your fight. MMA is exciting and gets your adrenaline going and people like to be a part of that. Sponsors love to see their money hard at work inside the cage on fight night.
- Stay in touch with your sponsors in between fights. It’s important that you let these companies know that even when you’re not inside the cage that you are still doing your best to promote their business.
- Stay in shape. Don’t get out of shape between fights. Remember you are the product that you are selling to these sponsors, and you are their investment. It’s easy to get behind a fighter if they work hard and show that they are passionate about what they do.
So you want to be a sponsored fighter? These are just some of the examples of the things that you need to do to get a company behind you. When sending an email requesting sponsorship make sure you make the email professional but personable. These companies want to be able to relate to who it is that they sponsor but more importantly they want their potential customers to be able to relate to you as a representative of what they have worked so hard to build. I always let potential sponsors know that while I take training and fighting very seriously that I was a family man first.
Sponsors respect that and know that the public will also. Make sure that when you send the email that you include a list of what it is that you have accomplished so far in the sport but also a list of the things that you hope to accomplish in the future. It is important that the sponsor knows that you are very serious about your career and that you are looking and planning ahead. Finally in your email remember to remain gracious and humble. Companies do not want you to talk about yourself; they want you to talk about them.
Who to approach:
- Make sure that you approach companies that you believe in and that you can honestly recommend to your audience.
- Think outside the box. Like I said in the first couple of paragraphs of this article, fight gear companies get flooded with emails requesting sponsorship so while it’s ok to send them a request I wouldn’t focus solely on MMA based businesses. Construction companies, car dealerships, bars, restaurants, these are some ideas of what you should be looking for.
- Sometimes it can be hard to get businesses to cut a check but what are some of the things you need for your fight? (Tradehome Shoes was a longtime sponsor of mine and they would give me five pairs of running shoes each year. While I can’t take a pair of shoes to the bank they saved me nearly $600.00 annually. Stickman Graphics has been a longtime sponsor of mine and Joe printed all of my banners and often my shorts so that I could get the other companies that sponsored me the exposure that I promised them. Insanity Fightwear has been with me since I made the switch from Muay Thai to MMA and Eric Carlson bent over backwards for me to help make me money even when he wasn’t able to write a check. I just landed MixedSalads, Paninis, and Wraps as a sponsor for Bryan Corley headed into Bellator later this month. They have agreed to prepare all of his meals heading into the final two weeks to save Bryan some time and to help with the weight cut.) Figure out what it is that you need and go and trade sponsorship for products and services.
I would just like to remind fighters out there that if you carry yourself professionally, live up to your promises, speak forward and honestly, work hard in the gym, and win fights that it is not hard to get people to believe in you and what it is that you have set out to accomplish. MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world and there are a lot of companies out there who would be excited to have the opportunity to get involved. Stop asking for handouts and start building relationships.