So you want to get sponsored by a big name gear Company?
I know you’ve dreamed of it.
Maybe you don’t want a big gear company, maybe you want a certain restaurant or a hair pomade company to keep that pompador hair looking good. (Dan Hubler has some amazing hair)
Do you have what it takes? Are you willing to do what it takes for that sponsorship? (No TLI)
I mean, does anyone really know what a company looks for when deciding whether or not they’re going to sponsor a competitor?
We here at Grapplers Review set out on a mission to find out what the top companies are looking for in their athletes as well as sponsored competitors telling us their experiences and giving us tips on how to get you sponsored. We talked to the who’s who in the Jiu Jitsu world from up and coming competitors/brands to established legends and wanted the COLD HARD TRUTH when it came to getting sponsored.
Before we get into the portion of how you go about securing that coveted bjj sponsorship you need to ask yourself a few questions….
1) Why do you want a sponsorship?
Just like the question asks…why do you want a sponsorship? Are you looking for money? To say you have one? To look cool to your training partners?
This is something you HAVE to really ask yourself. A bjj sponsorship isn’t exactly something to joke about. You will have responsibilities to fulfill and quotas to make. It takes effort on your part to earn the trust of a company and you damn sure don’t want to lose it because you flaked out.
2) What kind of a sponsorship are you looking for?
Money…gear….recognition from said company? Another tough question you have to come to ask yourself. Figure out what you want from a sponsorship with a company before jumping in the waters.
If you apply for a sponsorship to a company with no real idea of what you’re looking for then you will find yourself quickly being turned down.
3) Is said company representing what you believe in?
If the companies mission or beliefs isn’t what you’re about then why even bother applying?
What good would it be for you to be their sponsored athlete if you don’t even like what they’re about?
4) Does the company have your best interest in mind?
This is something that no one actually thinks about when it comes to sponsorships.
What is the companies goal for you? Are they going to be there for the ups and downs of your career, helping you along and being a positive influence or are they just wanting to use you to build their name?
These are just four options for what you really need to ask yourself before considering a sponsorship. Think very hard before you apply for a sponsorship or accept one.
Now lets take a look at what you will need in order to gain the upper hand when applying for a sponsorship, whether you’re a high level competitor or the average mat rat looking to cut some costs on cool gear or get an entry fee or two paid.
First off lets talk about Your Resume.
Believe it or not, this is your greeting and the first thing a company will want to see. This is what a business owner will use to judge how serious you are.
Here is an example that many companies are getting,
“Hey my name is John Doe, I’m a blue belt looking for sponsorship. Do you think you can help me out?”
Can you point out what is wrong with this?
Here is a quote from one of the many brands I’ve asked:
I read that and think that this person is just looking for free stuff and is not really serious about representing our brand.”
This is exactly how ALL companies I have spoken with feel. Most of the time when they see this it automatically goes in the trash.
Your resume and how you word it, punctuate, and spell is a representation of YOURSELF. If you’re too lazy to sit down and write a correct and professional resume to represent yourself then how can you professionally represent the company you’re applying for?
It makes NO SENSE!!!!
Take your time. If you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to writing then please have someone proof read it. (I have someone proof read my entries) This will be the first impression that a company has of you and will be the base for your entire conversation.
Yes this does in fact matter. Do you train full or part time? How long have you been training? What rank are you? Are you an instructor?
How much you train, how long you’ve been training, and where you train play a big factor in getting a sponsorship.
There are companies who are willing to sponsor you if you train part time and you have the right amount of credentials, but they are few and far between my friends. If you haven’t been training that long then chances are you aren’t getting sponsored, unless you’re a prodigy like B.J. Penn.
If you’re putting in 20 + hours a week in mat time and have been training 3+ years then you’re going to get more of a nod than the guy who has been training part time at 10 hours a week and for around a year.
Don’t let that discourage you though.
It’s nothing personal, but the guy getting in 20+ hours a week and has three or more years of mat time is more in line with the companies mission.
Statistics show that people don’t reach blue belt, or they quit right after getting their blue belt. So, when you keep training after blue belt and put in some serious mat time it shows a company you have what it takes to represent them and want to continue your education in grappling.
Do you really think they’re going to consider your application if you haven’t even been on the mat two years? Time is money in this situation.
A lot of the companies want results. Especially in the IBJJF competitions. Sure you can win NAGA’s and local tournaments but how are you on the international level? If a company is relying on competition results then there is no better way to wow them than with IBJJF wins.
If NAGA’s are all that come around then by all means go compete your heart out and take that tournament by storm. Wreck every division you enter with authority like you’re the Ultimate Warrior from the old school WWF shows.
Make sure you let the company know that’s all that comes around though. If you get the opportunity to showcase your skills at a higher level tournament then you need to go and prove yourself. As Nick Diaz says, “don’t be scared homie”.
On the other hand there are companies that don’t judge you based on your competition results. They understand that not everyone can be a highly successful competitor. Most people can’t compete every month or they just don’t have enough competitions around their area for them to compete in.
One Company says:
We don’t sponsor people because they send a long list of tournament wins. Like I have time to go verify all those wins.”
Another company responded to me:
“Winning or losing isn’t important. 4 out of 5 business fail, but 5 out of the 5 guys who try to start a business have succeed in living their life.”
One last company:
Although our company is the youngest of all the BJJ brands out there we have focused our efforts in not chasing medals but chasing heart.
No money and No training can offer heart. This is why our company’s official slogan is “you can’t teach heart. It is something intangible yet so powerful and defines the DNA of our company and athletes.
Everyday we receive letters, messages from athletes, parents, coaches, Professors from around the world and most are always the same……(here is my record, here are my medals, etc etc) but once in a while we will get a letter from someone that touches us in a special way and we get curious…
Can you guess which company that was?
Remember, there are more important things some companies are looking for. Competition results are great, don’t get me wrong but they’re not the make or break in whether you’re getting sponsored from a lot of companies.
What other traits are companies looking for?
Do you have a lot of Facebook friends? Do you compete a lot? Do you travel for the competitions? Are you actively marketing yourself and getting your name out there? Can you advertise for that company and help them clear their shelves of inventory? What is your Brand Value?
This is just as important as any one of the traits I will list.
Most of the companies want to see how visible you are in the Grappling world. If they go to your Facebook page and Instagram feed and you have 100 friends and maybe 20 followers then what does that say?
As much as I hate to say it…social media is super crucial.
And that leads me to ask one question, “What can you do for them?”
To quote another top company,
“The single thing I think people miss when trying to get sponsorships is they focus all about them. What they are doing, what they have done and what they want to do. That is great they are successful and ambitious. All companies want to sponsor that type of person. What these people seem to miss is that companies are in business and they have to make sales. So unless you are a top guy with a known name and existing media coverage, you need to tell me how you are going to drive business to my company.”
An extremely valid point that company makes. A sponsorship is more than just,
“Hey….give me free stuff and I’ll wear it everywhere”.
You need to have a plan of action to pitch to these companies on how you can help their business grow. If they give you some of their product, which comes out of their pocket, and you don’t even mention them on your Facebook page or go out and try to get people to buy their product then how does that help them?
To quote the same company,
“When I ask people about how they will promote the brand, usually you get answers like “If you give me a lot of gear I will wear it everywhere i go.” How often do you see someone in a t-shirt and think, wow I really need to go by a gi.”
Visibility leads me to my next topic…
Image and Character
OK, so you’re highly visible and you have tons of people following you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…. the works. Let’s say a company does decide to sponsor you.
They go and check on John Doe’s Facebook page on a random stroll through the interwebs and they see him posting a lot of inappropriate and highly offensive content.
Maybe you talk about how you get plastered. Perhaps you post about the amount of illegal drugs you do every night of the week. Maybe your Instagram feed is chocked full of tomfoolery.
How about they check on your last tournament results and there is a video of you showboating while winning or throwing a little baby fit after you lost, swearing at the ref and telling him or her they suck and they should read the rules?
How do you think this reflects on the company?
How you carry yourself as an individual and the choices you make greatly impacts how people view you.
Obviously if they decide to sponsor you then you represent that company on…and off the mat. Your actions and character will decide whether or not the company wants to take a risk on you. Please take this into account when applying for a sponsorship to a company. It will weigh on their decision heavily. If you have poor character and a terrible image then why would they want to associate themselves with you?
So lets recap. You need a good resume, decent training time, competition results vary but greatly help, visibility, and a good image/character are a definite must.
What else can help? Lets ask rising starts like Joao Miyao, Mason Monsevais, and Mike Carbullido (click the names to go)
What are some don’t s when applying for a sponsorship?
1. DO NOT ASK FOR MONEY RIGHT OFF THE BAT
This is a huge ordeal in every company I’ve spoken with. This is the number one rule when applying for a sponsorship. Companies will delete your email immediately over this.
You haven’t proven anything to them, why in the world would they give you their hard earned money?
It doesn’t matter if you email them with a sob story saying how you can’t afford to train as much as you want and begging/pleading them to pay you to train. Seriously guys?
A good quote a company gave me was,
“I don’t get to train as much as I like to, too. How about you pay me. lol”
Get real guys, it’s not going to happen.
2. You’re a white belt asking for a Sponsorship? Don’t
Unless you’re training with World Champion Black Belts who already have a sponsorship with someone and can vouch for your amazing white belt skills then, in all honesty, don’t waste your time. Even then, there is a good chance you will be denied. And why? Unfortunately, because you are a white belt.
Remember, you’ve only just began your journey and sadly most people don’t take white belts seriously…this includes companies. Use the time you would spend campaigning to companies to enhance your skills on the mat or start making a name for yourself.
3. Don’t Blow up their Social Media and Email
Companies hate this. It’s annoying. Do not constantly email and post on their social media pages about sponsorship. Sure an occasional post letting them know about your most recent win while wearing their gear is good but don’t go overboard. If they post about openings for sponsorship then by all means go for it. Do not beg. (Yes i’ve been told that people beg and plead for sponsorship)
4. Don’t get mad when you get turned down
This is a big one. In reality the chances of you being turned down are high.
A lot of companies have told me the people who are applying get mad and start trash talking the company when they declined to sponsor them. This will not work out well for you. BJJ is a small world compared to other sports. We’re just now really getting somewhat popular guys and girls.
Almost all companies in the BJJ world know each other. That’s how small this sport is in the grand scheme of things. Most of them are, indeed, friends and do talk a lot.
If you’re already sponsored by a competing company
Lets say your sponsor is Inverted Gear…. and you’ve been pumping out advertising for them and now you’re applying to Moya Brand but you list Inverted Gear in the email saying they are one of your current sponsors.
A. You’ve already been seen promoting the crap out of Inverted Gear, but now you’re trying to switch companies? As I was asked, “wouldn’t that confuse the market?” and
B. If Jesse and Nelson are friends…. why would Jesse want to take that advertising from Nelson and money out of his pocket?
Both of those were great points brought up by a few companies and I can see why they brought that up. It could create a problem between friends where one could see it as stealing a competitor who was advertising for them and boosting sales.
If you’re already sponsored by a company and it’s going well, then stay loyal to the hand that feeds you.
The Hard Truth
If you do get sponsored, most of the entry level sponsorships are discounts on products that you will use from that company. You won’t see a lot of free products until you start generating some sales for them. So, don’t think right out of the gate you will get free gear.
It almost NEVER happens unless you are already a World Champion.
Prove yourself on the mat or promote the crap out of the company, and your sponsorship will take off and you will see more!!!
Lets be honest with ourselves though. The truth is I would say a good 80% of you will not get a sponsorship.
I hate to say it but that is fact. 80% is me being generous with that number as well.
If you take all of this information into consideration and you follow the guidelines I have provided here then this will definitely increase your chances of getting the sponsorship you’ve always dreamed of. It doesn’t guarantee your success in getting sponsored but it can help. Obviously the bigger the company the harder it will be to get sponsored, but as Vincent Van Gogh said
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”
If you get the opportunity to have a smaller company you like sponsor you, help them out. You never know how big that company will get!!!! This goes for MMA as well!!!