In addition to the primary focuses of my legal practice, labor\employment and civil litigation, I also do work as what is commonly referred to as a sports agent. What I and another attorney (Joe Dicochea) in the office I work in (Law Office of Charles A. Goldwasser) do is legal representation of professional athletes. The main difference of what we do and that of a true sports agent is that we also practice law and therefore are governed more strictly by the rules covering attorney's behavior.
With Spring\Summer sports underway and our Beach Volleyball and Baseball clients trying to make a living, I thought I would try to give some basic ideas of how to get a sponsor in beach volleyball. For those of you who don't know me I play pro-beach volleyball and have been sponsored by Roof Sportswear for the past 5 years and Reebok Eyewear going on three years now. Even though my name is not a household word when discussing volleyball I have been able, for the last 10 years, to get some big name volleyball companies to sponsor me in the sport I love.
The first question I get asked, other than who are you, is "How do you get a sponsor?" My first response is usually well what can you do for a sponsor. After the questionable gaze of what do mean what can I do I explain. There are literally thousands of people out on the beach that are willing to pay to wear any particular line of clothes, why should any company actually give you money to wear their clothes. The player has to realize there is nothing for free in this world. While you may not have to pay in terms of cash you will in terms of sweat.
A sponsor provide equipment or product, and hopefully financial assistance, to a player in return for advertisement, exposure and promotion of their respective product. For example Roof Sportswear provides clothes and assistance but in return wants increase sales, new clients or new markets. Reebok Eyewear provides sunglasses in hope to get their name into the sun glass market, and to increase sales. The player therefore becomes a spokesman, a representative of the company. A professional relationship is formed.
What an athlete needs to do is figure out what their needs are and research what companies are out there that can fill there needs. Most athletes are willing to accept or wear anything if it's free but they must remember that not only will they be tied exclusively to that particular product for the duration of the sponsorship contract but will also be tying their name to the product for the length of the contract and beyond. It the product is worthless then people remember that you endorsed it way back when.
The second step is to make contact with a company and this usually means contacting the company's promotion and marketing department or their advertising people. This is when most people get scared off. The athlete will be told to submit a resume and a profile then the company will get back to them. You need to have one ready. The resume is not different then one a person would use when looking for a job, but now it is about 75% sports and 25% real life information. A profile is just an accounting of your accomplishments as an athlete, a brief description of yourself and a photo so they have a face to put the paper to.
Don't get scared off. You can never get a sponsor unless you ask. If you can't take rejection then you will have to finance yourself for ever. Companies rarely approach athletes because they don't want to look desperate and rather deal with an agent of representative that is more experienced on the business side. This does not mean you must have an agent, but you will have to act like you know what you are doing.
The athlete then must be able to not only sell him\herself but also the sport of volleyball. Very few companies have experience with this sport and are blind to why there are only two people on a team and why we don't have set partners. You must educate them and then sell them. Companies use this time to evaluate your ability to represent their product. If you can't sell them on you, then you can't sell their product. (sell means promote).
Once a relationship is formed, handle it as a professional partnership. Provide the company with feed back on their products, keep them informed of your activities and results. Companies hate to only hear from an athlete when they need more product or are asking for more money. If you call once a year then that contract will be for that one year. A side note, if a player changes sponsor every year companies will know and most likely see that you don't understand loyalty... there goes any hopes of getting the initial contract.
Finally, do not over do the request for product or money. Figure out what you need and ask just for what you need. By the same token a couple pairs of shorts, a few t-shirts and a hat are not enough. You need enough to wear the line exclusively at all times including while training, during competition, and after the events. You need enough to represent the company in a professional and credible manner.
If you think an agent is needed, and at the higher ranks it is, be careful. A lot of my clients come to me because they know they can trust me and have been mistreated and cheated by other agents. Using our office for example, we take a percentage of any money contract we obtain. We do not charge for trying to get the contract so our clients only pay us if we produce results. If you need an agent or want one checked out, feel free to contact me.
Remember the bottom line is you have to ask. There will be a lot of rejection but it never hurts to ask.