Sponsorship is a relationship (not a donation)

Sponsorship is a relationship (not a donation)

Sponsorship is something that few people truly understand. 

Many athletes are thrilled to receive free product from brands a few times a year that ask them for nothing in return. They might tell their friends about the awesome deal but there's no mutual exchange of value.

What might surprise you, is that a deal where you're not giving anything back for the value you receive, isn't sponsorship. It's a donation. Sure, it might be pretty cool to receive free product, but it isn't sponsorship. 

So what does sponsorship look like?

Sponsorship is simply a relationship between an athlete and a company where there is a mutual exchange of value. 

The sponsor provides goods, services or finances (or a combination) in return for commercial benefits from the athlete such as promotion and endorsement of their brand. 

Like any relationship, if it’s nurtured it can develop into a long lasting partnership. A free pair of shoes is nice and all. But it's hard to grow a one-sided exchange into a relationship that lasts longer than 12 months and provides a greater level of support. 

Conversely, just like any relationship, if it’s taken for granted and neglected, or there is dishonesty, then it is unlikely to grow and likely to end. 

Sponsorship is like any other relationship

Sponsorship is a lot like other relationships you have in your life. E.g. with your friends, family and colleagues. 

We don’t generally assess and define these relationships in terms of benefits and what we can get out of them. However, there are some fundamental elements that we must carry from these into our relationships with sponsors. Honesty, respect, shared values, and a commitment to do the right thing by each other are all must-haves in sponsored relationships. 

If any of these elements were missing from our personal relationships then there would be at least one unsatisfied party and the relationship would be dysfunctional. 

Taking the analogy a little further, relationships must be fairly equal. How normal relationships work is that we give and take. If we find ourselves in a relationship where the other person constantly takes and never gives back (even though they promise they will) we feel let down by them.

Eventually, we become less inclined to give and there may come a time where we end the relationship. 

Business relationships are no different. And sponsorship is a business relationship. It's not charity or a donation. So athletes need to take a business-like approach to sponsorship. 

Sounds a little technical, but you simply take the core fundamental values of any good relationship, and team it with the strategy and functionality of an effective business relationship. 

Now you're setting yourself up for success. 

Are you an athlete looking for brand and sponsorship support?

Connect with the experts and a community of like-minded sponsorship seekers by joining The Athlete Brand and Sponsorship Hub.

The Hub is a free group for athletes of all types, sports, abilities and ages. You'll find brand and sponsorship tips + a forum to seek and receive support as you navigate your journey. Join The Hub to take your brand and sponsorship journey to the next level.