ABOUT THIS PROJECT
When Ross Kinsella and Caleb McInnis launched their brand new business, Freedom Sports Medicine, they knew that connecting in with the local community as well as with a more extended community of athletes was going to be key to their business success.
We were part of their athlete sponsorship planning process from the very start, and both Ross and Caleb were open to being guided through this journey. They had great ideas and input, and it was a really exciting opportunity to help them set up a process and a platform from scratch, rather than trying to fix or improve existing sponsorships.
Interestingly enough, when we had our first workshop they told us there were a few athletes they were definitely going to sponsor. We suggested that they try their best to go through the process and leave the identification of suitable athletes until much further along the path, and just see what comes out then.
To their credit, Ross and Caleb took our advice and let go of their preconceived ideas of the right athletes. They admitted they were really surprised they had changed their minds about two of the athletes when they realised that they wouldn’t be able to deliver any value to the business.
Ross and Caleb decided that a public advertising campaign was how they wanted to engage athletes, even though there were a few athletes already on their radar. We created an online questionnaire to answer all the basic things we needed to know about the athletes, as well as giving them the opportunity to offer some creative thinking so we could get an insight into what they thought about sponsorship and what their initiative was like!
The advert was posted on the Freedom Sports Medicine Facebook page and we were completely overwhelmed at the applications, not just in terms of quality, but quantity. At around the same time a global nutrition brand took the same approach to engaging athletes to sponsor, and they received less than 100 applications. Yet, this brand new sports medicine practice in the outer suburbs of Melbourne received nearly 300, good quality applications just through a single, unpaid post on Facebook.
We were then able to use a filtering process to narrow that list down to a preferred Top 6, and then phone calls were placed to initiate the negotiation and contract signing phase.
AN UNEXPECTED WIN
What we hadn’t expected, was the widespread awareness and interest from the local community and the sports community of Melbourne, who saw the adverts for ambassadors and got a sense of what a great company FSM is. The campaign to engage ambassadors, actually became a campaign that engaged customers!
The fact that Ross and Caleb replied to every single applicant also ensured those relationships stayed positive, and many of the applicants became clients of the clinic.
We brought the athletes together for a launch day during which they:
- Met each other, and connected up across each others social media platforms
- Received their branded kits and training gear
- Signed contracts
- Had a photo shoot
- Enjoyed lunch and getting to know their sponsors and team mates
We delivered a session to the Freedom Sports Medicine athletes on what their contracts included and how to stay on track and deliver what had been agreed to. We shared ideas on how to do certain things on social media and what workshops they could help deliver at the sports medicine clinic.
We were given the privilege of sharing with the athletes exactly what it was that Caleb and Ross wanted for their team, beyond the commercial benefits to both parties; it was to provide support in every way to enable them to fully participate in and enjoy their sport, to be mentors and coaches when needed and to provide opportunities for their growth as athletes and people.
FROM ROSS AND CALEB, OWNERS OF FREEDOM SPORTS MEDICINE
We started this journey having no experience of sponsoring athletes, but working with The Brand Builders has produced exceptional results for Freedom Sports Medicine, and we have learned so much through this, and in areas other than just athlete sponsorship.
Creating sponsorship arrangements with athletes can seem to be a consuming and difficult process, however with their expertise the transition to becoming a company that sponsors athletes went seamlessly. We highly recommend them if you are a company looking to gain a successful win-win relationship with athletes.
We now sponsor 6 athletes, and chose them all as a result of the work we did with Vickie. For us the greatest challenge was knowing how to choose the right athletes, how many, and what qualities, skills and attributes to look for in an appropriate ambassador.
We spent time creating an attractive package to offer our athletes as we felt this would greatly enhance and increase the applications we received.
We offered more than just physio and branded apparel, we offered real opportunities for them to benefit in the ways that they might want such as developing their presentation skills, increasing their network, earning money to spend on events or travel; just about anything that we could think of that would make their experience with us the best it could be.
It was really important for us, being a new small business, to create KPI’s which are measurable.
We did this in a really simple way using the process and templates provided , and now the KPI’s are housed not only in the contracts with our athletes but in their action lists for the year so they can tick them off as they go and easily provide us with this information.
Never having done this before not knowing how to go about it or what to expect, we found the process easy, simple and stress free which was great because we had so much on our plates having just launched a new business.
What I think we found the most interesting was learning how sponsoring athletes can assist in the branding, brand presence, and referrals to our business. Our athletes were all given set activities which they were happy to do and a lot of that was getting out at public events and getting involved, both on the ground and in social media activities They are community focused people and that really helps as they naturally have conversations with lots of people and are well respected within their circles.
We learned a lot from The Brand Builders, but also in the first year of sponsoring athletes we continued learning how to manage, reset and adjust KPI goals for them and also learning other ways of using them to promote the business. It’s trial and error, and for us there weren’t too many errors, if any, it was more a case of adjusting and tweaking based on what was and wasn’t working so well.
We have built strong relationships with each of our athletes, as have they with each other. It’s not the commercial benefit, but the interpersonal one that adds that extra bit of value that for us makes this all so worthwhile.
When it came time to choose our athletes, and probably something we will do again soon, is to ask ourselves the question “who is best for our business and how can we use them to achieve our goals?”. It’s as simple as that.
The way they have helped us gain branding presence and increased our exposure in a range of locations, clubs, sports and community groups has been amazing.
Our tips for other companies wanting to sponsor athletes:
- Don’t give things away for free…create KPI’s, set goals and help them achieve so that it works our mutually beneficial for both parties.
- Think carefully about what skills they have and how you can use them to benefit them
- The elite’s aren’t always the best. People of all different levels are great.
- The athlete has to believe in your service(s) and would want to use them regardless of whether they were supported by you or not.
We love the community they have built amongst themselves. Frequently we go to events where we have multiple sponsored athlete’s competing and it is great to see them supporting and interacting with one another.”