One of the most pressing concerns for any event rider is the need to enhance their profile, engage with potential owners and sponsors, and create a buzz about themselves. We all know of certain riders who always seem to be in the marketing mix. But how do they do it? And how do you go about seeking a sponsor to help enhance your brand?
The first step to gaining sponsorship is to see yourself as a brand. Not necessarily a person with a first name and a surname — but a professional ‘Kate Smith Eventing’ type brand, with a website and a raft of social media accounts.
There are professional consultants around who will act as your representative, secure media interviews with you and make introductions with potential sponsors; however they will charge a fee, which you may not be able to afford currently. If so, it is up to you to present yourself as a great package to potential sponsors and owners.
A good example of proactivity is British eventer Brier Leahy, of Brier Leahy Eventing, a 20-year-old Intermediate-level eventer from North Wales aiming to gain a place on the British team eventually. She has her own self-titled blog produced on the free platform Weebly, and has Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts, and sponsors including Fine Fettle Products, whose supplementary products she uses, and whose social media accounts she contributes to. Brier has also been featured on the regional British news website, Wales Online.
Here are some ideas to increase your profile:
1. If you don’t have a website yet, get one created — they are very cost-effective these days. Ensure you have a blog page and links to social media accounts. A professionally-designed website will look great, and will have more options for search engine optimisation if it is ‘third party hosted,’ but you can just as easily create a free website using WordPress or Weebly to get you started. Choose a template design with simple, obvious social media ‘tabs’ if possible.
2. Create social media accounts. Facebook, Linked-In, YouTube and Twitter are good ones to start with, and can easily be linked to your website. Make an introductory video of yourself — you can film it at the yard and introduce your horses. (You don’t need any special equipment — a smartphone is sufficient. You can edit the films if required with free software like Movie Maker; however, no one will mind homemade looking footage.) Upload to YouTube with lots of eventing-related tags and keywords. Get friends and family to film you at events, so these can be uploaded too. Document your activities with photos, as any sponsor will be glad to have them for marketing purposes.
3. Create a blog page, ideally on your website, and add to it regularly. Potential sponsors want to see that you can write well and are proactive.
4. If you like and use certain horsey products, write about them — review them and honestly explain why you rate them.
5. Write letters to local or national equestrian magazines, maybe thanking event organisers or flagging up a great venue — anything to get your name and brand out there.
6. Get saddle cloths and branded clothing made up with your logo, name or website on it. Consider getting long sleeved tops printed with your name and website down the sleeve so it is visible under a body protector. When you show potential sponsors your pictures, be sure to explain that their branding could be used in this way!
7. Contact your regional newspapers and equestrian magazine titles. If you have a training or coaching qualification, all the better — as a recognised ‘expert,’ you are more likely to gain opportunities to contribute to the title. (‘Kate Smith of Kate Smith Eventing shows readers how to tackle ditches.’) Maybe they’d be interested in interviewing you about a recent win at a horse trials event, your ‘triumph over tragedy’ story, or about a charitable project you’re undertaking?
You can do the same with local radio stations, ideally obtaining a clip of any broadcast coverage to add to your website and social media pages. (Top tip: if you’re being interviewed over the phone, hold your smartphone to the receiver and record your responses — if you can’t obtain the actual broadcast content, you can edit these clips on your smartphone to use.)
8. Approach companies that you’d like to be sponsored by. All reputable equestrian companies receive such enquiries every day, but the good news is that most of them are hopelessly futile. Examples of how NOT to approach a company include: a brief message on Facebook; a brief message on Facebook that’s obviously been duplicated many times and is not personalised; and an introduction detailing your successes, and why the company should sponsor you, as you are so brilliant and deserving.
Why SHOULDN’T you do the latter? Because there are many hundreds of eventers doing well, producing and competing horses that are deserving of commercial support via products or money. But the point to your letter or phone call is what YOU can do for the company, not the other way around!
Think of how you can enhance sales for them. Could you carry lorry advertising? Show them a picture of your lorry — you can even ‘mock up’ their branding on the side! Show them your blog, and detail how many followers you have. Offer examples of how you could include their products or services subtly into your blog. If you teach or coach, offer your teaching services as a competition prize to a regional magazine or media outlet: ‘Win a lesson with Kate Smith, plus six months’ worth of Fred’s Fabulous Horse Feed.’
Compile a physical promotional brochure about yourself: detail your horses, recent wins, goals, media coverage gained, and post it with a dynamic covering letter to a named person at the company you’re interested in.
9. When approaching companies, don’t feel too limited to equestrian companies. There will be some great local companies that you could forge links with — think laterally! If you’re targeting horsey brands, don’t go too big if you’re starting out; contact small to medium sized enterprises. Look at their existing roster of sponsored riders or ambassadors — they probably won’t be interested if they have someone similar to you.
10. Once you have all of this preparatory work in place, you will also be in a position to approach potential owners in the same way, or to showcase yourself in the local media, in order to seek syndicated owners.
Good luck and Go Eventing!