Support Is a Two-Way Street: 5 Tips For Keeping Sponsors Happy

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Smith/Smith Equine Media, LLC.

In the competitive (and expensive!) world of eventing, everyone either has a sponsor or wants a sponsor.

But when you think of a ‘sponsor,’ what comes to mind? Is it free product? It is a financial donation? Is it a tax writeoff? Is it all of these things?

Sponsorship comes in a few different forms:

An in-kind sponsor is a sponsor who donates a product in exchange for something, typically advertisement. Most of these sponsors will receive an ad in a program, on a banner, or on social media or a website in exchange for their donation. Often times, the more products a sponsor provides, the more benefits they receive from the sponsored rider, organization, horse show, etc.

A financial sponsor is a sponsor who donates money in exchange for particular benefits like advertisement or opportunity. Like an in-kind sponsor, most will receive an ad in a program, on a banner, or on social media or a website in exchange for the donation. In the case of a special event or horse show, a financial sponsor would be provided with premium seating, free drinks, or access to a VIP area, for example.

When I talk about sponsorships, I like to emphasize that sponsorships are a two-way street. For example: Yes, you may be receiving a $500 pair of designer boots at no cost; however, you still need to earn them by upholding your end of the agreement.

In most sponsorship relationships, there is a written contract between the “sponsor” and the “sponsored” that breaks down what each will provide in exchange for services. For riders, this may be a monthly or quarterly requirement to promote the sponsor on social media and/or wearing the sponsor’s logo at a competition. For horse shows, this might mean a banner at a specific location, a website ad, and a VIP bracelet. No matter the agreement, it is very important to make SURE you are fulfilling these requirements.

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Smith/Smith Equine Media, LLC.

If you are a sponsored rider or hope to be one someday, here are my top tips for a successful sponsorship:

1. Schedule your agreement requirements.

I highly recommend writing your requirements on a calendar dedicated to sponsorship management. This helps you stay organized and reminds you to complete certain tasks on time, which help keep your sponsor happy.

2. Share important dates with your sponsor.

When you create your upcoming events schedule, send it to your sponsor! Let them know where you will be and when. You can also share it on social media and tag them in the post for them to share, too.

3. Provide your sponsor with photos.

Sponsors love seeing pictures of you wearing their logo, feeding their supplement, using their product, etc. And, if you are required to submit high-resolution photos to your sponsor as part of your agreement, please make sure you do so, even if that means purchasing them from a show photographer.

4. Thank your sponsor regularly.

Call me old fashioned, but nothing takes the place of a handwritten thank you note. Thank them often—especially after you receive new product.

5. Communicate with your sponsor.

If you want to make the most of your sponsorship, talk with your sponsor regularly. They love product feedback and enjoy hearing updates on how you and your horse are doing. They especially love it if you tell them these things and then post a review on social media!

Chelsea Smith is the owner of Smith Equine Media LLC, a provider of website design, social media administration, and marketing services to a string of high end clientele such as Double Dan Horsemanship, Meghan O’Donoghue Eventing, Indiana Eventing Association and Midsouth Eventing and Dressage Association.