What Is the Appeal of Sponsorships, and Is It Worth the Cost?

Photo by Leslie Wylie. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

There are many articles out there for equestrians, on how to find and secure sponsorship opportunities. I find this to be most appealing to the young professional, as we struggle to tread water in an ever growing and evolving environment.

One thing is consistent however: cost. The cost of this sport is nothing short of astronomical, whether your focus is the leisure trail ride, or the road to the Olympics. So, what is the appeal of sponsorships?

Without good representation, businesses would not have as much success in the industry. That’s not to say that the companies would not succeed in general; however, I’ve seen how close-knit the horse community is, and with that in mind, I know that one or two poor reviews of a company can cost hundreds of dollars.

In becoming successful at what you do, people will want to know what you use to get there. For example, Tiger Woods. He’s almost synonymous with Nike, and yet, my sports bra from Target does the same thing as my Nike one. But because of the larger name-brand product, I’m naturally more inclined to gravitate to that as opposed to the alternative.

And of course, who doesn’t like free things? For a few social media posts, you get another saddle pad, or a much-needed fly bonnet, or even grain for your horses. At the same time, in not needing to spend the money on new equipment, you can use that money to get another lesson, or enter an event/show, thus promoting your sponsor’s product even more.

There are usually sections on equestrian company websites regarding sponsorship inquiries. But with that in mind, there are repercussions for seeking such relationships. In seeking a partnership, or sponsorship, or whatever you’d like to call it, be aware of the following:

You forfeit your amateur status, meaning you go against other professionals in the industry. And unlike in soccer, you can’t retreat as easily.

That’s not to say you cannot return to an amateur status, but there are forms and hoops to jump through and time to process things — certainly not an overnight decision. It takes about a year, if not more, to reapply to give up the professional title and reclaim amateur status.

An exchange of services makes you a professional — meaning, I acquire a set of jumping boots in exchange for promotion, or saddle pads in exchange for PR damage control, I am going to be considered a professional.

With that in mind, I must ask myself, am I truly ready to compete against Boyd or Phillip, and expect to do as well? Or be held to the same standards?

About Elizabeth: I am a 25-year-old just starting out a professional career in eventing, having just made that huge step from amateur to professional this past week. I have been riding since I was 6, having competed through the jumpers, hunters, equitation and now find my home in the eventing circuit where I have competed for the last five years. I currently reside in Florida, with my 6 year old thoroughbred mare Active Volcano, and my 4 year old thoroughbred stallion Congrats Kid. I, like many other riders, have an end goal of competing in the Olympics some day, but for now, want to focus on training my horses and myself as best as I can so we can some day sit there and say “we did it.”

Follow Elizabeth via the Kilner Eventing Facebook page here.