Often times there are plenty of guys that want to compete but don’t have the necessary funds to do so. We don’t always have the luxury of having tournaments held nearby and certainly most competitors that I know don’t have the money to fly all over the world to compete. So how can we come up with money to practice the sports we love? One answer is sponsorships. Now you are probably asking yourself “How can I get sponsored to compete?” Sponsorship money is out there but you need to know where to look for it and you need to put in work to get it, because unless you’re already a big name in the sport you practice, people or businesses are not going to throw money at you.
Look within the school. There are people from all walks of life at our gym including business owners. These people have trained with you. They are your teammates and your friends but they may not share the same desire to compete. These are the first people you may want to ask for sponsorships. Usually this will be a business expense or tax-write off for them and they will get the satisfaction of helping out one of their buddies.
If you and your coach don’t feel comfortable soliciting from within, you need to consider outside businesses and institutions. This requires a little more effort and preplanning on your part. There are many things that you need to factor into your decision on whom to approach and how to approach them. The first step is researching potential sponsors. Find someone who is a good fit for BJJ. A music store or ballet dance studio is probably not the best place to look. Realistically, for a sponsor who doesn’t know you, this will be a business opportunity and they need to get something out of this deal. A local sports bar that airs UFC fights may be a better fit. You need to formulate a letter that explains why they will benefit from sponsoring you and what you can do for them. If you were going to the World Championships, you can tell them how many competitors will be there. You can tell them how many spectators will be there. Explain how many magazines, websites, journalists and worldwide viewers will be watching this event. Tell them how many people train in your gym and that live in the community, who are following you. Tell them how by sponsoring you, their business will be getting a return on their investment. Prove to them that you are a sound business investment. Be confident and persuasive and professional. Above all, be honest and do not promise or make claims that you can’t guarantee and back up. This is a legitimate business partnership and if you wish to be sponsored continually by them, you need to work for them.
Once you find some suitable sponsors that seem to make sense for a Jiu Jitsu sponsorship, you need to figure out whom to contact regarding your potential sponsorship with them. Before you send them a letter, drop them a line or even stop by in person. Normally a business will not bother reading or responding to a letter from a stranger asking for money. Remember that in the letter, they will most likely not be able to understand your drive, passion and enthusiasm for the sport. However a short and sincere phone conversation and introduction will let them know to expect a package from you in the near future.
In the letter you send them afterwards, you should include a breakdown of what the money you request will be going towards, i.e. Travel, lodging and registration fees. Also include some info about who you are and your competition record. They need to know why sponsoring you will help them get a return on their donation and how you will help them for their contributions. This has to be in more than just a logo on your Gi. In today’s age of internet marketing, you can explain to them, that you will be mentioned on your Facebook page, your website or Blog if you have one. You will put them as a web link on your signature and mention them in Jiu Jitsu forums and if you win, you will proudly mention and display who they are. You will wear their patch and make youtube videos and get their name publicized as much as yours. Let them know that your name is out there and theirs will be out there with it!
Another must is having a well written letter. If you have the grammatical skills and persuasive ability of an angry 10 year old, get a friend to help write it. A professional organization will only respond to you if you are presenting them with a well organized and well written proposal. There are probably plenty of people in the academy that would be willing to help you out in this endeavor. When writing the letter, don’t sound desperate and do not beg for money. Some people include pictures of themselves during tournaments. This is a personal preference, whether or not you include one. The idea behind this is they will see a good photo of you in action and understand the environment you compete in and where they may be advertising. Do not include a picture unless it presents you in a positive light and try to have a good photo taken with a decent camera if you decide to go this route. It would be counterproductive to give them a cheap, blurry Polaroid of you in the locker room with a plastic medal around your neck!
This brings us to the point that the process of trying to find a sponsor should begin well ahead of time. Some companies have major red tape and protocol to sort out before deciding on granting you sponsorship. If you are patient and prepared, you may be successful. When asking for funds, remember, it’s better to get one big sponsor than to have a dozen small contributions. You don’t want to look like a patchwork quilt on the mat with 15 small logos and patches on your gear! When you approach an organization you feel has good potential, ask for more money than you actually need. This will give you some room to negotiate ad still leave all of your expenses covered for the tournament. You also don’t want them to feel as if they are getting some second rate competitor. Exude confidence in your ability as a competitor and person so that they feel as if they are sponsoring a quality contender and individual. Remember the work you put in to BJJ on the mats…that’s the person they are getting when they sponsor you. Let them know that.
If you follow these steps and you do get sponsorship, keep them updated periodically as to how you are doing and how training is going. Emails and letters and periodic phone calls will remind them of the fact that you appreciate you partnership and this may help maintain the relationship you build with them for years to come. If you don’t work for them in some capacity, you can probably forget ever getting money from them again. It’s typically easier to get sponsored by an upstart equipment company compared to an established Jiu Jitsu gear company with big named fighters sponsored by them or a local business not related to the sport. You may be able to obtain lots of free gear and equipment, but this probably will not cover the costs of a major competition. It will however help offset the expenses involved in training and can translate to more money in your budget for competitions.