10 Secrets To Scoring A Fitness-Industry Sponsorship
Have you ever said to yourself, I know I have what it takes to get on that cover, while looking at Muscle & Fitness, Status, or Oxygen magazines? In this industry, everyone dreams about getting signed to a big supplement company or landing some type of huge sponsorship deal.
After all, a lot of incredibly fit athletes have stellar physiques. You're probably one of them. So while we all want to work a booth at the big shows, score free stuff, appear in magazines, and maybe even turn into a huge fitness star-it doesn't happen to everybody.
But it can happen to you. Here's how: Read the answers to the top 10 questions that I always get asked about landing a sponsor. My knowledge comes firsthand, from working hard to build a look I'm proud of to being featured on the cover of Iron Man magazine.
This article offers insider knowledge that could help you become the next "big thing" to hit the fitness industry!
Question 1: Do I have to win a competition to get sponsored?
No. Winning a competition might help you gain a bit of exposure, but it is not necessary when it comes to gaining a sponsorship.
There are many sponsored athletes who compete but have never won a show, and there are many athletes who have won many shows but haven't bagged any sponsorships.
Companies aren't hung up on the titles you've won at shows. In my experience, they're more interested in your persona. Companies really go for someone who has a following of people.
After all, if people look up to you as their fitness role model and trust your judgment on supplements and other products, it'll be easy for a company to build credibility and a customer base with your physique and persona backing them up.
Question 2: Do I have to have 5000 friends on Facebook to get sponsored?
Social networking is a great way to get your image and persona out there, to get fans, and to endorse yourself as an athlete.
Building your network through Twitter, Facebook, BodySpace and a personal website can take a lot of leg work, and it is very rare that companies take notice of athletes only because of social networks online.
But it is always a possibility, and if you start now, you won't have as much work to do when you do hit it big!
The web is also a good venue for you to promote products for companies that you would want to work for. If you have a few favorite supplements (or a lot!) that really help you make progress, or if you've just tried something amazing, share your opinions online.
Question 3: What are sponsors looking for?
They are looking for fit athletes who not only have a basic knowledge of supplements but know THEIR supplements (or products). Taking just 1 or 2 of a company's supplements won't get you signed.
You need to have a wide range of use and knowledge of the product line. They also want outgoing athletes who are not afraid to go into gyms or stores and ask to do demos as well as athletes who have stamina for long tradeshows and are excited to be there.
Your attitude, personality, and how you present yourself will be big selling points to sponsors. Even if you don't think that you are naturally outgoing or good around large groups of people, you can still get sponsored!
Just practice your people skills and work hard at showing your true self around larger groups. Sometimes it even helps to practice your "sales" talk because sponsors want to know that you can represent them to the public.
Question 4: What is the best way to get signed?
Visit the company's website and reach out to them. Most have online applications to be a member of their contracted athletes. Don't take rejection personally because a lot of it is just luck and timing.
Always remember that there are a lot of athletes out there wanting the same thing that you do who are also in great physical shape with great personalities. But you can set yourself apart and be the kind of outgoing, hardworking person a company would be proud to have.
There are also a lot of people succeeding in this business, and you can be one of them. It's important to keep trying and keep a positive attitude with every new opportunity.
Also, make sure you know some history of the company you contact, how it started, who the owner is, and who the creator and the brains behind the operation are.
Research the demographic and company goals. If the company you are reaching out to is Bodybuilding.com then make sure you have a BodySpace and that you're active on it.
Question 5: How do I find a good fit with a company? Do I need to apply to EVERY company or should I focus my efforts?
This question is a tough one, and really it comes down to each individual's choice. But, you should think about what you are looking to get out if your sponsorship and what you believe a company should stand for.
I like to make sure the company's I work with have a great line of athletes. You can tell a lot about a company from whom they associate themselves with. Also, I always want to be with a company that makes products that I believe in and actually use.
If you are just after exposure or your only goal is to be "sponsored" then, sure, you can throw your name out to every company out there.
Just remember that this is industry isn't so big that word doesn't get around-it does. Most companies will be able to tell if you are sincere or if you're just in it for the attention or the spotlight.
Question 6: How much do sponsorships pay? And will I be able to live comfortably from just being sponsored?
You should know going into this that most sponsorships and contracts are basically a trade. You will more than likely NOT get rich, and often you will not get paid.
Most people who get sponsored do this because they love the industry, they love being an athlete, and they love the company they work for.
If you're willing to do a lot for a little, you'll go far. Companies value their products, and so why shouldn't you want to trade work for products?
So if it's a supplement company, you should be willing to work just to get free supplements. That's a pretty amazing deal!
Few people get both supplements AND money, especially just starting out. But if you make the right relationships when you start out, you'll build a foundation that could take you further. You never know what opportunities may be coming your way.
Question 7: How do I keep a sponsorship once I get it?
Always remember that it's more than just physical looks that a company wants. You have to be involved with the fans and genuinely care about people from the fans and customers to the company's employees.
Do the job that's outlined in your contract and do it 110%. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Learn the products, be helpful, and do what's needed. Always have good posture and an energetic attitude.
For most people there is never really an "off season" because you will be doing appearances, demos, and more all year round. Always try to stay within 7-10 pounds of your competition weight.
As stated before, there's plenty of fish in the sea, so you need to constantly work if you want to progress.
Question 8: What should I NOT do?
This could be a long list, but the basics are as follows:
- You must remember at all times that you are representing a company. People will watch you even when you're outside of official events and official work.
- It's never a good idea to let anyone see you get sloppy drunk, shovel unhealthy food in your face at an event, or get too flirty with people.
- People want to see fitness models practice what they preach, so be aware of your image at all times.
- Do not put the wrong supplements you take on an application. If you want to sign with company X, then don't say you love their products and that you take something they don't carry or is actually someone else's product.
- When you're at tradeshows, show up on time! Don't be that person who comes late to the show because you partied too much the night before.
- And very importantly: Do not complain!
Question 9: What if I get published in a magazine? Will I get paid?
As long as there are people who are willing to model for free to gain exposure, it is NOT something companies have to pay for. If you are with a company, it is usually just part of the trade, and they use your pictures. You get the exposure but usually you don't get money.
If you do get published, you can always say that you are a "published fitness model" and use that for your own marketing efforts. There's always the possibility that it'll lead to other paid modeling jobs.
But, again, since it is such a small market and specific demographic there is no telling who actually saw the pictures and if it would be relevant to many other major modeling companies.
Question 10: What's the best piece of advice for someone looking for a sponsorship?
The most important thing to remember is that sponsorships are rare. They are not being handed out like free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme.
Overall you have to keep in mind that this is a small market and not every athlete or competitor will get signed. Just like not every kid who played high school football will get to play for the NFL.
But you should never lose hope or take rejection personally. Stay optimistic and work hard for your fitness goals just because you love it! If you continue to do what you love, and you work hard to make relationships with companies, you'll be upping the chances that you'll get that offer you've been waiting for.
So don't hesitate to start working hard today to be "the next big thing" tomorrow!
Excerpt From: "The Secrets of Sponsorship, Supplements, and Training" by Jennifer Rankin. Presented at the 1st Annual West Texas Classic, Competitor's Clinic held on March 25, 2011.