Competing in fitness has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. But after spending thousands of dollars on rhinestoned swimsuits, professionally mixed music, choreography sessions, entry fees, tanners, make up, manicures, airplane tickets, and hotel stays, I seriously considered giving up on becoming fit for competitions to focus on financial fitness.
After all, it is hard to justify spending 400 dollars on a mermaid costume and props with a new roof looming in the future. Determined to have my cake (only on a cheat day of course) and eat it too, I decided to turn to the help of sponsors to alleviate some of the financial burden that comes with competing.
You don't have to earn your pro card or even place well at a show to obtain sponsorship. In fact, you can find sponsors without ever stepping foot on stage. Asking for someone to pay for your hobby can be a difficult concept to grasp but fitness competitors should be privy to the same type of assistance that other athletes receive for their endeavors?
If you are shy about approaching strangers to ask for money then start in your inner circle of family and friends. Your parents or siblings may be able to get their workplace to sponsor you. Reaching out beyond your inner circle of family and friends to your local community is also a good way to seek sponsorship on a smaller scale.
Consider asking your doctor, dentist, chiropractor, lawyer, or hair stylist. Talk to the owner of your gym or the place where you buy supplements. Your local police association may also be able to provide assistance because they do fundraisers specifically for members of the community.
More Than Money
Sponsorship does not necessarily have to take the form of monetary donations. Receiving free products or services is another great way to cut down on costs associated with competing. Consider asking your hair stylist to give you a complimentary cut and color prior to each competition.
Free tanning visits, a waived gym membership, and discounts on supplements are all inexpensive ways for businesses to help you. One of my gym members even sponsored me with my own website. This allows me to promote myself and reach a greater number of people when looking for sponsors.
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If you are not yet convinced and shy away from the idea of asking for money or free services, you can always raise funds in other ways. Recently I sold autographed photos at my gym and raised 400 dollars in 10 hours - much more than I would have made taking on a second job!
Other ideas for fundraisers include selling T-shirts or candy bars with your custom logo. Raffling off prizes is another great money maker. I have raised funds by raffling off my personal training services at the gym. You can also try to get prizes donated by local businesses.
The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Oil
You know the saying "It's all about who you know." Well, when it comes to finding sponsors I like to think of it as "It's all about who you tell." My point is that if you don't advertise the fact that you need sponsorship, no one will approach you. Spread the word by informing and educating people on what the sport of fitness is about.
Last year after competing in only two regional events, I called the largest local news publications and received a full page story with photos in both. After reading my feature, I was contacted by a gym member who happened to own a local physical therapy clinic. He started off the 2004 season for me with a 500 dollar sponsorship. When I work out in my gym, I wear a "sponsor me" t-shirt".
People are curious and it is a great way to get them to ask you about sponsorship. Printing up flyers introducing yourself and your sponsorship needs then distributing them to local businesses for display is another option.
There are a number of ways to go about approaching potential sponsors. Try to make your inquiry as personal as possible. Actually paying a visit to the person from whom you are seeking sponsorship will better your chances of receiving their help.
Of course, this is not always feasible given that most competitors hold steady jobs on top of a rigorous training schedule. Sending out inquiry letters is a relatively inexpensive and more time efficient way of contacting a large number of people. Including an autographed photo with your letter is a nice gesture and makes your request a little more personal.
Sending letters by email also costs nothing and can allow you to send links to your website or the websites of the organizations you compete in to give your potential sponsors more information about you.
When asking for sponsorship, think of it as a reciprocal relationship. What can you do for your sponsor? Offer them autographed photos, a banner on your website, mention their name when you are announced on stage, assist them with special promotions, hand out business cards, etc. Businesses are more likely to sponsor you if they can get something in return.
Compete, Don't Deplete!
Although performing on stage is an exhilarating experience, the months of dieting, training, and preparations can be physically and mentally draining at times. The added stress of the financial concerns doesn't have to take away from your focus on training.
Seeking sponsors early will allow you to focus on your training instead of your dwindling bank account.
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