“Ask not what your sponsor can do for you! But what you can do for your sponsor!” If I had a dime for every time I was asked the question of how to get sponsorship, I would not need to be sponsored! There are so many people getting in to competitive sports right now. It is such a great thing to see. It is especially great to see more women streaming in. But we realize quickly that shooting sports are expensive. Very expensive. And that is just the gear and ammo. Now throw in match fees and travel expenses and you just emptied your account by several thousand dollars a year. You go to your first few matches and you see all of the shooting jerseys that look like Nascar drivers with tons of logos all over them. When I shot my first 3gun match I was a bit intimidated. These must all be pros and they must make lots of money to wear those shirts I thought. Not. Ask every single one of those “jersey-ed” shooters, including myself now, and we will tell you that we have not quit our day jobs. We will tell you though that we have a passion. A passion for our sport and the products and companies that we love. We have sacrificed a lot to get where we are. We will tell you that we put all of our own time and money into practice and traveling to as many matches as we could before we even received a single product or dime.
We are poor as church mice if you ask me. Perhaps if you are a member of the Team Miculek family or Taran Butler then you are not poor church mice. But even they have careers on the side that compliment the sport. And they did not get that way overnight. Ask any “sponsored” shooter if they are making money at this game and 98% will say no and that it is costing them money. It takes years of not only getting accomplishments under your belt but most importantly gaining the trust and respect of the companies you want to work with. And you do not jump right in to a cash settlement. It starts with product. Then over time the relationship between you and that company will grow with mutual trust and respect. At some point help with expenses will be added. I will get one admission out there. The way the industry is catering to women these days does give them more of an advantage to receiving sponsorship. But man or woman, you need to bring something to the table. And it is not necessarily a long list of championships.
I asked a couple of my current sponsors what it is they look for when considering a potential pro-staffer. I am keeping them anonymous. Each is different in their approach to choosing people. One common theme I did hear is that companies are approached ten times a day with requests for sponsorships. So like applying for a job, you had better come prepared. A professional resume or information card is suggested. Photos, personal information and accomplishments should be included. Things that help are connections in the industry, do you have a social media presence, are you seen at matches? You do need to participate in a few major matches each year but don’t discredit local matches. You know people at your local matches and you have a strong influence there. What discipline are you in? What are your goals and how do you match the companies style and mission statement? Do you even know their style and mission statement? I hope you do. The number one thing overall they will want to find out is who are you? Are you friendly, approachable, presentable, respectful, nice, a good sportsman, a role model? Do you display loyalty and do you have integrity? Are you throwing tantrums at the range when things don’t go well? Are you a diva (this goes for men and women) and not helping reset targets? Are you posting inappropriate material on your social media? How you behave outside of competitions is important. I am not saying you have to be perfect but be aware. We do like to have fun at industry events outside of the range. But don’t be “that guy”. You may not remember what happened last night at the industry party but everyone else will. I just spoke with a rep from a well known company that went to a match for the first time to watch some of her sponsored shooters. She witnessed some unprofessional behavior among some other competitors and quickly made notes that those people would never be someone she would allow on her team in the future. Companies are starting to show up in person at matches to support their pro-staff. You wear their company logo on your shirt. Make them proud to be on your shirt.
Another company rep I spoke with says he does not really accept resumes. He personally invites people he knows very well on and off the range. He has shot matches with them over the years and has seen how they are as people and how others in the industry and sports see them. People he would invite into his home for dinner. This company has a budget to go after the top winners in the industry. They choose instead people that show passion for their sport and have the same characteristics and values as the company. They have credibility. They have to be an extension of that company. They do expect a lot from their sponsored shooter. They are a business first and would like to see a return somehow. Firearm companies do not usually have high margins. If a company is investing 10K or 30K in a person, think of how many products that pro-staffer would need to sell to make that back? I am not saying you have to do that. I am saying “put yourself in the company’s shoes”, and I am pointing out that one has a responsibility to their sponsors other than wearing a logo on a jersey.
Here is my list of suggestions of things I have done and/or learned. And believe me I am still learning as well. You need patience, hard work and a big smile at all times.You need to be a good role model/sportsman or woman. Get out there and practice and compete. Be seen. I do believe social media is a must. You can brag, but nicely and humbly. You should be taking lots of pictures and videos. Talk about the products! Brag about your gear and accessories on the range. That’s the point right? You love what you are using. To meet companies you can start by sending introduction letters and emails. Show up at Shotshow, NRA convention and introduce yourself. Again, be seen. Follow up! Start with companies you already know and love. Eventually a mutual relationship will happen. This is a continuous job interview. Ask yourself why should that company invest time and money in you? Offer to help with their social media campaign if you know how to do that. Offer to write articles for them or for other publications about them. They may not expect that but you need to ask what you can do for them. Here is a strange question for you? Do you have a “Purple Cow”?
One of my favorite business authors is Seth Godin. His book The Purple Cow caught my eye on the shelf about 10 years ago. A tiny book, in purple, with a white cow on the cover. It asks “What is your Purple Cow?” What makes you or your business stand out from everything and everyone else? Although you compete in 3gun or action pistol or small bore and are good at it, is there something else that people notice about you? Maybe you are the fastest shotgun loader in history. Maybe you have a business that supports the industry. Maybe you are an expert in reloading ammunition or wind reading. Maybe it is as simple as having purple leopard print hair. For years I went to a specific coffee shop in Seattle that put a chocolate covered espresso bean on top of the lid when they gave you your coffee. There are 50 million coffee shops in Seattle. I chose that one because of that lovely treat. That bean was their Purple Cow. My fellow Devil Dog Team team member, Kelly Boley, is Native American and she proudly displays that. Her social media name is msnative3gunner. She wears a feather in her hair. She stands out. That is her Purple Cow. And she is an awesome person and sportswoman. What is your Purple Cow? Have fun with this. The rest will follow.
**I am sure there are many more suggestions out there I did not mention from both sides. Feel free to chime in with more!