How to use social media to get, and stay, sponsored

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED HERE IN ‘220 TRIATHLON MAGAZINE’ AND IS A CO-WRITTEN PIECE BETWEEN RYAN MOBILIA AND VICKIE SAUNDERS. 

Athletes are being judged by the content of their social media posts every day. Opportunities are being won and lost based on the content an athlete has shared. When it comes to engaging sponsorship, or providing value back to your sponsors, social media plays a massive role.

How Social Media Can Help You Get Sponsored

Having interesting, engaging content on your social media platforms is a great showcase of you as an athlete….and as a person!

Showing potential sponsors that you are respected (by your followers), respectful (to your followers and others!), and that your personality shines through is so important! Any negative or offensive posts, even on your personal profile can be an instant turn off for potential sponsors.

Potential sponsors are seeking either an increased network (by connecting in with yours) or someone who they can rely on to help them connect with their own network, through the interesting, engaging and inspiring way that you participate online!

Athletes are having incredible success using the powerful platforms that social media provides to positively showcase their story, their personality, character, grit and dedication. The ones that understand exactly what they want to be known for, and take steps to sharing that type of insight and inspiration to their fans, are building a loyal community of followers, eager to connect with their heroes.

 Do the numbers matter?

If you have hundreds of thousands of followers, you may find this is a good leverage to engage sponsors. The fact that you bring an audience to them is often appealing, but, it’s important to understand who that audience is, and who your sponsors want to connect with.

If you are approaching a sponsor who sell their products globally, and are seeking a global audience, then your diverse, worldwide audience may just be perfect for them.

If however, that audience doesn’t match their intended target market, then it won’t really offer any value. Let’s say you have 100,000 followers on Instagram, and they are located in many different countries, but are not particularly interested in health and fitness, then it’s unlikely that they would be of any value to a sponsor who sells protein bars.

It’s the quality of your network, not just the quantity. Let’s look at the other extreme.

Let’s say you have only 200 Instagram followers (it could be any platform though) and they are all located in your home town. Approaching a local company who only sell locally would make sense. Especially if those 200 people are into a healthy lifestyle, and the potential sponsor is a retailer of workout wear and accessories. Makes sense right?

The thing is, for sponsors, it’s about connecting with their target market, and getting real commercial value in return for sponsorship, which more often than not can be measured in sales. So, having 100,000 ‘likes’ for a post may look good, if it doesn’t convert to sales, it’s really not that valuable.

How social media can work for you and your sponsors

There are two main ways that social media can work for you and provide value to you and your sponsors!

  • Your social media activities
  • Social media content that you provide to your sponsors

For those looking to engage sponsorship, being aware of that fact already has you ahead of the game, and is the perfect place for us to start.

Social media has provided a platform for athletes to communicate directly with their online community, sharing content that not only informs, but motivates, educates and inspires. And this is valuable for sponsors. These athletes aren’t selling anything, they aren’t doing blatant product placement, they are just sharing their story and organically including information about the products and services they use that allow them to achieve their athletic goals.

Your Social Media Activities

‘But isn’t social media just self-promotion and noise?’ ‘Do people really care what I ate for breakfast?’. To you, it may seem mundane, routine and not worth talking about…..but for those who are following you on social media, it’s exactly what they are interested in!

It’s about so much more than the contents of one post, one meal, one outfit, one sunrise; it’s part of the journey. It’s a story that’s continually unfolding, with the ending yet to be written, and fans are captivated. It’s the exclusive, behind-the-scenes, money can’t buy access to the lives of athletes, coupled with authenticity, in real-time, that when done well, is making such a valuable impact.

The opportunity to share real, raw and authentic content to their followers, helps build a picture of their successes, but also their trials, tribulations, obstacles and challenges.

Athletes are real people, and you are consistently experiencing and achieving incredible things. This dedication to consistent perseverance might have become routine to you long ago, but to those who aspire to reach your heights, they know how special your efforts are. Lucky for them, social media lets them join you along the way.

This is what your sponsors are investing in. You. Your personality, the way you interact with others, and your journey. The more authentic you are, the better, because people will trust you. As a result, any sponsors that you represent will benefit as people will trust what you say, and if you’re saying good things about your sponsors it will make you a valuable investment!

The Social Media Content that you provide to your sponsors

So if a company already has a great network, loads of customers and an effective marketing plan for connecting with their target market…..how can you, and athlete who may not have much of a social media following, be of any value to them?

By providing content to your sponsors, you are saving them time and money, and giving unique and relevant material for their marketing activities.

Here are just a few of the ways you can provide social media content to your sponsors:

Content you have created that they can use:

IMAGES AND VIDEOS

  • Product / Services in use in amazing places around the world
  • Unique content for sponsor including branded photos and videos
  • Product reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Use of sponsors logo, trademark or images for website or social media

WRITTEN CONTENT

  • Blog content including XYZ Company endorsement, product reviews and recipe ideas
  • Write content for their website, blog or newsletter
  • Testimonials and product reviews
  • Recipes and cooking tips
  • Training tips

CONTENT THEY CAN CAPTURE AND USE:

  • Creating a challenge for them to engage their audience such as a 30 day challenge or something that gets people using their products and services
  • Motivation presentations – Telling your story, the highlights and the lowlights
  • Being ‘the Face of’ a campaign or of the company itself
  • Athlete modelling for catalogue, website and marketing activities
  • Modelling and participating in catalogue / website / advertising photo shoots
  • Sharing your story / journey as part of a customer engagement campaign

Do you see how it has very little to with how many followers you have?

And, do you see how your athletic achievements are not so important?

So for all the athletes out there who are holding back from engaging sponsorship, or are already sponsored but don’t know what to do for their sponsors….use this article to take some positive action, and know that you have incredible value to offer!

As with everything that you do for sponsors, it’s about understanding what they need as a business, what they’re trying to achieve, and find a way of offering (and delivering!) that to them.

Have fun with it, get creative, think outside the square….but most importantly…..be yourself. That’s when you will truly shine online!

Vickie Saunders runs The Sponsorship Consultants – where you can find out more about how sponsorship could work for you and Ryan Mobilia  is  a social media communication expert for athletes 

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