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Becoming Sponsored

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106 – January/February, 2020


By Kristen Spinning

     Many horse professionals nowadays are promoting specific companies by wearing branded show clothing, exclusively using specific products, or endorsing companies in their print advertising. What are the benefits and drawbacks of being a sponsored rider? How do you get sponsored? Is it only for the elite, upper echelon of professionals? What about youth and amateur riders? Find out all the answers to these questions and more in our exclusive look at a seldom-discussed topic in the horse industry.

Sponsorships can provide many benefits to riders, including free merchandise, discounted products, and, in some cases, monetary rewards. It also gives a rider the opportunity to build or expand their reputation to a much larger audience. Equestrian-athlete sponsorship can have some nice perks, but they come with responsibilities. Riders need to do much more than simply slap a patch on their show shirt to keep the swag flowing. Companies seek to build mutually beneficial relationships that work across multiple media platforms. Companies have set, measurable expectations for the personalities they sponsor. This evolving terrain has also opened up new opportunities for a rider who may not be a superstar, yet has a relatable image that aligns with a brand.

     Companies use sponsorship as a marketing tool, so it’s critical to understand how they expect to benefit from sponsoring a rider. They may be looking to increase awareness. People are more likely to purchase a product when someone they admire is seen using it. This can be especially helpful for emerging brands that have little awareness to start. A mature company may be looking to change, improve, or sustain their image through aligning with the right influencers. If that’s their goal, then demographics, values, and access to a desired market segment are important factors for them. Many sponsors are looking for a demonstration platform. They want their products to be used by high profile, skilled professionals who are winning competitions.

     Today, many companies are investing marketing dollars into building a social media presence. They create streams of relatable and shareable content. However, it gets a little boring with only one voice singing the same song, so companies need additional content that’s not generated in-house. This is where endorsees play a vital role. When a company sponsors you, they’re expecting you to represent them publicly on social media, not just in the show pen. If you’re seeking sponsorship, you need to have the right image for that brand on social media. Sponsors also demand credibility. After you have reached out to sponsors, you can be sure they will research you. It only takes five minutes for them to dig up enough information to decide if they want to pass or learn more. They’re going to invest a lot of time into creating a relationship. They don’t want to get burned by an endorsee suddenly posting something inflammatory or inappropriate online.

     You can make yourself more attractive to sponsors by laying a solid foundation on social media before you reach out to them. Your social media presence affects how they evaluate their return on investment. First, determine what your unique value is and project it. Perhaps your show career makes you a role model. If you’ve been showing for years, then you are, by definition, determined, passionate, and have exceptional perseverance. Maybe you have an excellent sense of style and know how to put together an outfit–both in and out of the pen. Or you could be that trainer that has a witty saying for just about every situation. These traits can be part of your brand.

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