3 Reasons You Are Not Getting Sponsored
Angel Maldonado/ Selena Mason-Converse
The unfiltered truth about what it takes to get to the top.
Let’s be real, half of you are reading this to learn the secret of getting free shit, and that’s fine, but be prepared for the harsh truth lies ahead.
On several occasions, I have heard Jeep people discuss sponsorships. Usually it is one of two situations, they want one (for the free parts of course) and don’t know how to get one, or they think their Jeep is so rad that companies should be handing them parts. No matter the person or the Jeep, the situation is always the same; the Joe or Jean looking for the sponsorship has no idea what a company is actually looking for to make sponsorship worth it. Sponsorship, is a mutually beneficial agreement between two people. Just as much as you want free parts, these companies (with reputations to uphold) want to see a return on their investment for whomever they sponsor.
In order to make sure we are on the same page, we need to discuss definitions. Time and time again I see the word “sponsorship” butchered and mutilated beyond any recognition. A sponsorship is not a discount. That 10% discount your club gets at 4 Wheel Parts, not a sponsorship. The free shipping you get because you’re an “ambassador,” not a sponsorship. Any sort of price discount you receive from a company, is not a sponsorship, it is just a discount on parts. The exception to this would be getting parts at cost. While you may still be spending money, the dealer is cutting their profit out, which is similar to a company giving parts away, and a common occurrence in sponsorships. The word “sponsor” means the following:
“a person or an organization that pays for or plans and carries out a project or activity; especially : one that pays the cost of a radio or television program usually in return for advertising time during its course”*
Those three words, “in return for”, are the key! The sponsoring company is going to expect something in return and you must never forget nothing is ever truly free. I asked the owner of MotoBilt, Dan DuBose, what a sponsorship was. He said, “Something given with an expectation for a return. No company ever gives anything away without some type of expectation for return. If a company does they will not be a company long.” This is the way the world works. If you think that a company will give you a bunch of free products because you’ll run decals or spread the word, you’re ill-informed (that means stupid).
That’s why I’m here.
Down to business. Here are three reasons why your “Sponsor Me” letter, application, or private message isn’t even getting a response. First, you can’t fucking spell. Tell me, why would a company give you $900 worth of parts when you can’t even spell the contraction of “they are”? Spelling is important, whether you believe it or not. “Oh come on, it’s just the internet, not grammar class.” Shut the fuck up. Use capitalization and punctuation, and don’t be lazy use spell check. Technology advances have made many people forget that professionalism is still very important. It looks unprofessional when you do not use proper grammar, and companies are hesitant to partner with you when your carelessness could tarnish their reputation.
The second reason you’re not getting a response is because your Jeep looks like garbage. Fuck your feelings. Your Jeep is a hot, steaming, pile of spray paint and AutoZone, and you know it. No company, who has a half decent marketing director, is going to let you represent their company with a turd on wheels. Now, I’m not saying you have to powder coat everything, and lather on tire shine, but you have to at least give a fuck. If your diff cover has overspray on it, from painting your steering, you are the type of person I am talking about. Give your Jeep the extra time and attention it needs to look well taken care of, and reliable.
The third reason you aren’t getting a response is because your social media presence is non-existent. Marketing is the secret behind sponsorships. The company is going to use you, as a marketing tool, and in exchange, you’ll get a hook up. If you are not going to help the company’s marketing strategy (read: they have more followers than you), then why would they sponsor you? What benefit to them would you be? “Angel, nobody will follow me!” Boo-hoo and tough titty. That’s because you don’t post good content, or any content at all for that matter! This is a relatively simple concept, yet it throws everyone for a loop. It’s true, in order to have people follow or “like” your stuff, you must present them with stuff they actually like. Imagine that. Social media numbers mean something. You can be as “old school” as you want, but that’s the way things work now. Remember that “in return for” thing we talked about? Yea, that’s where social media comes into play.
So, to recap (because you’re probably skimming this anyway), these are the reasons that your “Sponsor Me” letter, application or private message isn’t getting a response. One, you can’t spell. Two, your Jeep sucks more than a vacuum. Three, 200 followers on Instagram and 37 friends on Facebook won’t cut it.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics explained, let’s break down the science behind sponsorships and the reason for them.
Companies will only thrive when they sell their product. Do you buy a product based off sponsored ads, or the recommendation of your friend? No need to answer, I already know. You’re more likely to buy a bumper because your friend told you it was awesome. Bust out your calculators, it’s time to do some math. BubbaTodds Boisterous Bumpers (BTBB) makes some pretty dope bumpers and they cost $400. BTBB is a local company and they are trying to go nationwide. One of the owners has a friend a few states away that has a pretty good social media following and is well liked by everyone he meets. BTBB can use targeted Facebook or Instagram ads to get their product in front of consumers or they can utilize the already established network of the friend a few states away. Both options cost money, but one gives a more likely return.
Companies are looking for return on investment or ROI. Plain and simple. These people do not run charities, they run businesses. Those businesses feed their families and the families of their employees. A sponsorship is a business relationship between two people. People who are sponsored are expected to bring in sales. That’s the entire point. Anything else is secondary if not tertiary. When asked how a business looks at a sponsorship, Dan DuBose (owner of MotoBilt) said,
“From a business standpoint what does the person bring to the table? What return can we expect? Does the person understand it is business and not some fun situation? Money and/or product comes straight off the bottom line of a business. A simple ‘free’ bumper is never free. It comes off the net profit to donate a product to a person or event. A lot of product has to be sold just to cover the expense associated with the ‘free’ item.”
In many industires, and especially the Jeep industry, everyone want to be sponsored, but the vast majority of folks don’t understand what really goes on in that process. I asked an actual sponsored Jeep owner what it was like having sponsors. Chuck Converse said,
“If you really want to explore the option of a sponsorship submit a plan for what you are seeking and what you will provide in return! Be familiar with the products/company and be organized! Companies look for individuals or groups that conduct themselves in a manner that reflect the business and products they wish to promote!”
Nobody wants to outright say it, but you can’t be an asshole and be sponsored (unless that’s your “thing” and you have the numbers to back it up). If all you’re posting on your social media is photos and videos of you piss drunk wheeling your Jeep, nobody will touch you. If you are acting like that and still getting sponsored, let me know. Because reasons. This is not to say that you can’t have your fun. Have your fun, but be weary of what you post for the entire world to see. Act like a decent human being and watch what happens.
You have to be proactive in order to stand out. When asked how people should try to get sponsorships, Michael Mihelich (owner of Crawltek) said,
“Show your worth. Show what you have done for someone else and what you hope to accomplish with sponsorship you are trying to attain.”
Michael brings up a very good point about showing other people what you’ve already accomplished. You can’t just jump into the offroad scene and expect to get free stuff. You have to demonstrate that you’re worth something to the company you want to partner with. Maybe if more people looked at a sponsorship more like a partnership, then all of this would be easier to understand. It seems that most people hear sponsorship and think ‘Free Stuff” but a partnership would imply “I help you, you help me”. Let me suggest this, pay full price for that bumper and rock the stickers. Tell your friends, champion for your cause/project online and show that you can be a voice. You need to have a track record that is empirical evidence that you can be trusted and relied on.
Here's a really unpopular avenue for you. Do stuff for free. Yup, I said it. You have to impress the companies! Think about it, investing some of your time, will show that you’re willing to put in work. Talk is a dime a dozen. Put in some actual work, and show, by your actions, that you’re serious. Have some professional photos taken highlighting the product, or do a write-up or a how-to about the product. Give the company something they can use to further their business. Interact with them on social media, share their posts, tag friends in conversations and look for unanswered comments. When they company starts to remember you, and interact with you on a personal level, it’s a step in the right direction. When you think you deserve something for nothing, it is time to re-read this article.