Getting MMA Sponsorships
Mixed Martial Arts is currently the fastest growing sport on the planet. With so many fighters now training for the sport, it may seem overwhelming to obtain sponsorship when you are first starting out. The good news is that with some planning, dedication, and a professional approach, even up and coming fighters can secure sponsorships that will help defray the cost of your training and travel.
Some of the items we will discuss in this article are:
- Taking stock of your marketability
- How to approach sponsors
- Keeping your sponsors happy
Taking stock of your marketability
Your marketability as a fighter includes more than just your wins and losses. It's a complete package. Your fighting ability, fighting style, appearance, unique tactics, and how you conduct yourself all make up the product. And make no mistake - if you are going to ask sponsors for money, you need to start viewing yourself as a product and not just as a fighter. Keep a list of your unique attributes and be prepared to discuss them with potential sponsors. A picture is worth a thousand words so be prepared with photos, videos, stats, and a brief biography. Present yourself in an organized and professional manner.
In order to improve your marketability you must increase your fan base. One great way to do this is through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace. Between fights you have several months in which your fans can forget about you, so use social media to stay connected and let them know you're working hard for your next fight and can't wait to put on a great show. At the end of the day this is an entertainment business. You must obviously win more fights than you lose, but equally important is HOW you win. Your coaches may not tell you this, but it is a fact. The UFC puts out highlight videos each year called 'Ultimate Knockouts' and 'Ultimate Submissions' - have you ever seen a highlight video called "Ultimate fighters laying on top of their opponents, holding position, in order to eek out a decision victory". Not a big seller. Obviously you need to do what you need to do in order to win your fights, but the fans, promoters, and sponsors all want to see exciting fights.
When approaching potential sponsors there is one key question you must be prepared to answer: Why should I give you money? Your sales pitch must illustrate all the ways in which the sponsor will benefit from the arrangement and leave them with no reason to say no. Many new fighters will balk at the thought of making a sales pitch. We know, you're a fighter not a salesman. But if you are just starting out chances are you do not have a manager or agent handling these aspects of your career yet. In most cases this process will initially fall to you or someone that you trust on your team.
Another key to remember when approaching sponsors is that you are not coming to them with hat-in-hand begging for money. You are presenting them with a unique marketing opportunity to get their product or service in front of paying customers. In addition, you are offering to be a spokesperson and champion for their product. Quite literally you will be a walking, talking, advertisement. When you are just starting out it might help to begin your search locally. Businesses that you already know and have a relationship with. Anywhere that you spend money is a potential sponsor. Where do you buy supplements? Which gyms do you belong to? Where do you shop? Approaching sponsors that are not directly related to MMA can improve your chances since it's unlikely that they have already been approached by other fighters.
Things to keep in mind when approaching sponsors:
- Don't wait until the last minute. Approaching a potential sponsor the week of your fight is too late and shows a lack of planning on your part. Be sure to initiate contact a few weeks or a month before the event.
- Be professional in all your communications. Spelling mistakes in emails and letters show lack of attention to detail.
- Have all relevant information about the event ready to go, such as how many people will be in attendance, is there going to be television coverage, how many youtube hits did your last fight get, etc. Sponsors want to know how many eyeballs are going to be on their advertisement.
- Let them know exactly what they are getting for their money. Be prepared with multiple options such as one price for a logo on your walkout shirt, another for advertising space on your fight shorts, a banner in your corner before the fight, and so on.
- Be prepared and know how you are going to get the sponsors logos onto shirts, banners, and shorts. Make it as easy for the sponsor as possible to say yes. Don't ask them to make up shirts or banners unless they offer. You or your team should already be prepared and know how your are going to get that done.
- Write a professional sponsorship letter, but whenever possible initiate the conversation in person or on the phone.
Keeping your sponsors happy
Now that you have obtained a few sponsors, it's time to deliver on your end of the arrangement. The most important thing is to make the sponsor feel like they are getting their money's worth. It's not just about you getting money to wear a shirt. Make an effort to spread the word about their product, mention your sponsors in post fight interviews, be sure to be seen in their product and shed a positive light on it. Providing a framed photo of you wearing their logo pre-fight or post fight that they can display in their business goes a long way toward establishing a lasting sponsorship. Write thank you letters to your sponsors after the event and let them know you value the relationship.
Speaking of the sponsor and fighter relationship, be sure to keep loyalty and cross branding in mind. If one of your loyal sponsors is a local sports bar, don't add any new sponsors that would be considered direct competitors of that business. And once you get the ball rolling on sponsors, know when to stop. Having 25 different logos on your fight shorts or walkout shirt is going to diminish the value of each sponsor. The value they get from the sponsorship and their return on investment goes down if their logo is getting lost in the shuffle.
Conduct yourself in a professional manner. Sponsors do not want to be associated with fighters that are perceived negatively. How you handle yourself in the cage, during interviews, and in your personal life will all affect your ability to attract and keep quality sponsors. Good Luck!
For more information on Amateur MMA see related article: Embarking on your amateur MMA career
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