Sponsorship

Wake up, you need to make money!
twenty one pilots, Stressed Out

paraphrased
Freddy: ‘What do you think players should be doing nowadays outside of showing up to play on the court?’
Rafael: ‘Be creative and look at themselves as an enterprise.  Get in front of every camera possible.  Talk about your sponsors on every social media outlet.  Drive traffic to your sponsors’ sites.  Get more exposure for the sponsors than just displaying a logo on a shirt.  Really get out there and promote themselves.’
Rafael Filippini, owner of Gearbox Racquetball, while talking to Freddy Ramirez of Restrung Magazine

Sponsors, sponsors, sponsors.
Paola Longoria, at every tournament win interview

RYDF supports young athletes from around the world with the needed resources to achieve success both on and off court. The foundation provides funding and mentoring to develop their successful careers in sports and life.
Reaching Your Dream Foundation

Lots of people have already taken a long in-depth look at how to become a sponsored athlete in general.  Search engines can find a bunch of these articles for you.  I like this one.

One of the things that racquetball players (and event coordinators) don’t always seem to take into account, is that the money currently in the sport, is limited.  The manufacturers and clothing companies have picked the athletes and events that they want as the face of their brand long before you came along and got good enough to consider playing professionally.  To really get the opportunity to travel to professional events, stay in a hotel while there, pay the entry fees, eat meals, and eventually master the game to the level where you win enough at the event to pay your bills, you need to build your brand outside of the sport.

According to Forbes magazine, the insurance industry “is in one of the most competitive industries in terms of marketing”.  The amount of money spent by insurance companies to market themselves has gone from $500 million to over $4 billion in the last 15 years with the actual number of potential customers changing very little.  (i.e. population growth isn’t keeping up with advertising expenditures)  The opportunities for sponsorship outside of the racquetball industry are huge.

To get started looking for potential sponsors aside from your racquet manufacturer (usually the very first sponsor for the racquetball athlete), consider the products that you already use that could be beneficial to other athletes.  Protein shakes, protein bars, other supplements, shoes, underwear and socks, soaps and deodorants, and portable exercise equipment (foam rollers, etc.), for example.  Then expand your line of thinking to products that you already use that could be beneficial to all viewers of the sport, i.e. cars, insurance, custom printing (you have a business card that gives info about your racquetball, right?), groceries, restaurants, sunglasses, roofing repair, accounting services, financial services, chiropractors, massage therapists, and so much more.  Don’t forget to reach out to those whose help would mean the most to you, the airlines and hotel industries.

(Business card example that I give to people I meet at tournaments and other clubs, or even my own LA Fitness location.)
BC-Front-2

Once you have identified products that you use and are comfortable promoting to others, check their website for existing sponsorship programs. To do this, choose your favorite search engine, and do a targeted search.  Here’s a Bing example (that also works on Google):

Sponsor Site:Clifbar.com

(i.e. the word sponsor or sponsorship and then SITE: and then the website)

The first hit from that search discusses how to get Clif Bar to sponsor an event. The second link takes you to their athlete sponsorship rules and application process.  Unfortunately, they aren’t looking to expand into racquetball (per their FAQ), but the links show how easy it can be to get a national sponsor to take a look at a local elite athlete.  I eat their Chocolate Peanut Butter Builder’s Protein Bar just about every day in pursuit of portable protein.

There are two primary options for sponsorship.  Sponsorship In Kind and Sponsorship Money.  Sponsorship In Kind is when the company provides you with their product (at no cost or at reduced cost).  Don’t forget that part of being a professional is freeing up your money for use the way you need to spend it.  Getting a Sponsorship In Kind from a food/supplement company can keep you from having to spend other sponsors money on that food/supplement.  Same for shoes, clothing that your racquet manufacturer doesn’t sell, etc.  All types of products that are consumed or replaced often thru hard use should be pursued with sponsorship in kind options.  Pursue both types of sponsorship avidly.

When approaching sponsors, be sure that you have a valuable web presence.  Consider having a website that archives your action pictures and videos from tournaments you’ve attended.  Ensure that the website discusses any training options that you offer.  Ensure that the website links to your other social feeds.  Be on Facebook with an Athlete page, be on Twitter, be on Instagram, be on Snapchat.  You don’t need to be on all of the social sites, but the more time your spend building yourself up as an ambassador, the easier it will be for a company to understand why they would want you as their ambassador.  Be a professional on the social sites.  Don’t post on religious, political, or similar topics unless they are more important to you than the potential followers and advertisers that might be checking you out.  Avoid negativity.  A positive post embracing an aspect of your {topic} is tolerated a lot better than negatively posting about another’s {topic}, etc.

When first getting started looking at the professional level of play, i.e. after you’ve won state/national events, you could even consider a GoFundMe page, or a Patreon campaign for doing interviews and game commentary on a YouTube page, or reach out directly to individuals that have interacted with you at the events you’ve already attended.

I feel that I might go on for an hour or two on this subject, so I’m going to wrap it up.  Reach out to me via the Contact page if you have specific questions about this process.

TL;DR – Get global, get social, get sponsors, get playing at the highest levels!

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JT RB

I am a racquetball enthusiast in Austin, Texas.