Finding a Sponsor

Let’s face it, hockey is not a cheap sport. One good way to subsidize the cost is to find a sponsor who is willing to contribute to the team in exchange for advertising. If you aren’t too proud to wear a jersey with a company name or logo on it and don’t mind talking to strangers, here’s what you need to know to get started.

Step 1: Preparation

Before you start pitching a proposal you need to determine what exactly it is you are asking for. Here are some questions you can ask yourself or your team:

  • Are you expecting your sponsor to cover league fees?
  • How much will the jerseys cost? Screen printed or stitched?
  • Are you going to get matching socks?
  • How will your sponsor be recognized? A patch by the shoulder? Text across the bottom near the hem?
  • How many players are on your team?
  • How much is all this going to cost?

After answering these questions you should have a pretty good idea of what you want. Call around and get estimates until you feel confident quoting prices to others. Try to see if you can order one jersey as a sample so you can show your team and your prospective sponsor.  If you show up unprepared and ask a business owner to contribute “whatever he can” chances are you will get denied. Instead create two or three sponsorship options. People appreciate having their choices clearly laid out.

Step 2: Choosing a Business

I recommend choosing something local rather than a large franchise or chain. Unlike large corporations, local business owners can usually be more flexible in their decision making and allocation of funds. Think about who attends your games.  Are there more players or more spectators? If the former, consider the places you frequently visit. Other players in the league are probably of similar age and interest and go there too. If spectators include your friends and family, consider the places they spend their money and go from there. Carefully selecting a business will help your sponsor feel like there’s something in it for them because they will be advertising to their demographic. Make a list of at least 10 businesses you want to solicit a sponsorship from.

Step 3: Preliminary Work

Before you start your pitch, you need to know who you are speaking to. Grab your list and begin making phone calls. The first call is easy because all you are trying to find out is who makes financial decisions. It doesn’t really matter who answers, just tell them you are hoping to find out who handles sponsorships, charities, advertising, etc. After that person gives you a name be sure to clarify, “So Steve gives the final approval on things like that, right? OK just wanted to make sure” Thank them for their time. The reason you do this is because you are going to write a letter and you need to know who to address it to. Businesses get a ton of junk mail everyday and it is more likely to be cast aside if its not directed to a specific person.  Your letter should be very short and to the point. You can use something generic and send it out to each prospect, just change the name. Explain who you are and tell them you are seeking a sponsor. Don’t go into your pitch just yet. Just tell the business owner about the opportunity to sponsor a local sports team, and that it will be an affordable means to advertise. Tell them you intend to discuss their thoughts on the matter soon. The only reason you are writing this letter is so you have an excuse to follow up with the person in charge when you visit.

Step 4: The Pitch

Avoid making your pitch on the phone if possible. Business owners are busy and it’s much easier to blow you off on the phone than if you are waiting at the door. In step 1 you determined cost, so you will want to create two or three pricing options to present to your prospect. If you only have one option it’s too easy for your prospect to turn you down. It’s all or nothing. When you give them options, they will probably choose the cheapest one and think they got off easy! But you still win because something is better than nothing, right?

When you go to discuss the matter in person, look professional, wear slacks and a button down shirt, even a tie if you’re feeling it. You should be equipped with your 3-option pricing plan, a sample jersey, and why they should choose to sponsor your team. They will want to know what’s in it for them. You should be able to explain that their potential customers are the same people who attend your games. You can tell them that compared to traditional advertising such as print or radio, a sponsorship is very affordable and may even be tax deductible. Explain they will feel a sense of pride and belonging to their community. Don’t be afraid to ask which pricing option they want to choose! If they say no, tell them you have other appointments to attend to and you are confident you will find a sponsor by the month because it is such a great opportunity. Give them a way to reach you if they change their mind.

Final Thoughts

Utilize your connections. Through asking around you may find a friend, co-worker, or neighbor who knows a business owner that might want to help. Don’t be discouraged if you get rejected, not everyone is going to say yes. Think of it as putting in hours at work. How many hours would you have to work to provide jerseys for an entire team? I’m willing to bet more than the few hours you will spend seeking out a sponsor! It’s worth it in the end. After you’ve landed a sponsor, encourage your team to give them business and thank them for their donation. Photo by jridgewayphotography

If any of you have had success partnering with a sponsor, let us know in the comments


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