“Ask not what your sponsor can do for you! But what you can do for your sponsor!” If I had a dime for every time I was asked this question of how I was able to get sponsorship, I would not need to be sponsored. There are so many people getting in to competitive sports right now. It is such a great thing to see. It is especially great to see more women streaming in. But we realize quickly that shooting sports are expensive. Very expensive. And that is just the gear and ammo. Now throw in match fees and travel expenses and you just emptied your account by several thousand dollars a year. You go to your first few matches and you see all of the shooting jerseys that look like Nascar drivers with tons of logos all over them. When I shot my first 3gun match I was a bit intimidated. These must all be pros and they must make lots of money to wear those shirts I thought. Not. Ask every single one of those “jersey-ed” shooters, including myself now, they and I will tell you that we have not quit our day jobs.
We are poor as church mice if you ask me. Perhaps If you are a member of the Team Miculek family or Taran Butler then you are not poor church mice. But even they have careers on the side that compliment the sport. And they did not get that way overnight. Ask any “sponsored” shooter if they are making money at this game and 98% will say no and that it is costing them money. It takes years of not only getting accomplishments under your belt but most importantly gaining the trust and respect of the companies you are working with. And you do not jump right in to a cash settlement. It starts with product. Then over time the relationship between you and that company will grow with mutual trust and respect. At some point help with expenses will be added. And it may not be as glamorous as you think to be a competitive shooter. There are many days on the road away from home and family. I will get one admission out there. The way the industry is catering to women these days does give them more of an advantage to receiving sponsorship. But man or woman, you need to bring something to the table. And it does not have to be a long list of championships.
I asked a couple of my current sponsors what is they look for when considering a potential pro-staffer. I am keeping them anonymous. One common theme I hear is that companies are approached ten times a day with requests for sponsorships. So like applying for a job, you had better come prepared. Whether you approach a company in person or through email, a professional resume or information card is suggested. Photos, personal information and accomplishments should be included. Things that help are connections in the industry, do you have a social media presence, are you seen at matches and especially major events or matches? What discipline are you in? Goals and how do you match the companies style and mission statement? Do you even know their style and mission statement. I hope you do. The number one thing overall they will want to find out is who are you? Are you friendly, approachable, presentable, respectful, nice, a good sportsman, a role model? Are you throwing tantrums at the range when things don’t go well? Are you a diva (this goes for men and women) and not helping reset targets? Are you posting inappropriate material on your social media? How you behave outside of competitions is important. I am not saying you have to be perfect but be aware. I just spoke with a rep for a big company that went to a match for the first time to watch some of her sponsored shooters. She witnessed some unprofessional behavior among some other competitors and quickly made notes that those people would never be someone she would allow on her team in the future. You wear a companies’ logo on your shirt. Make them proud to be there.
Here is my list of suggestions of things I have done and/or learned. You need patience, hard work and a big smile at all times.You need to be a good role model/sportsman. Get out there and practice and compete. Be seen. I believe social media is a must. Brag, but nicely and humbly. Start sending letters, emails, show up at Shotshow, NRA convention and introduce yourself to companies. Again, be seen. Follow up! Contact and start with companies you already know and love. Eventually a mutual relationship will happen. This is a continuous job interview. Ask yourself why should that company invest time and money in you? Offer to help with their social media campaign if you know how to do that. Offer to write articles for them or for other publications about them. Here is a strange question. Do you have a “Purple Cow”?
One of my favorite business authors is Seth Godin. His book The Purple Cow caught my eye on the shelf about 10 years ago. A tiny book, in purple, with a white cow on the cover. It asks “What is your Purple Cow?” What makes you or your business stand out from everything and everyone else? Although you compete in 3gun or action pistol or small bore and are good at it, is there something else that people notice about you? Maybe you are the fastest shotgun loader in history. Maybe you have a business that supports the industry. Maybe you are an expert in reloading ammunition or wind reading. Maybe it is as simple as having purple leopard print hair. My fellow Devil Dog Team team member, Kelly Boley, is Native American and she proudly displays that. Her social media name is msnative3gunner. She is the first to have done so. She stands out. Be a physical standout or be an expert in something. Have fun with this. It is an amazing life experience as these relationships unfold. The rest will follow.
By Annette Wachter. Originally published in the October 2015 issue of GunUp the Magazine.