Supporting Canadian Athletes

Understanding the Concepts

Before we can define sponsorship, we must understand the concept of marketing.  Many of you, perhaps without knowing, have likely participated in some type of marketing activity in your daily lives – whether it was trying out for a team, applying for a job, or running for a leadership position within your sport or school.  In each of these cases, you are marketing yourself in exchange for something – a position, a salary, and/or designation, etc.

Simplified, marketing yourself is the act of communicating your value to a person or company for the purpose of influencing their action.  In this case, the action represents a sponsorship in exchange for the value bring to the partnership.  A sponsor will look to leverage that value to help them achieve their own business objectives in satisfying the needs/wants of their own target market.  In essence, you’re working together to create a win-win situation where the needs of both parties are being met.

There are four principles of marketing that will help you put your own efforts into perspective:


What you are selling: a product (use of your name, image, likeness, story, etc.) or service (speaking engagement, autograph signing, commercial spokesperson, etc.)? No matter what your angle is, you need to be able to demonstrate a value to the company and its customers/stakeholders.  For example, sport marketing in particular can help a company to motivate employees, drive membership, sales, and recognition of their brand/business.  Think about what is it that YOU can offer to help a company realize these benefits.


Your market and/or the market of the business you are pitching.  This could represent your local community or business, cultural community, school, and regional or national companies.  In today’s sponsorship landscape, you want to go into a potential sponsorship meeting knowing where your value lies (are you a recognizable figure in your town, city, school, etc.).  In addition, you need to know where your sponsor’s target market is and find a way for them to align.


The value of what you are selling (YOU! – this could be a number of benefits you will contribute to the partnership).  Putting a $ figure on your career and your time is often the most difficult aspect of this process.  How you value your brand and time is different for every athlete and depends on a number of factors – what you need, what you have to offer, who you are offering it to and how well your value aligns with their needs and business objectives.  If it is NOT a good FIT, it won’t matter how much you’re asking for.  Best practice these days is to begin the conversation by asking questions about the sponsors needs and wants from a potential relationship, not by telling them how much you want and/or need.


Promotion speaks to how your product is advertised, how people come to know who you are.  This step will take up most of your time and is extremely important to building your profile and your BRAND.  From talking to someone in your community about your career goals or training and competition schedule; the local media featuring you in one of their publications; advertising for a local sponsor; or giving a motivational talk to a sport/interest group – all of these activities which increase your visibility are considered promotion.   Not only will these activities grow your market in which you are known, but they will increase your value in the eyes of potential sponsors and supporters.

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