Sponsorship is a great way for local sports teams to get the funds they need for the many costs associated with being part of a league, including travel costs, equipment, and fees. This is true of any sport, from baseball to soccer, hockey, gymnastics, and basketball. This can require a serious time investment, from seeking out potential sponsors, to creating and managing contracts once a deal is struck.
It may sound a bit overwhelming, especially for a community team running on the power of volunteers, but once you’re able to make a few sponsorship relationships the payoff will be worth it. Stable funding for a sports team can be a huge relief for the adults involved as well as lessen the burden on the team members, who otherwise would need to seek other avenues for raising money.
Sound like something your local team could benefit from? Keep reading for information on where to find potential sponsors and the steps you’ll need to take secure a legitimate sponsorship.
Where to Find Sponsors
While most folks think that sponsors can only be found in the local community they can also be found online. Here, we offer a mix of both to ensure you’re maximizing the possibilities available to your team.
1. Local Businesses
This can include restaurants, cafes, shops, insurance companies, or any other small business that operates in your town. There are tons of benefits to this option—including the possibility that a team mate (or the parents of one) owns or works at the local business, creating an extra incentive and sponsorship a natural fit.
2. Corporate Businesses
Many corporate businesses will donate to a local sports team, even if they aren’t located in the town (or even state). Dicks Sporting Goods is a great example of a big-name company with interest in youth leagues and local teams. If a corporation donates to local teams, you can typically access their application information right on their website.
3. Sponsorship Websites
Googling potential sponsors can be a time-consuming task. Check out websites that have already pooled sponsorship info to narrow down your search. Open Sponsorship is an example of this type of site—a fantastic tool that consolidates sponsorship information in an easy to use platform.
Necessary Steps to Procure a Sponsorship
Have a list of potential sponsors you’re ready to reach out to? Be sure to follow these five steps to snag a deal for your team:
Step 1: Name a Person of Contact
Local teams are often run on the hard work of volunteers, who are already likely very busy people. That said, rather than have a handful of volunteers working all at the same time to find sponsorship, create a leader to man the helm. Of course, this person shouldn’t necessarily go it alone, but s/he can designate other folks with specific jobs related to sponsorship. From the perspective of the potential sponsor, it is more convenient to only reach out to a single person in terms of communication. Keep things smooth with a single point of contact!
Step 2: Determine the Mutual Benefits of Sponsorship
A sponsorship is a symbiotic relationship. As such, don’t be shy to call out the ways you can mutually benefit one another by striking a deal. This should occur in two steps. First, clearly outline the purpose for seeking sponsorship. How much money does the team need? What will it be used for? Traveling to a regional competition? Buying much needed new equipment (which could aid team safety)? Letting the sponsor know exactly how and what their dollars will benefit will entice them to pitch in—and give them something very tangible to feel good about.
On the other hand, sponsors reap benefits themselves—make sure to acknowledge this in your pitch (politely, of course). Your team will provide marketing for them, whether they brand your custom team uniform, pieces of equipment, sporting event supplies, concession stand cups, or even custom koozies for the players to use when they’re on the sidelines. An added bonus? That marketing will be received very well. After all, it’s a gift of charity. One that will endear the business to the community, and potentially result in new customers. Also, there may even be tax breaks for donating to a local team, particularly if it falls under the non-profit category.
Step #3: Write and Send Sponsorship Letters
Once you have identified your list of potential sponsors, detailed the needs of your team and the mutual benefits you both stand to gain, it’s time to draft that all into a letter (or email). Keep it to a single page, or, if an email, about three paragraphs. Businesses are busy, and the sooner you jump to the point, the better chance of them reading your letter in its entirety. That said, don’t be afraid to get personal. You want the sponsor to connect with your offer and telling a quick personal story or antidote can be a great way to do that. Make sure your contact information is clear, as well as easy to reach— include a direct phone number and email address.
Don’t be afraid to follow-up if you don’t hear back after a week or two. While there is a possibility your note was dismissed, there’s also a good chance they’ve just got a full plate in front of them and haven’t gotten to it yet. When following-up, try to reach out via email or phone. If going the email route, send it as a forward of your original request, and keep it short and sweet (and to the point!).
Step 4: Create a Contract
This is an exciting step! If you’ve reached #4 that means you’ve identified a sponsor willing to move forward with your request—congratulations! A contract is important, as it outlines the expectations of both the sponsor and the team. Since money is involved, you’ll want to ensure everything remains transparent on both ends, which the contract will outline and clarify.
When dealing with a contract, it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer look it over. You can also go an extra step for protection and have it notarized.
Once signed by both parties, be sure to make plenty of copies, which should be given to both parties for safe record-keeping.
Step 5: Keep Good on the Agreement
This step is perhaps more important than any other—be sure to hold up your end of the sponsorship! If you agreed to have the company name printed on your uniforms, be sure to have it done in time for your first game (or whatever the agreed upon contract terms). Nothing will rub a sponsor the wrong way as seeing that you’ve taken their money but haven’t done what you promised, namely being a marketing avenue for their brand.
Maintaining a good relationship with your sponsor has a two-fold purpose. One, hopefully they will continue to sponsor your team for years to come. Two, they can serve as a reference when looking for additional sponsors. Getting a kind word from them is a great boast to legitimize your request from other potential sponsors.
Getting sponsors for your community team is an exciting and lucrative venture. While it takes work, by following our steps you’ll have a roadmap to keep you on track and things running smoothly. A last word of advice—don’t be deterred by a ‘no’. Keep pushing your request out and you’ll eventually snag a sponsor, with all the wonderful benefits that come along with it.