Athlete Sponsorship 101: Everything You Need To Know About Becoming A Sponsored Athlete

07 Nov Athlete Sponsorship 101: Everything You Need To Know About Becoming A Sponsored Athlete

Looking to get sponsored fast? Our sponsorship fast track pack is a simple, effective way to get the sponsorship you want (and you don’t need to be an elite or famous athlete!) Get it here

And we’re about to launch our 8 Weeks To Sponsorship Challenge where we will work with you to create your personal brand and sponsorship strategy and actually create your proposal: CLICK HERE to register your interest and we’ll send you an information pack!


It’s really important to understand what sponsorship is…and what it isn’t! It isn’t about getting something for free, that is called charity and while it may appeal on some levels you would be missing out on a host of benefits that sponsorship offers.

So what is sponsorship?

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship where a business provides product, service or finance in return for commercial benefits such as endorsement, promotion and media coverage for their brand.

Think of it as a relationship that exists to provide mutually agreed benefits and, like any relationship, if it’s nurtured it can develop into something very valuable and long lasting. Conversely, just like any relationship, if it’s taken for granted and neglected, or there is dishonesty, then it is unlikely to grow and likely to end.

What sponsorship isn’t

Sponsorship is not a donation. A donation is where the benefit goes one way, with a sponsorship you receive benefit in return for giving a comparative benefit back. The reality is that once you see the incredible range of benefits from being a sponsored athlete that go beyond purely financial gain, you will not want to take ‘donations’.

The opportunities and unexpected benefits of engaging in sponsorship relationships will far outweigh the short-term gain from receiving donations.

Sponsorship is not about getting something for free. Sponsorship relationships should be developed, negotiated, and strategic so that both parties receive maximum gain. What may start off as a simple exchange, such as 5 pairs of running shoes a year in return for branding on your website or apparel, may in time develop to be a financial sponsorship worth thousands of dollars in return for you becoming a brand ambassador

Expelling some MYTHS about Sponsorship

There are so many misconceptions around what sponsorship is, what it isn’t, who can get it, who can’t…..and they really are just myths.


The biggest myth is that there isn’t much sponsorship around because of the ‘current economic climate’. There is an ABUNDANCE of sponsorship available here in Australia and globally, it’s all about connecting with the right companies in the right way, and being able to offer valuable return on their investment. Sponsoring an athlete can be an effective marketing investment for all types (and sizes) of business’s, and when done correctly can bring incredible return on investment for the business!


There are some athletes who believe that their athletic achievements automatically qualify them for being sponsored, they have a sense of entitlement and think that companies should be knocking down their door with offers, and that just being a good athlete is all they need to offer their sponsors. The reality is, even David Beckham has to do more than play football…..he attends media events, photo shoots, is involved in marketing campaigns….and many other activities that are what provide the true commercial value for his sponsors.

Then there are those athletes who don’t think they’re good enough to get sponsored….that someone who is a better athlete deserves it more, or that they won’t get a look in because they aren’t ranked number one.

One of the biggest challenges athletes face is getting them to see their own worth and value to a sponsor, that they are a valuable investment! Humility is something that is ingrained in Australian athletes, and while it’s an endearing quality, at some point it becomes detrimental and may in fact hold them back from engaging in the level of sponsorship they need and are worth!

So, we need to find a middle ground. We need to understand, that as athletes, no one is entitled but that everyone is capable and has value to offer!


There is work involved in engaging and maintain sponsorship, but the rewards far outweigh the efforts. The key is having a plan, taking the actions and making sure you are approaching the right companies, in the right way….and offering the right things in return.

Many athletes get put off at the start of this process as they have no clear understanding of the process involved, or even what their first step should be! The stumbling block of so many athletes is their own fear, so by being fearless, believing that the right sponsors are out there, and being prepared to take action, you will be able to start your sponsorship journey the right way.

Simple things like picking up the phone rather than just sending off an email to someone you’ve never contacted before can help get the ball rolling with your potential sponsors…’s really not rocket science…’s really not that hard!



Check out this video of my recent interview on sports radio show The Locker Room 

Looking to get sponsored fast? Our sponsorship fast track pack is a simple, effective way to get the sponsorship you want (and you don’t need to be an elite or famous athlete!) Get it here

Types of Sponsorship

There are many types of sponsorship and despite what you may hear people saying there is more than enough to go around. Businesses in Australia are starting to understand just how powerful sports sponsorship can be and the direct benefits they receive from these relationships.

Sponsorship is abundant, and it’s available to athletes of all levels from elites to beginners as well as clubs, sporting organisations, businesses and individual professionals. Now more than ever before, sponsorship is about the benefits you can give to your sponsors off the sporting field. Media, social media, social networking and brand ambassador activities are what companies are looking for in return for financial, product and service sponsorship!

Athletes are capable of and actually benefit greatly from engaging and managing their own sponsorship. Athletes can learn the skills they need to identify their sponsorship needs, identify potential sponsors, create engagement strategies and powerful sponsorship proposals, and how to manage and retain the sponsorship once they’ve got it! 

The Benefits of Being a Sponsored Athletes

Athletes seek sponsorship for various reasons, with the main one being to reduce the financial strain of participating in their sporting activities. The reduction of this financial strain can mean that the athlete may be able to work reduced hours, or not at all, to focus on their training and events, or it may mean that though they continue employment, they can now set their sights on even bigger or more frequent event participation.

At some stage in their sporting life many athletes find themselves in a catch 22 situation where they are getting more and more active in their sporting activities, but to financially support this they need to work. The time and financial constraints can seriously impinge upon the development of athletes as they have to give up some of the time needed to train, travel, compete etc or they put financial strain on their family who financially support them during this time.

The really great thing about being a sponsored athlete is that it’s about so much more than simply getting your costs of being an athlete covered.

The benefits spill out into all areas of your life, and it can be a truly uplifting and even life-changing experience. The relationships you create, the opportunities that arise, the experiences you have as well the great skills you will develop are just some of the great rewards on offer.

The benefits of sponsorship include:

  • Being able to use the products and services you want i.e. massage, physio etc
  • Option to reduce your work hours – and train (and recover!) more
  • Financial freedom
  • Ability to participate in all the events you want to
  • Create strong networks and opportunities!

There are so many tangible benefits, but there are also some that are not so obvious but equally if not MORE valuable such as:

  • You open doors to new opportunities and networks
  • Your professional and personal skills will be developed
  • All of the things that you offer sponsors as benefits to them actually benefit you (increased media and social media activity and increased audience)
  • You will increase your own network (fans and followers) and grow your profile as an athlete
  • You will find it easier to get more sponsors, as you have experience and proof that you are a great investment!
  • There may be career opportunities that arise during or after your sporting ‘career’
  • On a personal level it’s incredibly exciting, confidence boosting and ironically quite humbling to be sponsored by a company who can see the true value that you offer them through your sporting and non-sporting activities.
  • The stress that is alleviated for those athletes seeking substantial sponsorship (which may then mean they only need to work part time or not at all) can have an incredible effect on their performance and may be the difference between competing in their sport at the highest level.

Why Companies Sponsor Athletes

All companies have money to spend on sponsorship (they may currently spend it on advertising and marketing), particularly those companies who have recognised that it can be a powerful marketing and advertising medium. As such, these companies have budgets allocated for sponsorship. Unfortunately, some companies still think sponsorship and charitable donations are one and the same, but the culture is changing thankfully, so these companies are a minority.

Athletes generally have some pretty outstanding abilities! In the business world, the very skills that you use in your sport, breaking through pain barriers or even just getting out of bed for a 6am training session, are the kind of skills they want to impart on their staff; commitment, focus, drive, determination, persistence and an ability to work towards goals big and small.

Sponsoring an athlete allows a brand to communicate with their target market in a way that is engaging, efficient, entertaining and educational. It allows companies to deliver a huge amount of information in a very short space of time, and in a way that is willingly received by their audience. This information is presented in fun and engaging ways, either in face to face (at events, races, expo’s etc) or through social media, advertising or traditional media.

There are many reasons for companies to engage in sponsorship of athletes, which typically fall into the categories of marketing and advertising.

Here are some of the main motivators for sponsors:

  • Increased Brand Awareness and Customer Loyalty
  • Increased Sales and Traffic
  • Community and Public Relations
  • Improve their image (brand perception) and engage with their customers
  • Increase awareness and knowledge of specific products or service

There’s a rapidly increasing trend of people seeking out information and recommendations from other people, on which they base their purchasing decisions. By providing a relatable and inspirational personification of their brand, they are able to influence their audience in ways that they are receptive to.

There are so many ways you can give value back to your sponsors, and it really comes down to what other skills and activities you can offer beyond just your athletic achievements, and tailoring what you offer to suit each sponsor.

The key with this is to ASK what they are looking for, not just assume, and really get creative with your offering to them. You will find that once you know what your value is to them, that the concept of ‘asking’ for sponsorship becomes a lot less scary, because you are actually offering something up front! It always feels better to give than to ask!


So far, does this make sense? Do you feel like sponsorship is potentially something you would like to explore? What are the next steps for you?

I invite you to register your interest for our 8 Weeks to Sponsorship Challenge. CLICK HERE to register your interest and we’ll send you an information pack!



Vickie Saunders

Vickie is the world's leading expert on commercial relationships for individuals, businesses and sports organisations.