It’s that time of year when beach volleyball players around the country will be out in full force; pleading, begging and whatever else is needed for a piece of a very elusive and valuable property – sponsorship.
Let's presume for a moment that all that begging and pleading has actually paid off. You’ve managed to convince corporate Australia (or at least your local pub) to invest their hard earned cash in little old you and/or your beach partnership. You’re probably over the moon and sometime over the coming weeks you’ll receive a cheque if you’ve got a cash sponsor or a new wardrobe if you’ve scored a clothing or apparel sponsor.
World and Olympic Champion Todd Rogers (USA) gives two of his sponsors prime exposure in the gold medal match in Austria this year. Red Bull on his cap and Mikasa as an arm tattoo.
As far as you're concerned the transaction is done and dusted and there’s no need for you to do anything more aside from putting your best foot forward everytime your toes dig into the sand, right? Wrong. Actually, very very wrong.
Despite what some think, sponsorship is, or at least should be, a two way street. A business friend confided in me a while ago that once his company decides to sponsor an athlete their results almost become immaterial. Yes they’re important because better results means more exposure and potentially some media time but what’s more important is the way the athlete treats his company – and the sponsor's - brand name. What mattered more was the athlete's attitude to their new sponsor.
He tells the story of one sponsored athlete who very nearly missed a prime time TV interview because they realised at the last minute they weren't wearing the sponsor product. The realisation led to a mad dash to their bag to ensure the sponsor's logo was front and centre when the cameras rolled. That attitude meant a lot to my business friend, especially when compared with so many other athletes he has sponsored who, once the free gear has been shelled out seem to disappear into oblivion – at least until the next season rolls around and then they come looking for their next handout.
Providing exposure for your sponsor’s brand whenever you yourself receive exposure is just one part of the equation. Most sponsors are aware enough to know that beach volleyball doesn't exactly sell papers so there has to be more to this relationship.
Keeping in constant contact with your sponsor is another crucial ingredient in keeping this two way relationship rolling along smoothly. As your results roll in – whether state, national or international – why not drop them a quick email with how you've gone. Give them a glimpse into your world as a volleyball player. What were the highs and the lows of the tournament. Were you happy or unhappy with your results (if you've barbecued, try not to act too happy)? Did you meet any big names during the tournament? All of these things will help your sponsor to feel part of the journey and perhaps most importantly more likely to support you when the next season rolls around.
And with most players owning a digital camera make sure you take some shots of you ripping up the sand. It all helps to build a great relationship with your sponsor.
Brazil's Emanuel Rego and Cerutti Alison show off the other popular method of exposing sponsors on the world tour - arm bands.
Last but not least, have a think about ways that you could potentially give back to your sponsor. Do they play beach volleyball? Would they be interested in some lessons? Perhaps they're looking for a brand new direction for their next corporate day? Your efforts at 'giving back' may just seal you a better deal. Plus it can't hurt to pass on the volleyball gospel to a new audience, can it?
Who knows? If you put the effort in - rather than banking the cheque and running - you might be surprised by the sponsorship package that's offered when next summer rolls round!
And it's not just individual athlete sponsorships where the principles described in this article should be applied. For volleyball associations and clubs it is just as, if not more important to nurture the relationship you have with your sponsor. Remember it's a two way street so don't give volleyball a bad name by just taking the money and running.
Photos Copyright FIVB