Building a successful relationship with your sponsor

Sponsorship will help you achieve your competitive goals – if you get it right. Here, Dr Eric MacIntosh, Professor of Sport Management at the University of Ottawa, explains how you should go about developing a successful relationship with your sponsor.

  • Maintaining good relations with your sponsor can open new doors commercially and personally.
  • It is important to assess how best you and your sponsor can build a mutually beneficial partnership.
  • A successful relationship includes a clear channel of communication between you and your sponsor.

Key athlete qualities

Organisations want to associate themselves with athletes who conduct themselves in a professional way, with a desirable code of conduct. They also want athletes who are open to being creative, have engaging personalities, and connect with business associates and consumers.

That said, as a high-performance athlete you can only be expected to do so much. Your training and competitions are clearly your priority, so you need to know your schedule and not feel overly pressed to bend over backwards on requests.

Be realistic, be upfront and ensure that you are clear with what you can and cannot do in a relationship.

Realistic goals

It is important that you and your sponsor have reasonable expectations. For instance, if you are an up-and-coming athlete, it would be unfair for the sponsor to expect too much.

However, if you are an athlete who can help an organisation bridge a new marketplace, create a new edge or reach a new demographic, then no matter your current achievements and ability, you can be a very effective ambassador for the organisation.

Read more advice from sponsorship expert Chris Paget about what brands are looking for in athletes.

Olympic responsibilities

As an athlete, it is important you understand the various marketing policies and procedures in place so as not to be in violation. There are strict periods during, just before and after international tournaments where, as a sponsored athlete, you are asked to respect the rights of these policies.

While you are entitled to find sponsors to support your growth and needs from various corporations outside of the exclusive association list from the IOC and the National Olympic Committee/Organising Committee, there are often strict rules around competition time. You have a level of responsibility to educate both yourself and your potential sponsor.

Sponsorship is an investment opportunity that has many gains for all parties – especially when the terms of agreement are clear, and the obligations and rules are followed.

Are you eager to build a strong relationship with sponsors and learn more about expanding your personal brand? Download the Athlete365 Personal Brand Toolkit.