If you're a jiu jitsu competitor, you've probably dreamed of landing a fat sponsorship from some big-time company, so that you can train full-time without a care in the world. That would be the life, right?
Well, not to be a buzzkill, but the percentage of BJJ athletes that can actually live off of sponsorships is depressingly low. That being said, until you become a celebrity jiu jitsu star, you can make your jiu jitsu journey a little easier - and cheaper - by seeking out a sponsor or two. It's possible... but you have to know how to go about it.
Here are a few things to consider:
Know Your Value
Bottom line: companies want athletes who will represent their brand in highly-visible ways, in order to attract more customers to their brand... basically, you're a glorified sales person. With that in mind, you have to analyze your value the way the company would. Are you active and visible in the jiu jitsu community? Do you regularly compete - and do well - at tournaments? Do you have a large social media following? Do you post regularly? These are all things a company will look for when considering their ROI ("return on investment") into your jiu jitsu career. When crafting your message to sponsors, you should be able to highlight your value to them, with numbers (of followers, of tournaments, of medals, etc.) if possible. Business people love numbers.
Know Your Target Sponsor
It makes a huge impression on a potential sponsor if you know what their company and brand is all about. They can tell if you're just peppering the market with generic "Sponsor me please" messages. It's lazy, and it does nothing for your chances of landing a coveted sponsorship with that company. Instead, take some time and do your research. Aside from what they sell, what is their motto? What do they value? Do their values align with yours? Not only will this enable you to craft a more personalized message, it allows you to gauge whether or not you would be a good representative of their brand.
Reach Out in a Professional Manner
Nothing makes my eyes roll more than when a "jiu jitsu athlete" posts a message in the comment section of a company's random instagram post asking for a sponsorship... usually misspelled and with poor grammar. And an emoji. Ugh. A sponsorship is a contract between you and the company, establishing a professional relationship in which you will represent the brand in exchange for money, gear, or services. Sometimes there is actually a physical contract involved. Does that sound like the kind of thing that can be initiated via Instagram? Granted, more and more companies are using social media to communicate with their customers, but you should at the very least send a well-thought, well-written and proofread direct message, either via email or the company's social media inbox (or both, for good measure).
Companies, especially in the jiu jitsu industry, receive hundreds - if not thousands - of messages each day asking for sponsorships, or guidance on products, or returns, or any number of thing. Just because you took the time to send out a nice message once, does not mean they will see it and put it on the top of their priority list. It never hurts to follow up. Of course, don't be a pest about it... remember, they have a business to run, so they likely have a million things to do each day. But a friendly reminder a week or two later could mean the difference between not hearing back at all, and getting their attention.
Think Outside the Box
We all want that fat, high-profile sponsor - like Kingz, Tatami, or Virus - but unless you're hitting it big at all the major IBJJF tournaments, the odds are slim that you'll land one of those. Of course, don't let that stop you from trying! But also consider some lesser known and up-and-coming brands, who would gladly trade some gear or services for some additional exposure. Also, consider brands outside the current jiu jitsu market. There are some companies that would love to step a foot in the door of a new and growing market like jiu jitsu. Don't be afraid to reach out to them.
Sponsorships are out there, you just have to be willing to sell yourself and put the work in to get them. And always - ALWAYS - remember that once you do get a sponsorship, you are now representing the company. Be aware of what you say or do, because that could affect the relationship you have with your sponsor.
Train on... Oss.