Getting Competition Sponsorship

posted by dpm on 02/24/2010


by Matt Stark

The call came 10 hours in an 18 hour work day. It was a friend of mine who worked at one of the many climbing companies we work with. He was checking in- just shooting the shit. Then the topic of comps came up, which was obviously a sore subject with him.

“There are just too many f@*king comps! We get solicited for sponsorship two or three times a week from gyms, schools, co-ops and people with home walls looking for sponsorship for this rinky-dink events.  Most of them don’t even have a retail account with us. It would be great to sponsor them all, but we just can’t afford to sponsor everyone, and most of these gyms just don’t understand that. Some of them get downright pushy about it.”
Hearing him describe his plight, reminded me of my days as a route setter and the various phone calls to prospective sponsors begging for gear. Thankfully, after many years of sprinting door to door for candy on Halloween, I was well versed in begging and therefore successful in procuring swag, but that was years ago. This was the first time that I had thought about the other side of things. His math was simple: $100 dollars of swag to 100 gyms is $10,000! Put in that perspective, I understood his predicament.
This is why most companies are reluctant to spend $100 or more of their money to support a gym that does not support them as a company. Ultimately, they will get little or nothing out of it other than a small logo on a poster and their mention at the award ceremony in front of 100 competitors- and that is if they are lucky. Sponsoring a comp for a gym with no retail account will do little or nothing to boost sales of the company’s product unless the competition is of considerable size.
I started thinking about sponsorship for competitions more. Particularly about local and regional events that get little or no media exposure. At best, a sponsor can expect between 300-500 logo impressions from one of these regional or local events. These impressions come from posters, banners, or the company name mentioned during the prize ceremony. Now, some may argue that if their event is sanctioned, there will be even more logo impressions, but those logo impressions are only for the few corporate sponsors whose swag is divided up between the 400+ competitions across the country. This is why many gym owners find it difficult getting prizes from companies for sanctioned events. Either the companies do not see the return on the investment or they, “Gave already”.
So, why would a company sponsor a competition in the first place?
The simple answer is: (hopefully) to increased sales and gain some exposure. For many companies, exposure and sales are much more easily quantified through advertisement. So their decision boils down to them supporting their retail accounts. If a gym has a healthy relationship with a company, they will want that relationship to continue, and they will likely support the event. Retail accounts are important for companies, regardless of their size.
Now, in some cases, a gym consistently is bringing in 250+ competitors for a local comp. This is a scenario where a company might start tossing a gym some more swag even though the gym lacks a prosperous retail store. This was the case with Philly Rock Gym’s Midnight Burn and the New Jersy Rock Gym’s Gravity Brawl. A lot of people showed out for these comp every year and a lot of swag got tossed around because of it. If this is the case with your gym, consider yourself lucky.
So, if you are a route setter or gym owner wishing to acquire sponsorship for a comp, look at your retail accounts first. In my opinion (one that many will likely disagree with) a company should be willing to offer 10% of the total purchase amount from the previous year. So, if Gym A purchases $1,000 worth of rope from Company B then Company B should be willing to offer $100 dollars worth of sponsorship goodies to that gym. Pretty simple, right?
If you do not have retail accounts, don’t fret. There still will be companies willing to hook you up. Just don’t expect anything if you don’t offer anything in return. If you are unsuccessful finding sponsors, talk to your local outdoor shops. By not carrying gear, your gym is not in direct competition with these local retailers. Hopefully, they will see the opportunity to show the local climbing community that they have the product to support their climbing needs. These shops might be your best source for sponsorship in many cases. Regardless of the scenario, search out all your options, but don’t expect anything from any company your gym doesn’t support in return.