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  • Writer's pictureJack Friend

The Art of Sponsorship: Tips for Ocean Rowers

Rowing an ocean typically costs upwards of £100k and can cost in the region of £200k+ if certain choices around kit, training, travel etc. are made. Making sure you have a well planned out budget tailored to your aims as a team is a crucial first step in understanding the task ahead of you (some tips on this coming soon!).


Regardless of detailed budget, ocean rowing is expensive so unless you have a lot of spare cash, a trust fund or a billionaire best mate you are probably going to need to think about sponsorship. For most successful ocean rowing teams corporate sponsorship has made up a large proportion of the money used to cover the cost of the campaign. Although it is worth noting at this point that there are other ways to help fund campaigns - including crowdfunding, events, motivational speaking, grants and team members loans that are recouped through the eventual resale of boat and equipment. The likelihood is that most teams will end up using a mix of all of these alongside looking for corporate sponsorship.


In this article, we'll delve into some top sponsorship tips for ocean rowers, many of which we learnt the hard way through the FriendShip campaign, others coming from valuable advice learnt from other ocean rowers and through following 100s of campaigns over the passed 5 years!





Identifying potential sponsors


Understanding your unique selling point is paramount. What sets your row apart? Whether it's the back story, the people involved, the charitable aim, or a world record breaking attempt you're going for, honing in on your USP will make your pitch more compelling to potential sponsors.


Research and planning is key. You should be having focused team discussions on potential sponsors, talking about the best angles from which to approach them and understanding what you can offer each sponsor.


Think about all the contacts you have at different companies or in different industries, write a big list of target companies and identify what level you think they might sponsor at so you can pitch accordingly.


Look at who has sponsored teams in the passed, while this can sometimes be a red herring as those sponsors will have often been found through personal contacts it is worth considering once you have exhausted your personal lists.


Think about sponsors that might identify more closely with your team, goals or missions - are you all from Yorkshire or are you all training in Devon? Targeting businesses in those areas or with famous / wealthy founders from those areas might be a good plan.


In short, we recommend starting with a long long list that contains as much information on each target as possible (think contact, contact details, relationship / connection with the team, size of the business, what level of sponsor might they be etc.). This list should become your team sponsor bible as you cross sponsors off, add sponsors on and hopefully start moving some of them onto the side of your boat...


Leveraging personal networks


Tap into your personal network of family, friends, and colleagues to expand your reach. Provide them with your pitch and proposal, and ask them if they would be willing to make introductions on your behalf.


This was a really valuable tool for us during the FriendShip campaign. As four young(ish) people and all related, our own network of contacts was pretty limited but through getting friends and family members on board we were able to leverage their networks. Once they had passed on our details, proposal and a short message drafted by us, we could then take over the communication and make our pitch. So much more effective than reaching out cold!


Remember, people will need to go out of their way for you in this so make sure you are understanding and grateful for the support they give you and ensure you are doing everything you can to make it as easy for them as possible. This is not about just passing the job onto someone else!


Tailored sponsor materials


Make sure you are crafting tailored sponsor materials for different types of sponsors. From local businesses to larger corporations, customise your approach to suit their needs and preferences. Highlight the benefits of sponsoring your team from the perspective of the company – what's in it for them?


If you get to the point of making a pitch or sending materials to a sponsor who has shown interest, tailoring your proposal with their logo can be a really nice touch. Take some time to personalise the proposal for them and think about adding their logo onto a diagram of your boat to show how it might look or onto the front of the proposal to show this is a tailored proposal just for them.


For local businesses think about offering a bespoke local package. For the FriendShip Row we grew up in Devon and we used it as our training base. When approaching sponsors based in Devon we used separate materials that offered local businesses special packages and emphasised the fact that we were more likely to get local attention and press.


Using personal and professional platforms


Use personal and professional platforms, including LinkedIn and social media, to showcase your team brand and attract potential sponsors. Share engaging content about your journey both to your team social media accounts but also on personal social media and on your personal LinkedIn account. Make sure you are highlighting your USP and communicating your value proposition for sponsors. Remember it is not about why you need them, it is about what you can offer them!


Creating a professional brand around your team


Having a professional looking brand and campaign set up around your team is important when it comes to converting interested parties into sponsors. Everything should look professional and slick from the proposal you are showing them to the email signature at the end of your intro email.


Think about how your website looks - is your mission clear? Are you showing off your other sponsors? Does everything work? Are there spelling mistakes? How easy it is to contact you? (See our website tips for ocean rowers here!)


If you are presenting a proposal as a team have you agreed who is going to speak when? Have you researched the people you are presenting to? Are you all dressed in team branded kit?


All of these small things can help a potential sponsor get comfortable with the fact that they are investing their hard earned money and reputation in you.


Crafting a sponsorship proposal


We discussed in our previous article some tips on crafting the perfect a sponsorship proposal - read the full article here.


Remember to communicate the benefits of sponsoring your team clearly and concisely, focusing on what you can offer the sponsor rather than what you need from them.


Effective follow-up and relationship building


After making initial contact, follow up promptly and persistently with potential sponsors. Build rapport, demonstrate your commitment, and communicate the mutual benefits of a partnership. Approach each interaction with humility and professionalism, focusing on building long-term relationships rather than immediate results.


Make sure you have set up an effective team sponsorship tracker that shows who has reached out to who and when. This will help you manage follow ups effectively without crossing wires or looking disorganised.


Consider the way in which you deal with the inevitable rejections - showing humility and grace in rejection may open doors you can't yet see.


When you get sponsors who do want to come on board make sure you are proactive in providing them with everything they need. Offer to speak to their marketing teams about a press release, send them the necessary paperwork and invoice promptly, and offer to have regular check in's to make sure they are getting what they need.


Finally...Perseverance


Securing sponsorship is a huge mountain to climb in your journey to the start line of an ocean row. It will test your perseverance to the limit - there were times through the FriendShip campaign that we were convinced we would never raise the money, dejected after another rejection. The truth is that even if you do all of the above and more you will still get rejection after rejection before you get sponsors on board.


Perseverance is crucial. Treat every interaction, every pitch, and every follow-up as an opportunity to learn and grow. Embrace the process with determination and resilience, knowing that each step forward brings you closer to your goal.


It would be a bit cheesy to put a quote on perseverance in here, but we are going to doing it anyway as we think this sums the process up pretty much perfectly.


"It always seems impossible until it's done" - Nelson Mandela

Keep pushing forward, keep refining your approach, and keep believing in the value of your team and your story.


If you would like to get in touch to talk about how we can help you on your sponsorship journey, please reach out using the links below. We can support you through the whole sponsorship process - helping you define a strategy, creating professional sponsorship materials, building a website, managing sponsors once onboard and much much more.





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