I was recently listening to my favorite ultra podcast (elevation trail) and one of the runners (Tim Long) talked about his sponsorship deal with La Sportiva, and the main reason he thinks he got it.
He said that it was more about his blog and it's popularity than it was about his abilities as a trail runner (I think he's pretty good. Regularly finishes in the top 10 at many events, but back of the elites of the sport)
It got me thinking, I've noticed a lot of trail and ultra runners who have sponsorship's or support agreement with company's, and it seems to be based more on the popularity of their blogs than their results. (There are a few exceptions to this, of course)
It seems to go against other sports or even other running events, where sponsorship and support is based almost exclusively on results.
It got me thinking. It kind of makes me wonder what some of these companies are trying to accomplish. Do they not care about results? or is it just trying to get the brand as much exposure as possible?
(p.s., Lace, if you're still out there, what do you think? I know you've got some things going on, and you're results are much better than other bloggers I see. From what I've seen, Hammer is very results driven.)
Trail and Ultra Running User Group
What I have seen the ability of a person to be an ambassador for the company is an important component of sponsorship in more than just running. I've seen it in Archery as well. Blogs reach a large audience, and have a more sincere feel than advertisements.
What Would Jack London Do?
There's a distinction between a sponsorship and being an Ambassador for a company. A lot of companies have Ambassador programs and race results are far less important in that arrangement. Ambassador programs usually involve a discount on products or in some cases, they may provide a limited amount of free product. Generally speaking, a sponsorship has a more meaningful monetary component.
Sponsorships are entirely about marketing and companies select athletes that can maintain a high profile so their product gets maximum exposure. That high profile can come from performing well in races, having a huge personality, or simply from having a big footprint in social media. The most sought out athletes will have all those qualities.
Having a popular blog is pretty critical if an athlete hopes to gain sponsorship. My blog gets 1200-1500 hits per week. That may not sound like a lot, but its a lot more than most blogs in circulation. My contract with Hammer specifically requires me to maintain my blog at a high level.
Performance is also a big factor, though. Companies want to be associated with successful athletes because it illustrates the success and credibility of their product. My race history was thoroughly evaluated before I was offered a deal. Additionally, my contract has incentives for performance. I can assure you that I won't be retained if I continually flop in races.
Blogs are very powerful marketing tools. I've had thousands of dollars worth of free gear sent to me this year because manufacturers are hoping I'll use it and ultimately write about it. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. If you follow my blog, you'll notice a periodic product endorsement. That's a result of a box showing up on my doorstep. At first I was really flattered but I'm becoming more and more selective about the products that I mention in my blog.
I tell people all the time that my blog is the root of my sponsorship and I know it's true. But if I had a crappier running record, I would never have been contracted by Hammer this year. It's a balance of multiple components but the blog is a big piece of it.
I don't ever expect to win when I enter a race. Yet I have several companies that I work with. A big part of it is the sheer volume of races I run (usually 30-ish per year) but a lot is due to my blog as well. Im actually at the point with it where I am compensated for some of my work, reviews, and articles. It will never replace my day job but it certainly helps pay the racing fees. And in return my brands get exposure. I only wear INB clothes and Altra shoes. use almost exclusively use Gu during road races. I gain more exposure by working with FitFluential and BookieBoo but they also grow by having more bloggers on staff. It works out well for everyone and people trust my judgement of the products because I'm not an elite being paid to sell them. Plus I've built a reputation for only taking on products I believe in (I chased INKnBURN for two years).
3/17 Shamrock Marathon
4/20 North Coast 24 Hour
7/27 Burning RIver 100M
8/24 Baker 50M
10/5 Oil Creek (distance to be determined)
Brands I Heart:
Altra Zero Drop
Follower of Forrest
I check reviews on pretty much everything I buy ever. It's great. (Remember when you used to have to roll the dice on your purchases?). Lot's of the reviews I read are part of 'somebody's' blog. Really, I don't want the perspective of a lead finisher on gear they are paid to endorse...I want to hear from the guy who bought it themself or were provided with a sample to review...those are the legit ones (usually).
My hope is that this new world of reviews that we live in will start paying off in the quality of products. Especially in the world of specialty equipment, it has to be getting harder for companies to market crap. There is also a "free" wealth of R&D for designers to work from. I know this wasn't a for or against thing...but I'm for the "blogger runner" getting supported by these companies.
(I have considered taking a shot at starting a blog and trying to start a following (who doesn't like free stuff?), but I'm just not that involved in the community or social media...those bloggers put in a lot of work and really have to put themselves "out there")
6/21 - Manitou's Revenge 54mi
A man may never run the same trail twice for it is not the same trail and he is not the same man
I'm definitely not opposed to this as long as it's for the right reasons (see lace_up and banshee's posts.) I recently applied to become part of the Oiselle team, which is a brand I truly believe in, both their company values and their clothes. I'll find out by Aug 1 if I'm in. They have 2 teams, one for elite runners, and another for mid-to-back packers like myself, who offer an online presence and passion for running. The "B" team is certainly not as sweet as the "A" team as far as perks & benefits go, but then again, I would not expect to receive the same treatment as a Ellie Greenwood or Kara Goucher, because I am likely never going to be at the front of the pack. It's somewhere in the middle of an ambassadorship and a full-on sponsorship. Either way, I think if you believe in the brand then there's nothing wrong with it. What I hate to see is when people just take a sponsorship for the money, publicity, etc.
My Blog: trailsandcocktails.com
I Run for Oiselle
Hyner 50k: 4/18/15
Laurel Highlands 70M: 6/13/15
Le professeur de trail
I think someone should sponsor me. Afterall, since I am usually on the course longer, I can give their product more exposure. Right?
The incarnation of peacefulness and patience