Over the 15+ years of coaching, I started learning early on how to work with sponsorships. Over the last few years, I have noticed that sponsorships are changing due to social media. But I have also noticed that brands are changing the way that they work with an athlete, a coach and/or a team.
Back in 2001, when I started my triathlon coaching career and I was becoming a triathlete, I would put together a race resume, along with photos, put it in a binder and either do one of two things.
- Send the report to the company that I wanted to work with
- Head to Las Vegas, Interbike Convention and take my race resume to companies and start having a discussion with them.
I don’t know which way was the best but I do believe getting in front of companies tend to be more successful than just send another piece of mail. For example, when I started working with TYR, I developed an amazing relationship with the people who were at Interbike, Wendy Ingraham and Ryan Dolan. As most of us parted ways from TYR, we always stayed in touch over the years. (More later…)
As I am sitting here writing this, I started to think. Has the years changed with working with sponsorship and brands? On one end of the spectrum, I think it has changed a little as companies are working with brand ambassadors and influencers. One the other end of the spectrum, it has changed a lot and that is social media! Social media has truly changed the way of athletes, coaches and teams.
I chatted with my “Coaching the Coach (CTC)” Clients about this. I can tell you this. There is one thing that is crucial in the success of working with brands and companies:
“Build a relationship with the brand that you want to work with.”
Plain and simple. In my CTC program, I talk a little bit more detailed about how to do it but I cannot emphasize this enough for you, as an athlete, a coach and maybe building a triathlon team.
There are a couple of stories that I would like to share about working with brands from today and from 2002:
Stretch Athleisure Wash and Jen Rulon
It was December 2017 and I had a great opportunity to head up to Austin for “The Run Event.” I really enjoy going up there and checking out new companies, companies that I have had a relationship with and just learning more about the business side of retail.
As I was walking around, I saw the company, “Stretch Athleisure Wash” and was very taken back at the branding for the laundry detergent. It was black and white with very “clean” wording, which I thought was GENIUS for a laundry detergent. Think about it…you have darks and whites for your laundry.
I started chatting with Emma Struwe from Stretch Athleisure Wash/Forever New and we just hit it off. I loved what their company represented and what they promoted WHICH is exactly what I need for my lululemon clothing and my race day clothing from Epix Gear.
This detergent gets that STINK out of my clothing. Come on. You all know we have it. Right? And it doesn’t trash my clothing and keeps it’s elasticity. I thought to myself this is genius. Emma gave me a whole bunch of samples and I was truly hooked.
Over the holidays and beyond, we stayed in touched. I plugged them on Instagram Stories and Twitter and then I wondered if I could be an Influencer for them. I sent Emma an email and asked. She asked me to send her options and they picked one of my options.
Here is the thing about working with Stretch: I believe in them. They believe in me. It is a Win/Win for both of us!
Emma and I build that relationship and I didn’t expect ANYTHING from them. I didn’t say, “I am a 13x Ironman Triathlete, coach and business owner, you need to sponsor me.” HA!
Huge SHOUT out to Stretch Athleisure Wash for believing in me to share their message because it is something I truly believe in!
Being Sponsored Not Based on Your Time….
Here is a story for you from 2002 and it really shows you that sponsorships are NOT about how fast you go, it is about building a relationship with a brand, being real and authentic and being YOU.
I did my first Ironman Triathlon in Wisconsin that September 2002. I had sponsors with TYR, Power Bar, Rudy Project Sunglass, Sea World and connect with Sugoi at the Ironman and worked with Sugoi in 2013 – 2014.
I was at a dinner for a coaching clinic in Boulder and chatting with a now well known coach (no name needs to be mention). He and I were chatting about my sponsors. He asked me what my time was at Ironman Wisconsin. I proudly said, “12:59.” It was my first Ironman and I was elated!
He informed me, I kid you not, that I was “too slow to have sponsors.” I squeezed my girlfriends hand that I was sitting next too and she saw my look of pissed off! I have never been so demoralized or shot down as an athlete.
What I realized: That comment was all about his ego and if you are going to be a dick like that to an athlete (me) and a coach (me), then I don’t even want to know how you will be towards your own athletes, coaches and sponsors.
Yes, you can be sponsored based on YOUR AMAZINGNESS of being a raw and real athlete, not off of time!
From 2001, to heading to Interbike for sponsor to now, I am surrounded by some AMAZING sponsors for myself and the Rulon Racing Team. Why? Because I built a relationship with them, as an athlete because I use the products and their services and a coach who believes in these companies, just as they believe in me! Here they are:
The Tribe Strength & Conditioning Gym
Any questions? Ask below!