Sports sponsorship: how a triathlete can find a sponsor

Triathlete sponsorship isn't just for elites and podium finishers says Vickie Saunders from The Sponsorship Consultants. Here's her top tips for getting- and saying - sponsored

Sponsorship isn't just for elites. Credit: ITU

Let’s face it triathlon isn’t a cheap sport and if you’re a triathlete who has ambitions of competing at a high level, or of travelling the world to compete in iconic locations, chances are you’ve considered seeking sponsorship.


I’m going to hazard a guess that you’ve also questioned your ability to do this, and perhaps never taken that first step towards actually putting yourself out there. For some athletes self doubt is what holds them back, but for most it’s a lack of clarity on how sponsorship works and what the process is!

How to use social media to get, and stay, sponsored

Sponsorship is about creating valuable, meaningful, sustainable and enjoyable partnerships with all types of businesses. It is a business relationship between an athlete and business, whereby mutual benefit and value are created through an initial engagement process, negotiations and planning and delivery over a period of time (typically 6 months to a year).

Remember sponsorship is NOT just for podium finishers: here are the main reasons businesses sponsor athletes:

Businesses sponsor athletes to enhance their marketing activities. This marketing itself is designed to assist with company objectives such as market growth, brand awareness, and customer engagement, and ultimately, profitability.

Brand: An athlete can reinforce or even change the sponsor’s image positively. This occurs through media, social media, community activities and the athlete’s sport.

Sales: The interest in a company can be increased indirectly through promotion and media for the athlete, which by default drives attention to the sponsors.

Community and PR:  Athletes of all levels are the source of inspiration for others, whether it’s someone in your own family or someone from the other side of the world who has connected with you through social media. Businesses know this and want to be a part of this, and demonstrate they are socially aware.

Product Testing: What better testimonial for a company to have than an athlete who has tried, tested and can now wholeheartedly endorse their product or service?

Athletes give a “face” to their brand, and allow businesses to communicate with their target market in a way that is engaging, efficient, entertaining, and educational.

Sponsoring an athlete allows a brand to communicate with their target market in a way that is engaging, efficient, entertaining and educational. It allows companies to deliver a huge amount of information in a very short space of time, and in a way that is willingly received by their audience. This information is presented in fun and engaging ways, either in face to face (at events, races, expo’s etc) or through social media, advertising or traditional media.

There’s a rapidly increasing trend of people seeking out information and recommendations from other people, on which they base their purchasing decisions. By providing a relatable and sometimes inspirational personification of their brand, they are able to influence their audience in ways that they are receptive to. Online platforms and social media makes this good old-fashioned word of mouth infinitely more powerful. See how it has very little to do with what the athlete is doing in their sport in terms of competition, winning or being ranked?


1) First identify the kind of companies that can provide the products and services you need, and understand their business objectives (through identifying their marketing activities) and identify the commercial value you have to offer.

2) Give yourself plenty of time to engage sponsors, at least 3 months!

3) Treat sponsorship as a business relationship and make sure what you offer relates to their business needs.

4) Spend time figuring out exactly what you need sponsorship for… think beyond just financial value. Research potential sponsors and only align with brands that you really believe in. You can then create an arrangement where you are trading your skills, knowledge, network and time in return for products, services, finance, opportunities, networks or any other type of “value” that you want.

5) Find out what your sponsors want by asking them…yes, you contact them BEFORE sending a proposal!


1) Offer great benefits to your sponsors and make sure you can deliver them

2) Create a team of people who want to support your goals (friends, family, other athletes)

3) Get organised and stay organised

4) Maintain communication with your sponsors and seek feedback at least once a year

5) Always look for opportunities to offer more benefits to your sponsors as this will benefit you too!


Vickie Saunders runs The Sponsorship Consultants – where you can find out more about how sponsorship could work for you