The Growth of the Equestrian Sponsored Rider.
Slotting into an Adapting Environment.
With businesses being forced to adapt their marketing strategy considering the Covid-19 pandemic, equestrian brands are finding themselves relying more heavily on their sponsored riders, brand ambassadors and equestrian influencers to help promote their products and services.
The good news is that this shift in focus is opening up more opportunities for equestrian riders to become ambassadors and sponsored riders for the brands they love.
It’s no surprise to learn that social media engagement has increased by 61% over normal usage rates since March this year, as more of us are going online to entertain ourselves and keep up to date with what’s happening (or not!) in the equestrian world.
The more forward-thinking equestrian brands are keen to get in front of this increasingly receptive audience and the link here is you; the equestrian rider!
However, the question is, as an amateur rider who is not an expert in social media or doesn’t have a degree in marketing, how can you become your favourite brand’s next sponsored rider?
Understanding the Real Value of Sponsorship
Firstly you need to consider that every sponsorship arrangement has a value; even free product is not free!
Sponsoring an equestrian rider incurs a financial cost to the company which is likely to be taken from their marketing or sponsorship budget so, your sponsors will expect to see a return on their investment.
Think about sponsorship as a commercial relationship between you and a brand, in which your role is to provide engaging marketing initiatives directly to their target audience to ultimately increase sales.
Build your Personal Brand
By creating your own personal brand profile, showing-up online, presenting yourself in a genuine and authentic way, and engaging with other social media users, you will begin to establish and grow your own personal value.
Remember, your value is built on the trust of your audience.
Don’t worry, this may not be a difficult as it sounds.
Pick a Platform
Consider which social media platforms you want to focus your efforts on and assess the audience demographic. Whilst YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used social media platforms, only 32% of Facebook users regularly interact with brands, compared to 68% of Instagram users.
Having a website isn’t essential for every rider at every level but it IS important for professional riders. As an amateur rider or influencer, a website is a good place to host a regular blog, set up an online shop or build an email database all of which offer additional opportunities for potential sponsors.
Who are you?
Begin by exploring about which qualities set you apart from other riders. Most equestrian businesses are inundated with requests for sponsorship so think carefully about WHY a company might sponsor YOU.
What’s your story?
What makes you unique?
What do you represent?
Do you align yourself to a particular cause?
What’s your style?
How will people find you, both online and offline?
Understand your value?
Once you’ve formulated yourself as a personal brand, you can begin to understand your value.
Your value may be in your connections, your competition success, your authority, your knowledge TOGETHER with the strength of your online content such as blogs, podcasts, vlogs and social posts.
Your personal social media following can offer huge value to a potential sponsor. If you are delivering a ready-made audience of engaged and passionate followers which aligns with your sponsor’s brand and objectives, you become a much more valuable sponsorship proposition. 49% of consumers claim that they depend on influencer recommendations on social media to inform their purchasing decision.
However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your value is all about how well you promote yourself on social media. Many equestrian businesses are run by very small teams of staff and they can usually do with all the extra help they can get to market their brand. What additional skills can you offer a brand?
Your Secret Power
• Are you a coach, teacher or trainer who can offer support or expert advice to help promote a brand’s products or services.
• Are you a budding photographer with a creative eye who could offer to take product photos or lifestyle images?
• Are you dedicated to training your horses for competition success? If you are regularly part of the winning line-up receiving good press coverage, there are many possibilities for brand association with a potential sponsor.
• Maybe your talent lies in creating videos and you would be willing to capture product reviews on film.
• If you possess good writing skills you may be able to contribute content for a blog in return for sponsorship.
• Are you based in beautiful surroundings or an a particularly well-positioned yard that would make a great location for their next photoshoot?
• Do you have a number of horses that would make good equine product-testers? Most brands would be delighted to receive genuine feedback to help with their product development.
• Are you part of a wider community of horse-owners that could become potential customers?
• Are you active on forums or in groups where you can use your connections to attract new potential customers?
Get creative and think hard about how you may be able to add value as a sponsored rider outside of social media.
How to Approach a Potential Sponsor
It’s important to align yourself with the brand from the outset. Begin by interacting with the targeted brand whenever and where ever you can.
• Visit their trade stand at shows or events and introduce yourself in person.
• Sign up to their newsletter online.
• Comment, follow and engage with the brand on all their social media channels.
• USE their products, post a review and tag them in your social media posts.
Prepare a sponsorship proposal and covering letter in the same manner as would create a CV for a job application.
• Tell your story and include all relevant details about yourself.
• List your achievements, your goals and your aspirations.
• Add links to your social media pages and highlight your social media statistics, i.e. number of followers, engagement rate and audience demographics.
• Make it visually appealing and include images of you and your horse.
Get in Touch
Find out exactly who in the company is responsible for sponsorship and make contact with them directly by phone if you can or by email. If email doesn’t work, send a direct message via Facebook or Instagram or connect via LinkedIn.
• Inject your personality into your proposal.
• Do your research and include what you love about their products or how they have helped you and your horse.
• State clearly how you can work with them to promote their products. Include examples of previous success if you can.
• Be prepared to follow up if you don’t get a response the first time.
To create a long-lasting, valuable and mutually beneficial sponsorship relationship your connection to the product and the brand MUST be genuine. Everyone can spot a fake!
Be prepared to work hard and really get involved with the brand; the most successful sponsorship relationships start small and are built over time for mutual benefit.
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Rider Sponsorship
What have you to to offer?
For a brand to consider you as an ambassador or sponsored rider based solely on your social media following ask yourself this:
• Have you built a strong social media following with whom you actively engage?
• Do you have the relationship with your audience to influence their buying decisions?
• Can you offer a brand the opportunity to collaborate with your audience to gain followers and sales.
If the answer to these all of the questions above is YES, then you are ready to approach you next potential sponsor but prepare your stage and do your homework first!
TIPS FROM THE TOP
Equestrian Lifestyle Vlogger and British Riding Club member, Tina Wallace, better known online as @life_on_the_left_rein has built up a strong, loyal following since she first took part in Horse & Country TV’s All Star Academy in 2017.
Her person brand has grown in popularity due to the way she portrays herself as an open, honest and fun-loving amateur event rider.
“I love sharing my experiences with other horse owners and I feel privileged to be working with some of the equestrian industry’s most respected brands, such as Woof Wear, Champion, Blue Chip Feeds and NAF.
The secret to successful sponsorship is to be loyal and only work with brands that you are passionate about. In order to be able to authentically promote the brand, you have to love the products and they have to work individually for you and your horse at that time.
Sponsorship is about working together to help the brand grow, becoming part of their team and building a strong relationship.
Don’t under-estimate how much time you may need to allow for your extra commitments alongside caring for your horse, competing your horse and keeping your job AND ignoring the look of death from your husband for being glued to your phone!
It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to be supported by sponsorship but it’s definitely worth it!”
This article was originally published in British Riding Clubs RIDER magazine November 2019.