Landing a sponsor as a clay shooter can completely change the course of your career, so James Simon is going to explain how to get sponsored.
Firstly, we will show you a point by point plan on how to bag a sponsorship deal, but stick around because next we will be bringing you part 2 of how to get a clay shooting sponsorship – tips from those who have done it!
When considering how to get sponsored as a professional clay shooter, you might be thinking about fame, status, free stuff – and why not, what’s not to like?
It’s easy to see the benefits of being sponsored by some of clay shooting’s top brands, but harder to understand how to attract them in the first place.
We explore the steps you need to take and ask some well-known shooters for their tips on how to get brands excited enough to want to sew their logos on your shooting vest.
1. Show potential
For the vast majority of shooters, sponsorship gives them a huge leg up because it funds their practice sessions. The more practice you put in, the more likely a big win is going to come your way. In theory, the more wins, the more sponsors come calling – a virtuous circle. In reality, although
scores are very important, it’s not just about winning, it’s about potential.
“If people want to get involved with Eley Hawk then the first step is to submit their shooting CV – essentially, what they’ve shot, where they’ve shot and what their goals are,” says David Thompson, Marketing Manager at Eley Hawk.
“But don’t get disheartened if you are young or new to shooting,” he adds. “ We started sponsoring Amber Hill at 12 years old because we recognised her potential. For us, that’s what sponsorship is about – finding potential and supporting those shooters to help them achieve everything they can.”
It is a similar story at Laporte-CPC. “A well laid-out CV with your wins and goals gives us a lot of information on which to base a decision,” says Gaylia Fallon, general manager.
“However, every shooter is assessed individually, and their character is more important than their scores. We consider everyone equally from teenagers to seniors, and it’s amazing to watch the development of someone starting out, beginning to improve, competing and then progressing to world championships.”
So the first lesson is that proving your potential by demonstrating commitment to the sport can be just as effective as a long list of wins.
2. Be professional
In some markets – music and fashion spring to mind – it’s not uncommon for brands to promote themselves with shock tactics and provocative statements.
Let’s get real, this is unlikely to happen in clay shooting. Not least because safety is paramount, and the sport has to fight hard to protect its image to win public support. What clay shooting needs is upstanding brand ambassadors.
“We look for those who are clearly excelling in their discipline, who present themselves well and conduct themselves in a professional way at shoots,” says GMK marketing manager Warren Thackeray. “It’s important that we select those who are true ambassadors of clay shooting sports as a whole, not just us here at GMK and Beretta.”
3. Embrace social media
Love it or hate it, social media is the primary way for brands to reach out to their markets, so a presence on Instagram and Facebook are an absolute must. There has to be a harmonious relationship between your channels and your sponsor’s.
“We’ve seen phenomenal growth in social media in the past few years,” says David Thompson. “Our Instagram following is heading towards 30,000. The public now finds out about the sport via posts from key enthusiasts like our sponsored shooters. It generates leads, it generates interest.
“If shooters are being positive on social media about the sport by promoting the great things that they are doing, the great places they have visited and the great people that they have met, then that’s exactly what we are looking for. It gets a wider reach and more people take it up. The motivation to promote the sport for everybody, not just Eley, is a green light for us.”
GMK rates a positive social media profile. “An active social media presence is enormously helpful,” says Warren Thackeray. “Many of our shooters do post their results online, which is a really effective way to reach our wider audience.
It’s great to see the community spirit we have among our shooters – they all celebrate each other’s success with positive comments and congratulations. It also keeps communication open with our sponsored shooters so we can see their progress.”
4. Be tenacious
Gaining sponsorship can be a long, hard slog. But, stay focused, don’t get disheartened and keep at it. Learn from every rejection by always politely asking for feedback and then act on the advice you have been given. “Be active,” urges Gaylia Fallon.
“Sending in CVs, being on social media and saying hello to us at events is always a great place to start. We can’t sponsor you if we do not know about you!”
5. Be resilient
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and some find the mental strain that can come with sponsorship an issue. The best sponsors will support your route to success, the worst just pile on pressure. Ask yourself: are resilient enough for sponsorship? Is this something that you really want?
“People think it must be wonderful to be given loads of free stuff,” says David Thompson. “But the reality is that they will have responsibilities to face up to, and be under increased scrutiny on social media.
“We have a responsibility to our shooters, the younger ones in particular, so we make it clear that school and family must come first. We also reassure parents that we are not going to place unreasonable expectations on their children, and we will support them through any difficulties they may encounter.
“Our relationships are well-managed, so shooters are never under huge pressure to please us. Instead, our aim is to facilitate their success through support, so that both parties benefit from a sustainable career in shooting.”
So be resilient, but know when to say no, and when to ask for help.
6. Be yourself
It’s easy to put on a façade, to pretend to be a version of ourselves that we think is more attractive. But these personas are exhausting to keep up, often unconvincing and always unsustainable.
Those are not positive attributes with which to attract a sponsor that aims to support you through your entire career.
“The watchword we live by is authenticity,” says David Thompson. “Is the person looking for sponsorship authentic, are they looking to better themselves, to give their best?
Can they be a true ambassador for the sport? If that authenticity is there, then we are willing to back them because we know we will end up with a really positive relationship.”
Trying to bag a sponsor can certainly be worth the effort. Eley Hawk give more than £15,000 in sponsorship value every year, usually in the form of free or discounted cartridges. Last year Laporte-CPC gave away 250,000 clays. GMK don’t fix a yearly quota, but they typically loan guns to their sponsored shooters.
Eley Hawk finalises sponsorship deals in December, so start building your results and your social media presence now so that you are ready to submit your CV in October. Laporte-CPC reviews sponsorship every six months, and GMK is always open to proposals.
These three firms are just the tip of the iceberg. Look around and think about which companies might work with you, and when you’ve done that, then plan your approach.