(Attention, fighters: Don’t let this happen to you.)
You might know me. I’m a sponsor. I get an email every other day from a manager (usually a fighter’s brother whose only business experience is a checkbook management class) asking me to sponsor someone. Sometimes I get a gem that’s professional and treats the situation exactly as it is — a product pitch. But too many times requests are so poorly written that they’re embarrassing and I don’t give them a second thought. Why? Because MMA is a young sport full of young people who have no business sense, and until that changes, fighters are going to miss out on sponsorship opportunities.
When asking for money, managers must answer one basic question — why should I give you money? It has to be a watertight pitch that describes the product (the fighter) and gives me no reason to say no. Unfortunately this is rare and more than one email has been relegated to my trash file. If you don’t want it to be you, follow a few simple rules:
– First off, a sponsor and a fighter need to be the right fit. A staunchly Catholic fighter who’s offended by pre-marital sex shouldn’t be sponsored by Condom Depot, and Ranger Up only sponsors fighters with a military background. Do your research so you’re not wasting my time and yours.
– Don’t wait until the last minute. Contacting me three days before a fight says you lack the foresight to plan ahead. That doesn’t instill me with the confidence that you’ll take care of my brand. Two weeks before a fight is okay. Three weeks is better.
– If your return email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m not even going to open the message. It screams out, “I’m immature and can’t be trusted to accomplish a basic task.” Be more professional.
– If your message is riddled with spelling errors and looks like a 3rd grader wrote it, your chances of me giving you money are slim. It tells me you don’t pay attention to detail.
– Don’t send two sentences that say, “I’m a fighter. Send me money.” I need stats, background info, a biography, fight videos, a picture, and most importantly, why the fighter is right for my company.
– Tell me what show you’re fighting in and especially what TV coverage it will have. This is very important because I base how much money I’m willing to give by how many people will see my product. If you want me to give you $2,500 for an untelevised show, that’s not happening.
– Tell me exactly what I’m getting for my money and give me options, like an a la carte menu. Start with one asking price for my logo on the fighter’s shirt, shorts, and banner and another price if the fight gets televised or your guy wins KO of the night.
– Remember the relationship. The sponsor has the money and you want to get your hands on it. Don’t ask for money, a logo, a banner, shirts for you and your crew, a bowl full of brown M&M’s, and a ring-tailed lemur no matter how bad-ass your fighter is. You’re not in a position to ask for those things.
– Recognize that sponsorship is a two way street. It’s not me giving you money and you wearing a shirt. If I’m going to pay you, then you need to make an effort to sell our product. At the very least, I want photos of your fighter wearing my stuff.
– Once you make a deal, don’t take a better one two days later. Loyalty is more important than cash and developing a good relationship with a sponsor will get you more cash in the long run.
Finally, keep cross-branding in mind. Cross-branding is the practice of placing four or more logos on a pair of fight shorts or walk-out shirt. “Sponsorship companies are becoming keen to the idea that if a pair of fight shorts or a walk-out shirt has 20 logos on it, their logo and their investment in your client may get lost, which will harm their return on investment. Every manager should look at cross-branding and how it can affect a potential sponsor’s ROI before they start contacting companies on behalf of their clients,” says Tim Holman of Shark Sports Management. Tim sent me two pitches for his fighters that were so thorough and well-written, it was impossible for me to say no. If you want the same results, follow these rules and be professional.
In addition to his work with Ranger Up, Kelly Crigger is a freelance writer and the author of Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts, Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts: The Stand Up Game, and Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts: The Ground Game. You can see more of his writing at KellyCrigger.com and The Rhino Den.