This Month - Basic Rules for Your Best Chance at Securing Sponsorship In the Equestrian World
So you love to ride. Riding is everything and you know that you and your horse are special. When your friends are out at the mall there you are at the barn, mucking, cleaning, clipping, exercising, basically spending all your time with your horse. Plus you've noticed that you and your horse seem to excel at every course your trainer sets and you've got a fair number of ribbons under your belt to prove you must be doing something right.
The only trouble is, between the cost of keeping your horse, the show fees, hauling fees and cost of show gear, tack and supplements, your 'habit' is starting to cost a lot. So, you think....wouldn't it be wonderful if you could just secure some equestrian sponsorships to help with the costs and let the world know that you have what it takes to represent some top notch brands?
Before you go rushing off firing random emails to a bunch of companies, we would like to help you to be successful by giving you a glimpse from the other side of the table.
As a popular equestrian brand, we get requests for sponsorship daily, A few years ago, we decided to streamline our processes to make it fairer on everyone who went to the trouble of reaching out to us. For that reason, we now have different programs. Our Sponsored Rider program is open to riders who compete at the highest levels, usually have ridden for their country or placed regularly at nationally ranked shows and are 'recognized.' These riders all hold Professional Level status and make their living solely from competing and training.
Next we have our 'Trainer' Ambassador program. These riders usually run their own barns, have 10 plus horses in training and have their own stable of students. They too are Professional Level status and make their living solely from competing and training.
Our Social Media Ambassadors are riders who have managed to obtain 'influencer' status by having a following of 5,000+ social media fans with a high percentage of engagement. These Ambassadors are constantly posting and reviewing, and may write blogs. They are watched by riders for the latest and greatest introductions in the equine world.
Last of all we have our Brand Ambassador Program. These are amateur level riders who are competing regularly and are up and coming riders looking for some help.
It's important to note that, under USEF guidelines (based on FEI guidelines) you can lose your amateur status if you are not very careful. Once you have lost that status you can no longer compete in a lot of the shows and will only be allowed to compete as a professional. USEF currently shows these rules:
GR1306 Professional/Amateur Status 1. Amateur. Regardless of one’s equestrian skills and/or accomplishments, a person is an amateur if after his 18th birthday, as defined in GR101, he has not engaged in any of the activities identified in paragraph 4 below.
a. In the Dressage Division, individuals are only eligible to compete as amateurs from the beginning of the calendar year in which they reach age 22, see DR119.3.
b. For Amateurs in Jumper Sections, see JP118.
c. For Amateurs in Hunter Sections, see HU136-HU137.
d. For Amateurs in Eventing, see EV Appendix 3-Participation in Horse Trials.
2. Remuneration. Remuneration is defined as compensation or payment in any form such as cash, goods, sponsorships, discounts or services; reimbursement of any expenses; trade or in-kind exchange of goods or services such as board or training.
3. Permitted activities by Amateur. An Amateur is permitted to do the following:
a. Accept reimbursement for actual expenses associated with conducting classroom seminars for a not-for-profit organization, therapeutic riding programs, or programs for charitable organizations approved in advance by the Federation.
b. Act as a camp counselor when not hired in the exclusive capacity as a riding instructor; assist in setting schooling fences without remuneration; give instruction or training to handicapped riders for therapeutic purposes.
c. Appear in advertisements and/or articles related to acknowledgement of one’s own personal or business sponsorship of a competition and/or awards earned by one’s owned horses.
d. Accept prize money as the owner of a horse in any class other than equitation or showmanship classes.
e. Accept prize money in Dressage.
f. Accept a non-monetary token gift of appreciation valued less than $300 annually.
g. Serve as an intern for college credit or course requirements at an accredited institution provided one has never held professional status with the Federation or any other equestrian National Federation. In addition, one may accept reimbursement for expenses without profit, as prescribed by the educational institution’s program, for the internship. At the request of the Federation, an Amateur shall provide certification from the accredited © USEF 2019 199 educational institution under whose auspices a student is pursuing an internship that he is undertaking the internship to meet course or degree requirements.
So basically for any Amateur Level rider (Brand Ambassador) remuneration must be capped at $300 or the equivalent in products. This is the reason that we offer different level sponsorships.
So assuming you have read all of the above and decide that you would like to reach out to see if you might qualify, how best to go about standing out from the crowd? Based on our own experience and from talking to other brand owners, here are some common themes to help you have a good chance. Introducing the 'Ten Do's and Dont's of Successful Sponsorship,'
1. DO Know enough about the brand you are contacting. That means spelling their name right, knowing about their products and actually owning at least one item from the line. We're always surprised by people that send us emails telling us how much they love our products only to find that these potential 'Brand Ambassadors' don't even ride in anything from our line, or don't have horses that would fit into anything we make. Remember all companies want to have Ambassadors who truly love and believe in what they're doing so its important you're clear on that when you approach us.
2. DO check out the brand's website and see if you can get any ideas of the best way to apply for Sponsorship/Ambassadorship. While you're on the site, read up on technology, riders that already use the brand, new items etc, etc. Treat it like an entrance exam and make sure you have studied your subject!
3. DO get on social media. If you are thinking of applying to be a Brand Ambassador, we have to see that you are able to promote and represent. The best way is to start following us and like our posts so we become aware that you are already a fan. It also means you will be aware of how and when to apply to be an Ambassador because it's where we post most of our announcements. Meanwhile you should be thinking about building your own following. It shows us that you are already thinking how best to spread the word, how to reach the largest number of people and how to stay in touch with other like minded equestrians. More than any other tool at your disposal, Social Media is a great way to share who you are, what you're up to and gain followers who admire and respect your achievements. Once you become a Brand Ambassador we also expect you to tag any post you share that features our products, create dedicated posts highlighting certain items, repost our sales, specials and events and generally let everyone who follows you know that you are a proud Brand Ambassador.
4. DON'T write an essay. When you first reach out, a simple email asking for details is the best way to go. The essay can come later when we ask you for more information....but ...DO show some effort. A one line lower case email sent from your phone asking 'Do you need sponsors?' does not mean what you think it does, even worse it tells us that if you put so little effort into reaching out to us, that this is what we can expect from you as an Ambassador. A nicely written email of five or six lines with your name, where you're from and how you know about us is always good.
5. DON'T send pictures of you and your horse competing wearing another brand's items. We'd rather see a nice picture of you and your horse standing together than a super fancy shot with you wearing every other brand than ours. (Of course a super fancy shot with you and/or your horse wearing our brand is always welcome! :)
6. DO only contact brands that you really feel you can promote. Ambassadorship is not just about a company giving you things and you riding in them at your barn. Usually companies have Professional Level riders that they rely on to simply showcase their items. While visibility at your barn is important, it's just a tiny part of what you can do. We view our Ambassadors as our warriors - the ones who actually have the time to talk to people, explain the technologies and give them up close demonstrations of why they love our items. It's also about directing friends to our site, telling them which stores stock us and letting trainers know about any special offers we may tell you about. Don't forget to visit local tack stores, checking if they are stocking and asking if they know about the line if they don't have it on their shelves.
7. DON'T try to be an Ambassador for a whole bunch of conflicting brands. Sure its great for you if you can get five different saddle pads, ten pairs of boots and multiple items but it dilutes the message if every day you are promoting a different brand. It doesn't come across as authentic if one day you are telling people to buy a non-neoprene girth and the next day taking a selfie with your horse wearing a neoprene girth from another brand. As an Ambassador you need to pick and choose what's important to you and stick with what you believe in. Even Olympic level riders have to make choices and remain loyal to products they can stand behind.
8. DON'T think your job ends when you receive your Ambassador Packet. Every year we get applicants who sound really great but once we send them their items they disappear only to rear their head a year later asking if they can get more stuff from us. Let us put it plainly. THIS DOES NOT WORK FOR ANY COMPANY. Sponsorship is a two way street....we wouldn't send you an empty box and expect you to be our Ambassador - please don't sell us on empty promises of what you're committing to. If you don't think you have the time, energy or will to really get out there, then please don't apply.
9. DO Keep in touch. Our best ambassadors are the ones who regularly reach out to us, send us leads to their local tack store, refer customers to us and let us know their names, tell us what's happening in their local areas and send us suggestions for events we might want to get involved in. We love to hear from you, so don't be a stranger!
10. DON'T forget that to be an Ambassador is to represent the brands you are promoting. Any time you are chosen to represent a company they are relying on you to inspire and encourage other riders around you and be a positive force, so remember to keep smiling and always have time for younger riders who look up to you and want to know all about what you're doing.
So there you have it. If after reading all of this, you think you are still up for the challenge, then it's time to make a shortlist of the companies you want to represent, get researching and prepare to reach out to them. Being an Ambassador is a great way to get a glimpse of what it takes to be a Professional Level rider with Sponsors and business skills so its the perfect place to get started. It's also a good avenue to get your name out there and help you to stand out from the crowd. Good luck on your search everyone!!!
About our own Programs
Our Professional Sponsored Rider Programs are open all year. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
For all other level riders, we conduct our Ambassador Search every October and announce on Social Media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter usually.) The application period is usually open for three-four weeks and we post a few reminders during that time. IF YOU ARE ACTIVELY FOLLOWING US YOU WILL NOT MISS IT. We assess all our applicants in November/December then announce the successful applicants at the beginning of the following year. Ambassador packets usually go out in January/February so that our Ambassadors are ready for the upcoming season. Ambassadorships last for a year at a time, but we have many Ambassadors who have been with us for 4 or 5 years as they are awesome and we just invite them back every year. If you missed the open application period, it's a great idea to start following, liking and commenting on our social media posts and tagging your own images. That way we'll already be aware of you when you apply this October and you will have a leg up on the competition!
The Majyk Equipe Team