The fast approach of winter at the time of this writing means the professional skiing season is just about here. Pro skiers are already heading to some of the most challenging mountains in the world to compete for top honors in a sport that can be as dangerous as it is lucrative. If you follow pro skiing, you know that sponsorships are a big part of what keeps it alive.
Sponsorships explain why your favorite skier is wearing sunglasses you have never heard of. It explains how young athletes with no reliable means of income can devote themselves to year-round training and competition without starving to death. Sponsorships support everything from Alpine skiing to surfing and motocross.
So what’s the big deal about sponsorships? More importantly, who benefits from them? Keep reading to find out. Suffice it to say that there is a very good reason the company behind the sunglasses your favorite skier wears is willing to enter a potentially expensive sponsorship agreement.
Athletes Are Heroes
Sports is big business around the world. But its success is rooted in one simple fact: athletes are heroes. Think about yourself and your own relationship with the athletes you follow. Don’t you wish, at least every now and again, that you were capable of the same spectacular feats they make look so easy? Of course you do.
Anyone who has ever put on a pair of skis has dreamed about racing down the side of a mountain in pursuit of Olympic gold. Every father who has tossed a football with his son secretly wishes he could be the star quarterback on a Super Bowl team. The fact is that we idolize our favorite athletes. That also means we tend to copy them. Therein lies the secret of sponsorships.
Selling with Sponsorships
Olympic Eyewear is a Salt Lake City, Utah company that designs and distributes more than two dozen brands of designer sunglasses. They cater to a very particular market: retailers whose customers are not likely to spend hundreds of dollars on high-end brands. Olympic’s brands compete directly with more recognized brands from Luxottica.
Olympic’s biggest challenge is one of overcoming the name recognition Luxottica brands enjoy. And they aren’t alone. Every independent designer that isn’t part of the Luxottica group has to compete against them without having the same name recognition. It can be a losing battle if you don’t know what you’re doing. But that’s where sponsorships become quite valuable.
A smaller company willing to sponsor an athlete for just one season can end up selling quite a bit of product. The key is finding athletes likely to generate a lot of buzz. So companies look for young and up-and-coming athletes that look like they are poised to create a splash in their given sports. They offer those athletes sponsorships.
Looking at sponsorships from a purely business standpoint indicates that everybody wins. The sponsor wins inasmuch as the athletes they sponsor become the faces and voices of their products. Every event becomes a marketing event. Athletes benefit from receiving a regular income. They don’t have to try to maintain a full-time job while also competing.
Believe it or not, the very sports that allow sponsorships benefit as well. Some of those sports would not survive at a professional level if it were not for sponsorships.
Now you know why your favorite skier is wearing a pair of sunglasses you’ve never heard of. He is being sponsored by a company willing to support his endeavors in exchange for marketing. If they both do their jobs, both will be winners.