Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Rant: Sponsorships

Wu and Todd and I went for a nice ride this morning and among the varied subjects that came up was sponsorship - we've both gotten some hilarious sponsorship proposals due to the fact that we own (incredibly small) bike companies.

So, here's my rant.

-Sponsorships are about selling bikes. You might be pretty fast, you might think you're pretty cool, but can you sell bikes? Do you go to a race, get on the podium, and go straight home, in order to rest so that you can train more? If so, you might be a good rider to sponsor - in about a decade, assuming you start winning World Cups or something where someone other than your bros will notice what bike you're riding. On the other hand, if you're a lady who is SLOW AS DIRT who is at the trail building day, has a cool and interesting blog or website, hangs out with all the other racers at the BBQ, can and will put down a cold one if it's handed to you at the top of Kebler, and stick around after your race is over to cheer for the juniors and talk to their parents - you might actually sell a bike. Speed is frosting on the cake, but honestly, fast people are a dime a dozen. Bike racers tend to be pretty one-dimensional - your job is to be the one that stands out even if you're not winning the race.

-Figure out if you actually want to represent a product before you ask for it. I've been sponsored by a ton of companies in the past (and, um, zero now) and I honestly can't even remember what products I used or whether I even ever tried to promote their stuff. I know (because I was one) the neo-pros are mostly just looking for free schwag - from *anyone* - your job if you're looking for a sponsorship is to convince me that you actually like my company. Form letters are NOT a good way to do this!

-Don't ask for the moon. I can't and won't pay all your entry fees or buy you plane tickets. If you deserved those things, you'd already have been offered them by a company orders of magnitude bigger than mine.

-Remember that every 19 year old with a mountain bike (including yours truly) has dreamed of being world champion. You probably won't be. Racing is a blast, but if you let it become your only focus in life, you'll be sorry when you're 35 and turning a wrench so you can pay your share of the rent.

-Be nice. I see "pros" yell at hikers, cut the trail, refuse to yield to other riders, poach illegal stuff in full view of the general public, and generally act like spoiled children. Remember, if your job is to sell bikes, that 45 year old out for his only bike ride of the week, who just had to jump into the bushes to dodge you, is now a lost sale. Stop and say hi on the trail. Yield. Tell the fat lady how cute her hideous pug is. Pick up Gu wrappers. Smile all the time. There are plenty of places far from the madding crowd where you can get your shred on. Marshall Mesa isn't one of them.

I often offer this deal to people seeking a sponsorship: Pay me full price, up front, for a custom frame. For every person who you refer that orders a bike, I'll give you $100 back. Not one person has ever taken me up on it - which I think speaks volumes about the mindset of many "sponsored" riders.

Bonus points for anyone who can 'splain how the image at the top is relevant here. Edit: James figured it out in like 45 seconds. It the Casa Sanchez logo.

29 comments:

Ez said...

I take little kids mountain biking, does that count?

And I sorta, kinda, like riding your bikes. Speaking of, could I get waitlisted for a new one?

James Swanson said...

Hey, I know that picture at the top! I live 2 blocks from Casa Sanchez!!! Weird, I didn't think San Francisco taquerias were famous in Boulder, but I guess the story was weird enough to travel: get a tattoo of the logo and get free tacos for life. Maybe you guys should talk Illegal Pete's into the same sort of deal...

Walt said...

Damn James! That was fast!

Nice work. Gold star.

Cellarrat said...

spot on!

Dave said...

Now that was a good rant on so many levels. First, I don't think people "get" that while cycling may seem like it has big-time $, it is, to quote the eloquent former Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf, "a fart in the wind."

Second, the fictional portrait of the lady you made was a great example of what truly being part of the cycling community is about.

And last, the etiquette. I don't get this. Some people either are self-absorbed jerks all the time, or become one when on their bikes.

steveo said...

Speaking of sponsorships, etc., it appears that the Alchemist is out of WW Team Jerseys. When mine didn't fit, I gave it to a friend in Virginia, who wears it proudly. Now that I've sleeked down I need one too. Will they be available for xmas?

Eric Wever said...

Walt,
I think you owe me some $100's.
Eric

Meriwether said...

Oh man...AMEN! That was classic. Thanks for that rant. You should make a multiple choice 'test' for people applying for sponsorship from you and post a link to it on your website...save you some time and you could report back on what grade they got...

CB2 said...

So if I get a Waltworks tattoo will I get free Waltworks for life?

Adam said...

Yeah trail etiquette! I'm all about it.

Marcus said...

Yo dawg, you owe me $100.

Joey B said...

I think everyone who orders a WW frame should get a free WW T-shirt. Thats just good marketing on your end.

JKersting said...

I wear my WW T-Shirts putzing around the races and don my WW team jersey when turning the cranks. Lots of folks ask me about the company and my bike. I feel like I'm your east coast rep. I've been trying to convince my dentist to get a frame from you. Selling bikes is tough work! I would definitely build in the cost of a T-shirt with each frame purchase. Perceived free-bees help seal the deal.

Ez said...

Teeshirts or socks! The socks are rad!

Hassan said...

Yeah. I lost one of em, and the only other one that compares has snowflakes on it.

Anonymous said...

Oops! Nevermind! I never asked for a sponsorship.... :)

Dan O said...

Well said. Great post.

Jeff Kerkove said...

Exactly!

Jason said...

Great post!

Shawn said...

Well said! I appreciate the few sponsors I have, and am always worried I am not doing enough for them.

ssportsman said...

Well put Walt!...

amazing how similar potential sponsor advice is across different sports...

http://www.freeskier.com/stories/how-get-sponsored-ski-team-managers-explain-dos-and-donts


cheers

scott

ChristineCLP said...

I had a good time reading this one - thanks for the witty reflections on a rainy day in the Adirondacks!!

Macky Franklin said...

I'm glad to hear from someone who gives out sponsorships what they are looking for. I have always assumed those were the most important things, but had never heard someone come out and say it.
One of my biggest pet peeves is watching my fellow Pro racers finish the race, escape to their hotel rooms, return for the podium, then disappear again. And I understand how tiring it is to race that hard. Instead, maybe sit down at your team trailer and talk to people who come by. So much for building the mtb community, huh?

Walt said...

Hey Macky! Nice job on the Super-D podium at Nats!

Wow, this is a ton of comments. Crazy. Coincidentally, it was the 1000th post, too. Unfortunately, I can't promise anything else I write will be even vaguely as interesting...

Mark @ GRAVELBIKE said...

Bravo. Truer words were never spoken (typed). Especially the Marshall Mesa reference.

Michael Seeberg said...

Walt, that was fantastic!

You got me on my own rant, it's too long for this blog, I posted it on Face Book in Front Range Cyclist's post about your blog entry.

Anonymous said...

Basically you want affiliate sales people who may not ever get on a bike but drink with people and play video games and can give you referrals. It is all about *you* making money, not about biking is my take away on this.

Higher a good sales person and it will go a lot further than trying to make a 19 yr old mtn biker into a world famous sales person.

dicky said...

Yes, Walt...

higher someone and if it doesn't work out you can always figher them later.

Walt said...

Dicky -

I was too polite to say it. That spelling was digher!