October 17, 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.