How To Get Sponsored In Airsoft
A question we get asked a lot is “Do you offer airsoft sponsorships?” or “How do I get sponsored in airsoft?” This is every airsoft players dream, to get free gear and play all the time for nothing. Everyone thinks that the airsoft celebrities have it easy, and that with your playing skills everyone will be tripping over themselves to have you represent them. This could not be any farther from the truth. Getting a airsoft sponsorship requires hard work, dedication and professionalism. Read on for more information on how to get sponsored in airsoft.
1. Understand What A Sponsorship Is
So you just play really good and the companies send you free gear, right? Not even close. Sponsorship is a marketing tool used by companies to promote their products. The sponsorship is a business relationship between the company and the player, in which you receive free or discounted goods and services, and the company gets their products or services actively advertised. Professionalism and courtesy go a long way.
2. Be Realistic About Your Team and Your Needs/ Expectations
Other than airsoft brand ambassadors, if your team just formed and you haven’t even played any tournaments or events yet, then a company has no incentive to help you out. Sponsorships cost a lot of time and money while airsoft teams come and go. If you only plan to do a few events a year, then you are not a good investment as the company’s exposure is minimal. Expect to play (and pay) for your first year minimum as an active team, and fit in as many events as possible. There is no set amount of events you have to play, but a company has little reason to sponsor a team that does less than a few major events and/or smaller local/ regional ones. The more you play, the better; you have to prove that your team is solid, dedicated, and in it to win it.
3. Build Your Team’s Portfolio
Every major airsoft manufacturer and retailer receives emails every day like this… “Hello, we are _____________ from _____________. We play in local events and want to be more active. Would you like to sponsor us? We need anything you can help us out with. Thank You”… and that’s it. No other info. I guarantee you that this got deleted immediately.
Remember how we said that getting sponsored is a business relationship? When you are requesting sponsorship then you need to act and present your team as if you were applying for a job, because that is exactly what you are doing. You go to work (promoting the company’s products and services) and they pay you for it (discounted or free goods and services). It’s time to build your team’s resume.
You need a solid web presence outside of the usual social media that internet search engines will rank and index. This is not to say that social media is not important… it most certainly is!… but you need a web home independent of it. When you type your team name into Google, it needs to be at the top of the search. If it isn’t, you need to get it there. If a company you want to sponsor you can’t find you easily, then the people they want their logos and gear in front of cannot, either.
The team website needs to present your team, its accomplishments, and its goals in a clear and professional manner. At the bare minimum it needs:
– A wide angle picture of your team on the home page, dressed to play in clean, all matching gear with your team name/ logo banner. What, you don’t have a banner? Go get it made before you take the photo. Get everyone on the same page apparel-wise for it. That means all matching color and design apparel, same pants, and preferably same hats or headbands. If everyone is dressed like they are doing their own thing, then that tells a company that members might not wear what they give them.
– A page with individual team member bios. Have two pictures of each player, one in the clean, ready to play look of the wide angle shot, and an in-game action shot. This gives a potential sponsor a professional-looking glimpse of each person on and off the field. A little blurb about each player’s personal life (their job, other hobbies, past accomplishments in life) adds a personal touch and let them know you are family as much as teammates. Mention what position they play and the strengths they bring to the table.
– A complete list of all events played as a team, and how you placed. Prove that you get out and play as much as you can. A little blurb about your strengths and weaknesses at each event can be helpful. It tells a potential sponsor that you recognize where you do well and where you struggle, and that you are committed to improving at each event.
– A page of in-game action shots. Get someone who can take and retouch professional-quality pictures with good equipment, so the company can visualize how good you will look in their gear.
– A page listing all sponsors. Even if you don’t have any yet, make this page. List all sponsors, their logos, a bit about why you love their equipment and what it does for you, and a link to their website. If it is a retailer or other service, then mention how you are grateful for their support, how awesome they are, but don’t mention the specifics of what they give you. Make sure a “Would You Like To Sponsor Us?” link is plainly visible. Have it link to a team email with a professional sounding title.
– A page listing and showing your team activities outside of airsoft. More on this later
Get active in social media as well. We are very active. You should be too. Designate one person to be your official spokesperson, and one or two more as back-up. Create a Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Facebook Groups, Google+, and other current social media pages, and an official team profile on various popular web forums. Try to keep current by logging in and posting a few times a week, and encourage as much linking to your social media and regular webpages as much as possible.
4. Start Local
Once your team has a solid foundation of core members, a website and a mission, it’s time to get your name out there. The first place to go looking is where you plan to practice. Talk to your local airsoft field about setting up a mutually beneficial arrangement for discount/ free private field time and possible discounts. In return for this, you offer to help with operations, tournaments and events, and actively promoting the field. Do the same with your favorite airsoft store as well, because many entry level sponsorship programs require a retail store as an intermediary or “middle man” in the deal.
Don’t just walk in and start asking for sponsorship; be prepared and ready as if going in for a job interview. Schedule a formal sit-down meeting, and be dressed professional for it. Have your team’s portfolio ready; a clean and concise folder with your team’s information, color photos, your goals and accomplishments, and what you can offer. Don’t ask for the moon when soliciting for local sponsorship; in fact, don’t even begin the conversation talking about your needs. The typical field or store is not made of money and have no shortage of players wanting free or cheap stuff. Find out what the owner needs, and negotiate from there. “We’ll buy all our stuff from you” is NOT a good bargaining chip, as they hear this all the time. What they need is help in physical labor and marketing.
Once you have your foot in the door, the entire team needs to be on board to fulfill your end of the agreement. If your deal includes helping with field and store operations, then get there early and be some of the last to leave. Don’t do the minimum; under promise and over deliver. Be ready to offer help at all times, clean up the staging area or windows without being asked, and help out the new players so they have a great and enjoyable experience. Don’t use the newbies for target practice; nothing is worse for a field than the local sponsored team taking advantage of first timers for fun. Go play more experienced players, or use a springer pistol and play. If the staff needs more bodies on the field. Let the new players try out your high-end airsoft gun; be an ambassador for the sport.
Get a team rubber stamp made. Ask for field and store business cards, coupons and brochures, and put your team stamp on them. Anytime you talk to someone about airsoft, hand them one of these and tell them to give it to the store or field when they visit. This lets the field or store owner physically see the benefits they are receiving from sponsoring you.
5. Soliciting Manufacturer and National Retailer Sponsors
After you get local sponsors and have a secure relationship then you should start reaching out to other companies in the industry. Manufacturers more than anything want their goods and services represented at the local level, so showing them a strong presence in your area is the first thing they look for. Keep in mind that airsoft companies receive sponsorship requests everyday so find something that sets you apart from the rest. They don’t want to hear how long individuals have been playing or how awesome you think you are; they want to know what gets you noticed and, in turn, their gear and services noticed as well. You need to offer more than simply their logo on your banner and jersey. Be prepared to show them how you will represent them and their products, in your locale and beyond. Demonstrate your consistency and dedication.
If you want to send out your team resume to twenty different companies then go for it, but make sure you send twenty individual emails! Don’t send one resume to twenty CC’d company email addresses. Do be selective about who you solicit, as you need to take your relationship seriously if chosen. In other words, if you are not a big fan or uncertain about a particular brand then don’t apply for that sponsorship. Accepting and then hating or misrepresenting their goods and services doesn’t help either, and your reputation has more to lose.
6. Do Team Activities Outside Of Airsoft
Do team activities outside of practice and playing. This can be competitive activities like bowling, silly like miniature golf, or just going to the movies and public events. Why should you do this? For starters, it’s good for team spirit and camaraderie. Constant practice and tournaments can grind on everyone’s nerves, so mix in activities where you all can have fun and goof off together as well. Wear your team t-shirts, hats, or clean custom jerseys when doing so. Have your local field and store’s business cards/ brochures/ coupons (with your rubber stamp mark on the back!) and give them out to anyone asking about your group and what you are wearing.
Make sure you get pictures of everyone in their team gear interacting with the public, and post these on your website and include in your portfolio. This tells your current and potential sponsors that their investment goes beyond the airsoft field. It shows that your team is not just players but ambassadors for the game and you work to promote and put their logo out in public while actively growing the sport. Send your sponsors an email or letter with these pictures, so they know you are aggressive in your promotion.
7. Be Serious With Your Sponsorship
When a sponsor steps up and works with you, you need to take it seriously! If Company X is sponsoring you for equipment then don’t let any member of the team show up in Company Y’s gear! Add your sponsor’s logo to your team’s banners, put up their banners in your staging area (don’t forget to get a picture!), and get their stickers on your gear. Have their catalogs, brochures and stickers to hand out. When you win, grab that microphone or bullhorn and announce your appreciation to all your sponsors. In short, make sure everyone at the event knows what gear you use!
Remember that when you are wearing their logo you are representing that company, that store, that field. Your words and actions are as much theirs as they are yours. If you cheat, talk smack, fight or disparage the airsoft community then it is also a reflection of your sponsors. Always keep that in mind in every interaction you do as a team and as individuals, no matter if it is in person, at an event, on web forums, or social media. The airsoft world is a small world. If you act like a jerk this will get back to your sponsors, and your relationship may get adjusted or even terminated!
Those are the basics to getting and keeping a airsoft sponsorship. Remember to keep playing hard, be good sports, and encourage others to play airsoft. Practice at being good ambassadors of both the game and your sponsor’s goods and services, and you will be rewarded!