Gaining Funding

The Art of Gaining Funding in a Wiser Way

In a previous blog, we introduced the principle of spending your funds wisely to achieve greater efficiency and build a legacy for more sailors to build on.

In this blog, we introduce you to some of the principles of gaining funding more wisely.

Good funding is necessary in sailing to be able to reach world class. And, in some countries, even to enter the national elite. When the base funding from family, friends, sailing club and the sailors part time jobs begin to limit further progress, the common thinking is: I need a sponsor.

Fortunately, many sailors around the world succeed to some degree in finding a sponsor. More often than not, the success is a result of ‘someone knowing somebody’ and a large portion of luck and networking is involved.

What if the element of luck could be reduced and the probability of success be increased?

Seen from the point of view of the sponsor, the main reason to sponsor is very often connected to ‘doing somebody a favour’ or ‘supporting a good cause’. Seldom we see a business approach in these sponsorships, not to even speak about the sponsor ‘getting more value back than invested’.
What if a sailor could support the sponsor in having a positive return money-wise on the sponsorship?

Let’s begin with a definition. We divide funding in 2 groups:

  1. Donations – money given with no intention of a positive return on the investment.
    This is the most common way of ‘sponsoring’ (+98%) all around the world.
  2. Sponsorships – money invested with a clear plan of a positive return on the investment.
    Very few sponsorships in sailing fall in this category.

Individual sailors, sailing clubs, regional teams, federations and national teams can be targets for donations and sponsorships. They all have their differences and advantages seen from a donor/sponsor point of view. But all of the following always applies.

Donations are wonderful! How can you become more successful in gaining donations?
First of all you must understand the reason for the donor to donate. If it is ‘to support a good cause’, then time and effort must be spent to give feedback (and proof) to the donor how the donation has actively supported the good cause. This is very, very often forgotten. Improve your talent in giving feedback (and proof) to the donor, and the chance of prolonging your relation with the donor increases. Sometimes donors recommend to other donors what ‘causes’ are good to fund, and if they feel good about your cause, then you might get ‘lucky’.

Sponsorships are more challenging – but can be mutually very prosperous!
How can you become more successful in selling a sponsorship?

You need to understand the needs of a company sponsor! This rarely happens in sailing as well as many other sports.
The first mistake made is when the sponsor company is offered a company logo in the sail as the main ‘payback’ for the sponsorship!
Why? What needs of the company does this logo relate to? How does it ‘pay back’?
The response from sailing to these questions are typically: I will help the company become better known!
This is the second big mistake. Why?

  1. The company is usually already known.
    If not, the company should turn to other sports with much higher public attention and media coverage than sailing. Sailing has no media coverage compared to other sports. The logo in the sail will be watched by no-one. The cost of the logo sticker itself is probably much higher than the value it creates (and it wrinkles your sail).
  2. Being more known as a company does not automatically bring more sales.

The sponsorship should instead focus on a relation between you and the company sponsor. The purpose of the relation should be ‘to help each other improve’. Why?

Sailing is one of the 3 best sponsoring platforms in the world for sponsoring companies when it comes to:

  • Improving customer relations with existing business customers (not consumer customers).
  • Retaining the company’s business customers.

There are many reasons why this is profitable for a sponsoring company. Let us just mention 2 reasons that have a direct impact on sales and profit:

  1. Increasing market share with existing customers and
  2. Preventing losing market share with existing customers.

In sailing we can offer a lot of opportunities for companies to improve their relations with business customers. Sailing is an intelligent sport dominated by successful teams who rely on ‘making every member of the team better’. And in sailing we can take our sponsors and their clients on to the stage. We can invite them on the water, we can make them experience and feel what team work on a boat is, and what the consequences are when jointly adapting to the surrounding weather and water systems that are not controllable – just like in business. The atmosphere in and around sailing is such a better platform for involving the sponsor and its clients. Involvement is key in making sponsoring work successfully.

When you achieve to support your company sponsor to have a positive return on its investment, then you get in a league for yourself, where you will find it easier to retain your sponsor – and to build a pipeline of new potential sponsors.

We have experiences with real sponsorships where, for example, a single activity created a return higher than the total cost of 4 years of continuous sponsoring. Hence, one of the secrets is to focus on a company’s existing business relations, that are possible to measure, rather than flimsy talk about effects of becoming more known via logo advertising that no one will ever see.

To identify, develop and negotiate real sponsorships in sailing is a competence that only very few people know how to do. You will usually not find these competences in Marketing Agencies, Sponsor Consultancies etc. as they tend to focus on the sports where media coverage is given.
We offer to support you in identifying potential sponsors, including which of their clients to be targeted with specific activities. This will position you as a competent sponsor partner and differentiate you from all the other sports out there, that are hoping to get lucky with their funding.

In Toplevel Sailing we aim at more than Toplevel coaching. We want to support you in spending your budget more wisely and actively support you to gain more budget.

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