No Deal

Today, I received an email from a potential sport sponsor.  They invited me to be an “Ambassador.”  For that title all I had to do was purchase their gear at a discount of 35%.  I said no.  I like their gear.  I use it. But, I’m not going to market it for them at a cost to me.

The sport industry on the US is big. Annually, the 2019 estimate is for a gross of $73.5 billion US dollars. (1).  That’s a lot of money.  The company that contacted me has annual gross sales of $8.1 million US dollars. Let me be clear, I use their products everyday, but I won’t essentially pay to work for them.  Their employees earn an average of $54,000 per year. Their mid-level managers are earning around $81,000 per year.  So, why did they contact me?

Their “Ambassador” program, like those “Pro” staff programs are marketing and sales tools designed to generate growth by identifying athletes that have some merit who might help the company gain recognition in a specific market. Perhaps, the company that contacted me has seen that one of the largest markets in sport is people over 50 years of age.  In fact, it is a growing market. (2)

Archery is also growing at a rate decent rate. One report suggests archery is growing globally at 7.19%. (3) In the US the archery market grosses around $535 million US dollars per year. (4)

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to freely give my time and money to companies, even those I like, unless there’s a return.  In any arrangement, unless there’s benefit and detriment to both parties, there’s no deal as far as I’m concerned.  A 35% discount is not enough of a detriment on the company’s part or benefit to me to create a deal.

In archery, the overall largest segment of competitive athletes is those over 50 years old. (5) I’m glad to see that perhaps one company has identified that segment of a large industry.  If, indeed, it was my age that contributed to the company’s marketing contact. No matter the case, there’s no deal.

References:

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2015/10/19/sports-industry-to-reach-73-5-billion-by-2019/#42a47ac51b4b
  2. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/05/art2full.pdf
  3. https://www.reportlinker.com/p03664240/Global-Archery-Equipment-Market.html
  4. https://archerytrade.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/understandingtheindustry.pdf
  5. hitting-the-bullseye-reel-girl-archers-inspire-real-girl-archers-full

 

 

The Pro/Staff Sponsorship Facade

If you’ve read this website for long you may remember there was once a page for sponsors.  I took it down.  Before I removed it I politely said good-bye to those companies that had once supported me.  They were all good companies and I used their products.  But, overtime I became tired of their game. The products on this site, now, are mine.

The sponsorship game was essentially this:  I promoted their gear, I got a discount, I submitted quarterly updates, if the company had a booth at a tournament where I attended I was expected help at the booth, I’d only use the company’s gear, and I’d pay for the gear out of my pocket. There would be a discount on my purchase of 25% to 70% depending on the company.  To be fair one company never charged me for their products.  Nevertheless, I parted ways with them, too. Two of the companies were carry over sponsors form cycling and triathlon (those were the ones with the big discount and free goods.)

The whole archery deal felt off to me. Actually, the whole deal is a marketing program where those sports companies use amateur athletes to help promote their products.  I understand, I was in business most of my working life.

During that time of my life, before I retired, I did all sorts of business activities including product development, marketing, and was Vice President of Marketing.  I was also an Executive VP & Chief Medical Officer, and VP of Compliance and Regulatory Affairs.  I wore all sorts of hats.

I, too, ran marketing programs aimed at promoting my products.  One thing I always did was paid attention to the folks helping me with their expertise.  In my area the expertise wasn’t 100% an athletic skill it was mostly brain skills. Essentially, the academic/clinical environment was where my work and products were placed – for the most part.

There was a segment of my work that dealt with sports.  There I worked with professional and amateur athletes.  That work ranged from professional football players, track and field athletes (pro & am), triathletes, cyclist, runners, and event mountain climbers.  One of our key athletes was Jerry Rice who you may remember wearing a “Breathe Right” Nasal Strip.  Our segment of that market was medical but it was still cool to see Jerry Rice making amazing catches while wearing the “Breathe Right” Nasal Strip.  We even had a nearly life sized cardboard ‘standee’ of him in our boardroom.

With both venues, the brains and the brawn, one key function of our marketing department was to stay close to these thought leaders and athletes.  As a result we built a community or network of individuals that benefitted from our support and we benefitted from their support. The goal, of course, was to benefit people. I can honestly say we succeeded.  There are people alive today that might not be had it not been but for the work we all did.

Furthermore, that combined group had crossovers, brainy people can be athletes and athletes are smart, and those people worked together on projects.  It was a pulmonologist that inspired me to become a triathlete, Dr. Nick Hill a tremendous athlete. One of the toughest cyclists I ever trained with is an anesthesiologist, Dr. Chuck Law. Another close friend, a World Championship level cyclist, later became a toxicologist earning his degree from the Medical College of Georgia, Dr. Howard Taylor. These are just a few examples that come immediately to mind as I type this post.

Sometimes our company supported a project for the scientists or athletes and other times we did not.  Those times we didn’t provide support, financial or equipment, we did provide our help, if only to bounce ideas around, when it was needed even if the project held nothing for our benefit beyond the friendships we developed.  Years after retiring (We sold the company, I took my piece of the pie and called it quits.) that network still functions as a social group where ideas are exchanged.

The sponsorship or “Pro-Staff” arrangements I’ve been associated with thus far in archery have been extremely one sided.  There does not seem to be a commitment on the part of sport industry to create long-term associations with athletes beyond the young and the few. Personally, I could care less which bow a 17 year old is shooting.  Odds are that 17 year will be putting his or her bow down during their freshmen year of college.  A very few will continue with their advancement in the sport.

If you are fortunate enough and good enough that you are at a minimum getting free gear in return for donning that factory archery shirt good for you. If you paid for the shirt and get a 25% discount on products that has a  70% margin – well that’s your choice. If you see me wearing a company logo, you can bet that the arrangement has both benefit and detriment for both sides. That and I believe their gear helps me perform better.

Oh, Nike, My Nike!

On this very site there was once a page dedicated to my “sponsors.” I liked and used their products. For several years I kept in touch with them, sent the required quarterly updates, had links from my website to their website. Some provided a small discount to me when I bought from them. A couple even gave me stuff at no cost other than using their products.  Over time I decided to drop my sponsors.  I got tired of putting together all those reports, emailing them, and then following up to see if my report had been received.  I supposed the marketing folks at those former sponsor companies had bigger fish to fry.

Nike!  If you want a great sponsor don’t even consider Nike.  They’re a great sponsor.  Nike isn’t interested in your request for sponsorship.  If you are good enough, they’ll find you. In cycling, decades ago, Nike was one of my sponsors. Nike probably had no idea I was one of their athletes.

I got free Nike apparel because I raced bicycles for Trek.  I had a contract to represent Trek as a member of their “Mid-Atlantic Factory Team.”

A lot of my “stuff” is still in the original packaging

Trek gave me all manner of free stuff including bicycles, bicycle parts and racing kits.  Those kits were adorned with the Nike swoosh. One of those free bicycles was the equivalent of getting seven top end Mathews or Hoyt compound target bows a year.  It beats the heck out of a 25% discount on a dozen arrows or bowstring. To make matters better I never had to send in a personalized summary of my races. Someone knew and kept track.

Never been opened. (Most of my Trek kits have been well used and are still in use.)

A Nike sponsorship would be nice.  I need new running shoes.  This year I’ve run through four pairs of running shoes.  The last pair on hand is disintegrating with every mile.  I have a race tomorrow and am hoping the shoes don’t fall apart during the run. If they do, it won’t be Nike’s fault.

Running shoes aren’t so expensive that a new pair will break the bank.  A new pair is around $134.00.  Call me cheap, but I hate buying new running shoes.

Nike never provided me with running shoes.  My loose connection with Nike didn’t go past the free kits from Trek.  Once, a representative from Nike did give me a free pair of Nike bicycle racing shoes.  I think he just wanted to get rid of them and they happened to be my size. I still have them – I can’t run a step wearing them.

When it comes to sponsors I miss the free stuff.  Buying new running shoes or a new bowstring pains me.  It is also a pain to pay entry fees and travel expenses.  There was a time those costs didn’t come out of my wallet either. But, for the most part we athletes have to pay to play. I suppose I’ll have to bite the bullet and fork out the cash, again, for a new pair of running shoes.  Then, I’ll need to do the same for arrows and a bowstring.

A Full Price Man

And the form read:

“By completing and signing this form, I acknowledge that I am a sponsored shooter of a local archery pro shop/store or that I am a sponsored shooter of an archery manufacturer.” Well, that won’t work for me.

There are a lot of archers that I compete with who have layers of manufacturers’ support.  Just the other day a buddy of mine posted on Facebook that he is a factory sponsored archer. The company he now represents gave him a shinny new bow.  He’s free to fill out all sorts of forms to gain additional discounts on equipment.

Once, I asked a bow shop if I could be one of their shooters.  There was a meeting, we talked, hands were shaken, backs slapped and compliments exchanged.  The shop owner agreed to make me one of his bow shop sponsored athletes.  A fancy bowling shirt with my name displayed was practically in the mail. In return I promoted the shop, sung the owner praises, and wrote about his glory.

Aside from that one meeting I never heard another word from that shop unless I happened to be there with money to spend.  The fancy shirt never materialized. I suppose one needs to be truly an elite archer to don the shirt of glory and marketing. Apparently, the top shop, its heroic owner and the associated bow company providing equipment  had second thoughts about yours truly.

Sure, I’ve played the gather a sponsor game and even collected a few.  They never amounted to anything real so I thanked them all and said goodbye.

I am now discount free, I’m a full price man. Thankfully, archery is a whole lot less expensive than triathlon or cycling.

Sponsorships are nice when they’re real.  It is great to feel like you’re part of something.  Of course, you’re willing to contribute, but before you sign any dotted line, make certain the benefit and detriment are mutual.  Otherwise, you really are just another customer.

Having to Make a Sports Deal

Getting involved with archery manufacturers is tough on my ego. I hate asking for support. Each year I swear it will be the last time I approach any company with my hand out. Each year I still approach companies with my hand out.

In sports, hunting sponsors seems to be part of the game. As athletes improve the sports sponsorship deals become better. To initiate the sponsorship process the athlete has to make the preliminary contact most of the time. Big companies like Nike don’t accept requests for help; they have scouts that contact top athletes. Archery manufacturers may have scouts, I wouldn’t know for certain. A fellow, at a 3D tournament, told me he’d been scouted and recruited by Mathews and was a member of their ProStaff. He was wearing, as proof, one of those flamboyant shirts that simultaneously announced Mathews while expanding his head.

Maybe that archer was as he claimed a member of the Mathews professional elite factory team. Supporting evidence, that is from an independent source (like the Mathews webpage) seemed inconclusive at best. Certainly the archer could have been a local archery shop’s premier selection whereby he adorned, for the local shop, a Mathews jersey while he pranced around local 3D competitions. (For paranoid readers in North Carolina: This archer and the recounted events here occurred outside the Tar Heel State) The strutting archer, in my humble opinion, wasn’t a top choice for product representation or placement.

Once, I tried to persuade an archery shop to help me become associated with a bow manufacturer so that I too might wear one of those colorful banner shirts. The owner promised help, all I needed to do was drive to his shop for his sagely advice and direction. He’d even assured me my efforts would be rewarded with the prized apparel. Among the advantages of being under his wing included substantial discounts on all supplies he sold.

In preparation for our in person meeting I sent, as requested, resume and results. Where after my arrival there followed serious conversation, acceptances and wringing handshakes. Before departure the complimentary proprietor tried, unsuccessfully, to sell me a new much improved bow. I did depart with a new 3D target and supplemental attachment for my old inferior bow, both conveyed at full price. Nevertheless, I’d offered my hand and remained true to my word accepting his shop for promotional placement on my website for the term of one-year.

Over that year a different archery shop approached me to see if I’d be interested in becoming one of their sponsored shooters. Sadly, and perhaps foolishly, I declined the offer based on the value of the prior handshake contract, which in hindsight seems to have been unilateral.

Today, I bumped a sponsor from my website. I liked their products and used them. They approached me to become a member of their staff. Until that contact, I’d never heard of the company. We signed a deal. Nevertheless, that company no longer has my attention. The notice is most likely mutual.

Their initial representative seemed like a smart fellow and understood marketing. As he grew within his organization a variety of product managers rolled into and out of his earlier vacated job. It reached a point where I simply did not know who was my contact and eventually the company become to me more worry that worth.

In that ex-sponsor’s spot I’ll be soon announce a new agreement and arrangement. Again, it will be a company that I sought, with reason – I use their products.

We’ve signed a deal and I’ll get a discount when I need more of their goods. I don’t currently need any of their wares; I am fully stocked via previous retail acquisition. My reasons for seeking them out: 1) They seemed like nice people, 2) I use their products, and 3) the company is based in my home state of Georgia.

For me getting sponsorship is less about money, shirts, or ego. It has to do with getting to understand the business of archery. Occasionally, I learn a bit about the organization that sponsors me. As such I expand my knowledge about the sport and athletics.

By the way, I do have one of those vibrant ProStaff archery shirts. It even has my name printed on the front at back. I rarely wear it. See I don’t get paid to wear it, and it does make me feel a little self-conscious. The self-consciousness most likely could be remedied by an injection of cash.

Hey, do you mind taking a picture of me?

Rudy Project, my shooting glasses sponsor, asked for a statement about their glasses and a photo of me shooting for their website. Typically, I am the one taking the pictures so I have very few photographs of yours truly.

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In order to get a picture for Rudy Project I needed to have a friend take a few shots of me. Of the few pictures I already had most were just too dorky. I don’t consider myself very photogenic, hence the limited collection. Then there’s that awkward moment where you have to ask for help, “Will you take a picture of me?”

Since I was headed to an indoor range for the morning practice and I know the guy that works there I planned to ask for his assistance. The range is located at PGF Archery in Elizabeth City. Aside from archery supplies they sale fishing gear. The guy that works there during the mornings is a professional competitive fisherman.

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When I explained to him my need he completely understood, he’d been in this same boat in the past. The awkward moment passed then we got on with the photo op.

A bonus was that no one, aside from the two of us – iPhone equipped photographer and dorky feeling subject – was on the range.

For a guy that fishes professionally, my friend seemed extremely enthusiastic in his role as iPhone photographer. Now, I did appreciate his help and remain grateful. But, it seemed he was laughing a bit, albeit on the inside.

(I shoot an Elite bow. They do not sponsor me.  The Elite logo in the background was a coincidence.)

2nd Quarter 2016 Results

A version of this was sent to my sponsors:

This quarter has been a frustration – no wins. I competed in 8 events. Six in archery and two were bicycle races.

Yes, doing a bicycle race was a bit risky. A crash could wreck an archery season. Both bike races were time trials so odds of a crash were low. The cycling races yielded two-second place finishes.

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This can mess up archery

Archery produced 3-second place finishes, including 2nd place at the Maryland IBO State Championship. There were also 2 third place finishes and one where I ended up out of the top 10.  (we all have those weekends.)

The Maryland State Championship was also the IBO World Championship Qualifier. My 2nd place qualified me to compete at the IBO World Championship.

Two archery events I’d planned were canceled because of storms. The NFAA Sectionals messed me up for the Xterra Triathlon. I was competing in the sectional that ran long infringing on the triathlon – both were on the same day. The archery in the morning followed by the triathlon in the afternoon. An afternoon triathlon – an Xterra – would have been very cool. As it turned out I had to be satisfied with the 3rd place finish after the 2-day sectional competition in archery.

I’ve been on the road a lot having traveled 2490 miles this quarter to compete. I am looking forward to some time back home before heading out to the IBO World’s.

The website, Puttingitontheline.com, where I post remains strong. During Q2 it had 32,860 visitors in Q2 who read 84,567 pages. It also has a new logo.

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To reduce costs (based on a three year ROI) we bought a Winnebago. For example, the past 25 nights on the road cost $592.00 using the Winnebago (lodging only) whereas hotel and kennel fees would have been $4,520.00.

That’s pretty much it for Q2.

A Word About My Sponsors

Obtaining sponsors is a bit of work. So far, I don’t have companies lining up at my door to offer me, well anything. That’s fine, I do have several companies that are providing various degrees of help. And, of course, I appreciate all of them.

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Rudy Project has helped with shooting glasses. I’d been on racing teams that were sponsored by Rudy Project in cycling and triathlon. When I moved over to archery I contacted the person in charge of sponsoring athletes.

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She was great and extremely happy and helpful. Sadly, she moved and her job has passed through two company representatives since she left. I have one more year before my contract runs it’s course and we’ll see what happens. I will note that I have multiple pairs of their glasses, sets of lenses, and two of their bicycle helmets.

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BRL Sports Nutrition is also a company that supported me during my exclusive days as a triathlete. I do use their products on a daily basis for archery and endurance sports. I highly recommend the EPO Boost. You might enjoy TriFuel as a sports drink. It, too, is excellent for archery as well as endurance sports.IMG_3817

I wrote a few papers about their EPO Boost. I found that the product lived up to the company’s marketing claims. I am very pleased with BRL’s people and supplements.

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60X Custom Strings is the biggest pure archery company that lends me a helping hand. I go through 4-5 strings per year and the arrangement we have is quite valuable to me. They’ve also provided me with one of their archery competitive shirts so now I have that “Pro Archer” look . The 60X shirt is cool and thankfully does not look like a bowling shirt.IMG_4610

They are the first company to offering me their marketing apparel. They also make very good strings and I trust their products. In other words, I’m not part of their team just for the promotional benefits 60X provides. I was using their products before I was on their staff. A former company representative got me connected and I remain a member of their team.

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Flying Arrow Archery is a group that found me. Their marketing agent connected with me via social media, I think it was LinkedIn. I was impressed with his business sense and accepted a position based on our conversations. Since then I have used their Toxic Broadheads.IMG_0298

I also did a test to check the shooting variance of their Toxic compared to target tips. That information can be found under the Archery Research tab here.

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TriDaves.com is my company. We sold soap and lip balm for endurance athletes. We’re not investing any more time into the business, simply because my partner and I don’t have the time and couldn’t find anyone to handle the business. We had developed a very nice scentless soap for hunters but never bothered to market it. Basically, we’re done with this one. Once I figure out how to do it (or hire someone who knows) I’ll delete TriDaves from this site.

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Thus far, these are my sponsors. Thanks to all of you for your help.