A horse eats a lot. Everybody knows this.
But a performance horse eats even more. Just like the human counterparts, equine athletes have a voracious appetite. The harder they work, the more they eat – and the more specialised feed they’re going to need so that all their nutritional requirements are met.
But whether you’re looking to feed a Grand Prix competition horse or just get a boost for your trusty trail horse – getting a sponsor means putting in the work.
Companies have always been sponsoring athletes in order to gain more reach and this has never been truer than today. The internet and social media are a low-threshold opportunity for anyone to create a good platform for promoting a feed brand.
However, getting those feed sponsors isn’t easy because there’s a lot of competition out there. The challenge for you is going to be standing out enough that you’re offering the brand something no one else is.
Feed companies receive huge numbers of applications for feed sponsorships constantly, so just like in an all-important job interview, the key is to show them what makes you a perfect brand ambassador for them.
How to find the brands that you and your horse would be perfect for
Before you do anything else, go and take inventory of what you’ve already got.
Even without thinking about it, everything you use is made by some brand (even the stuff you DIY comes from somewhere). So, go and have a poke around your feed containers and see what’s already there.
Is there a brand that…
- you really love to use?
- solved a problem for your horse?
- gave some great benefits to your horse that he didn’t have before (such as a super shiny coat or lush, healthy mane?)
- you simply wouldn’t live without?
- you’re constantly recommending to other people?
Make a list of the brands that you always buy and really love. And try to not pick overlapping ones – instead of picking two feed brands, you can pick one for feeds and one for supplements (because not all feed brands have supplement lines).
If you find that you’ve got feeds and supplements from the same brand, all the better! That just means you’re already a regular customer and converting you from just a customer to a brand ambassador is just a few steps away.
Once you’ve identified a few feed brands that you really love, you’ll have a good idea of who might be the perfect sponsor for you. Now, it’s time to start looking at what you can offer sponsors.
Tip #1: Talk about the brand
A horse feed brand will want to know that you already use, love and trust their products and will recommend them to other people because you love them (not because you’re hoping for a sponsor to nab you).
Mention and tag the brands in your social media posts and talk about why you use this particular brand for your horse, what is it that you love about it and who do you recommend it for.
Be consistent and keep mentioning them regularly but don’t be salesy – just answer questions honestly and talk about them as if you were talking to a friend about them.
Tip #2 Be loyal
You’d be surprised at how many people think it’s okay to just get on the line with every feed company at the same time when you want to be sponsored.
That’ll never work.
A feed brand wants to know that there’s a reason why you’re using their brand – otherwise, there’s a risk that you’ll just abandon ship when something shinier comes along.
If you’re just out hunting for discounted or free feed, it’s really a one-way relationship that won’t benefit the brand at all.
That’s why it’s so important to choose brands that you already use and love. That makes the transition from customer to sponsorship that much easier.
Tip #3: Be realistic about what the sponsorship will entail
Asking for a cash sponsorship is typically out of the question – and thinking that this is what sponsorship is about is completely wrong.
A sponsorship is a partnership where you get more of the products you love (because you love and use them) and the brand gets visibility in return. If they want to spend hard cash, they’ll just run an advertising campaign and pay a famous equestrian to appear in the ad.
Getting products at discounted rates, receiving free bag vouchers or getting a set amount of free feed is literally worth money anyway! If you weren’t getting a good deal on the products from the brand itself, you’d still be spending money on it.
In the case of a sponsorship, you’re spending your time and energy (and leveraging your audience) instead of paying in cash. And don’t think for a minute that a good sponsorship deal isn’t worth a lot of money – because it is – even if there is no literal money involved.
Tip #4: Describe what benefits the brand gets from working with you
Talking about your success in competitions or riding horses isn’t going to be enough to capture a potential sponsor’s attention. Think about it from the perspective of the brand; when they sponsor you, what do they get?
Think about the following when you’re planning to apply for a sponsorship:
- Who are you and why are you the perfect brand ambassador for this brand? Think about what it is about you that makes you uniquely suited for being a spokesperson for this brand.
- How are you going to promote the brand? Talk about how you’re going to tell other people that this is the brand you use and love. If you’ve already been doing this, you’ve already got a track record of what they can expect and describe how you’re going change how you communicate about the brand if they decide to sponsor you. Give them examples of how you’d like to promote them further.
- How is the brand going to be visible on your platforms? You can offer to have their logo on things like your tack and gear, on your social media platform and on your blog. Show them how often (social media, newsletter) you’re prepared to mention them (this is negotiable!) and where you’re ready to showcase their brand (blog, podcast, website etc.). If you have an active online platform, tell them how many people regularly read and listen to you.
- Who can vouch for you? Without bragging and name dropping, is there someone the potential sponsor already knows that can vouch for you or give you an unofficial reference? This isn’t strictly necessary but it helps. If you already have a sponsor, mention this because it will show potential sponsors that you have experience in working with brands.
- Ask them questions! Asking the brand questions shows them that you’re serious about delivering them benefits. Besides, asking things like which events they’re targeting (and can you help them or come and volunteer) will make your application harder to ignore because the questions will naturally evoke them to respond.
The thing that brands want from the people they sponsor is what they can’t buy for themselves: trust.
So, when the people who listen to you trust you and your recommendations (because you only recommend products that you yourself use, love and believe in) you have a lot of leverage by being open to the right brand gaining access to that audience through you.
By having engaged and faithful fans, that is very attractive to brands.
Tip #5: Know your strengths and don’t shy away from talking about them
Since getting a sponsor is entering into a relationship that will benefit you both, your riding success isn’t going to be enough to get you that deal.
In addition to riding, what do you do that can make you more valuable in the eyes of potential sponsors?
Are you also…
- a well-known and respected trainer that holds a lot of influence with a large number of people?
- an equine massage therapist that regularly sells or recommends the products and brands that you love (which could also result in an affiliate partnership)?
- a vocal advocate against equestrian bullying who helps others deal with this problem?
The top riders who can simply rely on their own name are a minority – and even they started out as just another kid who loved horses!
Identifying, emphasising and highlighting your strengths and your values will add a lot to your proposition when speaking to potential sponsors.
The harder you’re willing to work and the more value you’re willing to provide, the more valuable you’re going to be to the brand. Talking positively and often about the brand will put you in a very good light from the perspective of the brand.
If this is one of your strengths – make sure you tell the brand this in your proposition!
Tip #6: Be professional in your approach
In order for you to be an attractive partner for a brand, you need to be able to communicate extremely well, have good grammar and be generally professional in how you approach the brand.
You may be an excellent and ambitious rider, but for a brand it’s critical that you are able to clearly communicate their message as one of their sponsors.
A brand that is a good sponsor will certainly look at how you communicate and evaluate how competent at presenting yourself you are.
You don’t have to be perfect – and I’d recommend against it because perfect is boring and sets unattainable standards for others which can turn off a lot of people (I know I get bored with people who are always too perfect!).
It’s okay to not have professional photographs every time you post to social media and showcasing the brand in authentic situations is so much more valuable than always having staged photoshoots – that’s precisely why they want to sponsor you (because they can stage a photo shoot any day of the week!).
You’ll want to make sure that you’re also not flooding your blog or social feed with messages or promos from the brand – because you’re not the brand and if that’s what your followers want to hear, they’ll just go follow the brand instead.
Focus on your own message and how the brand fits into it naturally – when you don’t regularly use a feed brand, it’s going to be harder to be a good brand ambassador.
Tip #7: Make a media kit to showcase yourself and your horse
A media kit is something that bloggers and content creators are familiar with – but there’s no reason you shouldn’t make one for yourself when you want to put your best foot forward with potential sponsors.
Free software like Canva will allow you to make beautiful media kits easily. You can browse their extensive library to find a template that will work perfectly for you and then customise that as much as you like.
When you’re choosing pictures to use in your media kit, the standard photos of your horse doing what he does best are expected (such as a showjumper jumping and a dressage horse dressaging) but also add photos that give them a glimpse behind the scenes of you and your horse.
If you’re going to use social media, show them the kind of posts you typically make.
Don’t make yourself appear as something you’re not – you want to find the right brand for you, not a partnership that will give you a massive headache with no returns.
Remember that a sponsorship is a partnership
From the very first time you get in touch with a brand you’d like to work with, make it clear that you understand that a sponsorship is a two-way deal – you should both gain from working togehter.
The potential sponsor will get the impression that you’re a person who values relationships and that you see any potential sponsorship arrangement as a long-term partnership.
Finding the right brand ambassadors is a lot of work for brands and once they’ve found a good match, they’re obviously keen on a long and fruitful relationship.
You should also bear in mind that most feed brands have their retail stockists whom they value greatly.
By suggesting that you’re willing to partner with a local feed store to acquire any sponsored feed will give you a better chance of success.