Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sponsorships and the Lower Level Rider

by Patricia

After three busy weeks on the road, we are finally catching up with what’s happening on the blogosphere.

So…I’m reading a post about sponsorships, a subject I am particularly interested in, and there is a discussion about a certain company giving prize money conditional to the winner using their brand. As a manufacturer, I think it’s a brilliant idea, but the other side of the coin is that riders sponsored by another brand are out of luck. But conditional prize money for some is better than less prize money for all. Right?

In any case, the discussion goes on about professional riders…and then this.

“It is way past time that the lower level riders started getting some respect from sponsors for the huge buying power we all have.” Ouch.

Ok, so here’s how sponsorships work.

As a company, we do three types of sponsorship:  individual riders, events and organizations

I’d say the more visible of the three is the professional riders using the products, but in terms of importance, companies probably spend more resources on the other two. When a company supports a horse show or an event with prizes, sponsorship money or by renting a vendor space, it directly benefits all riders, and specially lower level riders. Without that support, many horse shows would have to raise entry fees or could simply not survive.

Same thing with sponsorships of an organization. All sponsors of the USEA, USHJA, local dressage clubs etc… are supporting lower level riders, as they form the majority of the members. The lower level rider might not see the sponsorship directly in their pocket, but it benefits them nonetheless.

If you volunteer at a local show or organization, I will say that a well-presented sponsorship package goes a long way. I’ve had local organizations approach me in a professional manner, clearly showing how the company could benefit from the sponsorship. Once at the event, the organizers delivered a great experience and sent thank you emails afterwards. That’s the kind of thing that keeps sponsors coming back.

Here’s a little shout out to 2 lower-level riders groups we love.

#1.  CADORA  (Canadian Dressage Owners and Riders Association), It’s a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the development of Dressage in Canada, entirely run by volunteers. They have various chapters and mainly organize education seminars, clinics etc. The quality of the events is great and we are always received with open arms (and tea and cookies). Also, they come up with cool ideas. Last year, they organized a fashion show, featuring a sponsor’s clothing line. It was fun, entertaining and for the brand, a great way to showcase their spring line. Win-win.

#2. USEA Area II – They had me at the Smurfie Awards!
In case you are not familiar with those, at their annual meeting (which was great BTW), they give out awards based not on ribbons, but on perseverance, helping others etc… 
The winners get prizes donated by a sponsor and a little smurf representing the lower level riders. It’s the most creative, innovative and fun thing I’ve seen recently. I’m not quite sure who is in charge of it (sorry, I get confused with computer names and real names), but well done!

In both cases, innovative ideas combined with great execution can generate sponsors’ interest. As long as you create a win-win proposition, the lower-level organization is just as attractive than a professionals one from a sponsor's viewpoint.

PS – those smurfie awards should go nationwide. just saying...


  1. Yvonne Lucas came up with our Smurfie awards and she coordinates it.

    I want to say thanks for your support in Area II, I continue to be impressed by your company, even though I am too poor for your products, LOL! Thanks for this post from a business perspective, I had never thought of it that way and it does make a lot of sense. We are lucky to have many great opportunities to learn and compete and just get together in Area II and they would not be possible without support from great sponsors!

  2. I have to say that I buy from as many of the companies that sponsor eventing and eventers. And I am sure to send a note to any of the companies that sponsor prizes when I win one of them. I actually switched from one "known" product to another because I won it at a show and loved it!

    BTW, that video you did on Eventing Nation has me hungry to switch saddle pads to yours... it was that effective..

  3. This is an excellent post from the horse's mouth.

  4. Please post the Smurfie award guildlines. I help with awards in our area and I have always wanted to recognize the ones that help with everything and seem to get nothing in return! Not that they ask for anything but we so appreciate them!