Sponsorship’s can make or break you.
The problem is, the process of landing a sponsorship is counter-intuitive.Being a great fighter is NOT enough.
I’m sure you’ve seen fighters who land sponsors left and right.
What’s their secret?
How come they can get 27 sponsors in one day and you can’t even get one freakin’ rep to look at you?
What THE hell is going on?!
To get to this bottom of this conundrum, I contacted some of the best fighters, managers, and trainers in the game and asked them a simple question:
“What is your #1 tip to land a sponsorship?”
Exclusive Bonus: Download the step-by-step guide that will show you how to use the tips in this article to land a sponsorship.
Each tip has a custom tweet link after it so feel free to share your favorite tips with your followers.
Let’s do this…
Let’s get ready to ruuuummmmbllllllleee
Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger is a MMA fighter. She fights in the flyweight division of Resurrection Fighting Alliance and is a member of Team MMA Lab. Jocelyn can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Sponsors can be a money maker when doing it right. Being a pro fighter and fighting 2 or 3 times a year I really give it my all to finding sponsors. It’s a big part of the job. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great manager who does so much for me but at the same time I enjoy finding companies and local businesses who will give me their money.
1. Who is your audience? When setting up a sit down meeting, you need to walk in there like you own the place. Have everything on paper and I mean everything so you can show them.
Live TV? Online? (how much will be watching?) PPV? Fox Sports 1?
Where can they see your fight and who will be watching?
2. Set sponsorship levels. How much and what do I get for it? Just a logo on a walk out t-shirt? Logo on a banner plus fight shorts? A Walk out t-shirt plus banner plus fight shorts? How much is required?
What will you do for the company in a social media aspect? Let them know how many followers you have, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and Instagram followers. Trust me, go into the meeting with all these numbers.
How many tweets will you send a week? How many Facebook posts? What about Instagram posts? Posts on Google+?
Make sure the benefits at each level are distinct and enticing enough to encourage previous sponsors to move up a level. Show your sponsors the value of supporting you as they will be advertising for their company potentially bringing in revenue for their company.
Don’t be afraid to call potential sponsors to find out their thoughts on sponsorship.
“Show your sponsors the value of supporting you.” Tweet this.
Roxanne “The Happy Warrior” Modafferi
Roxanne “The Happy Warrior” Modafferi is a MMA Fighter in the bantamweight division. She is the IFC Women’s Middle Weight Champion, K-Grace tournament winner, and Fatal Femme Fighting Light weight champion. Roxanne starred in The Ultimate Fighter: Season 18. You can find Roxanne at her site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
It’s sometimes very difficult for even well-known fighters to get sponsorship’s, not to mention up and coming ones.
I would say the two most important factors are uniqueness, and timing.
I’ve seen a friend land a food products/supplement sponsor because she happened to meet the right people.
I’ve been approached by a sponsor due to my unique ‘reach’ on the internet and ability to market and promote things. I’m also easily accessible to fans online.
I would say that fighters should strive to show their personal uniqueness, whether it be personality or fighting style, so fans are attracted to them. If the fighter attracts attention, they become desirable to sponsors.
“Fighters should strive to show their personal uniqueness.” Tweet this.
Erik Paulson is a retired light heavyweight MMA fighter. He was the first American to win the World Light-Heavy Weight Shooto Title in Japan. Currently, he runs the Combat Submission Wrestling Training Centerwhere he trains MMA fighters such as Josh Barnett, Ken Shamrock, Renato Sobral, Cub Swanson, and James Wilks. You can find Erik at his site and on Facebook.
To be honest, getting a manager who is hooked up with companies and has TV time is the best way bar none…that’s all I know. Sponsors don’t like to talk to coaches too much from my experience.
“Getting a manager who is hooked up with companies and has TV time is the best way bar none.” Tweet this.
Natasha Sky is a Muay Thai fighter. She is the 2009 WKBF 51.7kg Queensland Title Winner (Australia), 2009 WKBF 54.5kg Queensland Title Winner (Australia), and 2013 AMCO Bangla Stadium Champion (Thailand). You can find Natasha at her site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
For a start I don’t think you have to be the best fighter out there. I think it all comes down to putting yourself out there.
Sponsors need to get something out of sponsoring you. So I think social media is a great way to get yourself noticed not only by sponsors but a whole world of people. If you have a lot of followers then your sponsor will get a lot of exposure and that’s what they want.
I know a lot of great fighters who find it hard to get sponsorship but it’s because they try to lay low under the radar and don’t put themselves out there which sponsors don’t really gain anything from.
I also know a lot of average fighters who have a lot of sponsors because they work the social media and they put themselves out there as well as promote the sponsors.
In saying that, I think that to put yourself out there you need to have thick skin because you will always get haters and people that will try to bring you down. So it might not be for everyone.
Also you have to ask people for sponsorship’s. You never know unless you ask. You can’t just wait for people to come to you with an offer.
Make a profile up with pictures, achievements, goals and a bit about yourself and email it around to local businesses or brands.
Make a fighter page and keep it regularly updated with a cover photo and offer sponsors spots on your cover photo and shout outs on your page.
Don’t get greedy, any help is better than nothing. Try to accept whatever you can from sponsors because not all sponsors are going to be able to give you hundreds of dollars. Make up different deals of what you can offer them so it may fit every sponsor’s budget.
“I think it all comes down to putting yourself out there.” Tweet this.
Eric “American Soldier” Prindle
Eric “American Soldier” Prindle is a MMA Fighter. He competes in the heavyweight division of Bellator MMA. Eric was Bellator’s season five heavyweight tournament winner. You can find Eric at his site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
The #1 way I get sponsors is by meeting an owner of a company that likes MMA. I tell the owner a little about my background in the army and why I started doing MMA.
When I meet with the company I go in with a plan. I dress appropriately and come prepared with an intricate and detailed sponsor package.
I show them what I can do for them and what they will get for whatever level of sponsorship they are interested in. Being polite and articulating yourself well goes a long
Usually when you get sponsors they need to do it for more than just having their logo on your shorts or banner.
They have to be proud to see your shorts and banner with logo on them, instead of the only reason being advertisement.
“The #1 way I get sponsors is by meeting an owner of a company that likes MMA.” Tweet this.
Manolo “El Huracan” Hernandez
Manolo “El Huracan” Hernandez is the head of pro MMA instruction at the San Diego Combat Academy. He is the head trainer of Team Hurricane Awesome, which includes UFC standout Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche. Manolo can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s important to create a social media fan base.
Also, write up a nice letter where you can explain your situation and give it to potential sponsors.
Don’t expect much money in sponsorship’s. Try to get those companies regardless though, to create a sense that you are a hot commodity.
It’s important to ask for crafts and services as well as money.
For instance, a friend of mine had a great sponsorship from a local grocery store. It cut out the middleman since he was just looking for money to eat.
“It’s important to create a social media fan base.” Tweet this.
Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza
Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza is a MMA Fighter. She was the first Invicta strawweight champion. Carla is the #2 ranked female strawweight in the world according to the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings. She will star in The Ultimate Fighter: Season 20. Carla can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Getting a good manager!
“Getting a good manager!” Tweet this.
Greg Nelson is a former Muay Thai and MMA fighter, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor. He won a gold medal in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the 1999 Pan-Ams, a silver medal in the 2000 Pan-Ams, and three golds in 2001 Grappling Games in LA. Greg owns, and is the head instructor of, the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy. As a coach, he and the Academy Team have produced three UFC Champions: Dave Menne, Sean Sherk, and Brock Lesnar. The Minnesota Martial Arts Academy can be found at its website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Greg can be found on Facebook.
I can tell you that products, businesses, and individuals are looking for positive exposure for their product.
A fighter/competitor has to be willing to promote a company’s product in way that will get people interested enough to either inquire or buy their product.
The fighter needs to have not only the look, but also exhibit the qualities that the product is attempting to accomplish. It is important the fighter portrays the image associated with the product.
For example, a fitness product wants a good looking, very fit looking individual that is positive and well liked.
Fighters assume that if they are winning on the big stage that is good enough. However, it is about image and willingness to portray that image.
Obviously, gi companies use the most accomplished and the busiest competitors that are giving the maximum amount of exposure.
In addition, fighter/competitors have to be willing to “sell” the product, talk about it, use it…or at least say how it has helped develop their skill, endurance, lose weight, build strength…whatever the product does.
A company sponsoring a fighter wants to know what they are going to do, or what are they willing to do.
Now it is fairly easy to get product, free training gear, supplements, and clothing, but, to get money there has to be major exposure on a larger scale. If a fight is going to be televised, on Pay-Per-View on a major stream, they have to know that their logo will have exposure on fights shorts, walk out shirt, banner…it is seen.
Before and after the fight they want to hear the fighter talk about their product, to “sell” it.
Sean Sherk used a modified gas mask a few times and it was seen on the UFC All Access, and then it exploded. Prototypes were made, Sean wore it while training on an Airdyne bike and similar drills, took pictures and put them on Facebook, twitter, and all other social media.
They immediately struck a relationship with him. Sean eventually became a part owner and went to fitness expos, and continued with tons of social media.
You have to work for your pay, companies just don’t give away money, you have to earn it by showing you are using their product and making sure everyone knows it is working.
It is a good idea to research products and companies and go for ones that you know you can expose the best, which match your personality, your look, and your style of fighting.
“A fighter/competitor has to be willing to promote a company’s product.” Tweet this.
Jade Marrisa Luktupfah
Jade Marrisa Luktupfah is a Muay Thai fighter. She placed 2nd in the WMF Pro-am world championships 54kg 2013, and is the season 4 MBK FN Gold Winner 2014. Jade can be found on Facebook and at Luktupfah Muay Thai.
My number 1 tip for landing sponsors is to be a good promoter.
Promote yourself and what you do and also promote your sponsors and make sure they feel like they have made a good decision in sponsoring you and you appreciate them and their brand.
You have to promote yourself and keep yourself active in the sport, media and social media in order to gain more credibility for yourself and raise your recognition.
Also, keep your fans updated with your recent activity. Whether it be fighting or not, anything to do with your own life that may seem interesting and/or inspiring to your fans.
To inspire your fans, you have to promote your lifestyle which also means the things you do, eat, wear, use, etc. That’s when sponsors find interest in you and get involved.
For example; Muay Thai gear. A particular brand may sponsor me and so I wear and use their products and post and promote it all over social networks or even wear it for my fight. The brands image is then with me and I am its model. I am inspiring the viewer’s whilst wearing/using it, therefore promoting it.
Hopefully, by doing this other sponsors then see how I am promoting the brand and myself, and then I may get interest from other brands for future use.
I could also contact a sponsor myself and show them how I will be a good asset for them if they decide to sponsor me. I can show them exactly how I promote myself and previous sponsorship’s.
“You have to promote yourself and keep yourself active in the sport.” Tweet this.
Barb “The Little Warrior” Honchak
Barb “The Little Warrior” Honchak is a MMA Fighter. She is the first Invicta Flyweight Champion. She is the #1 ranked female flyweight fighter according to the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings. Barb can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
My management does it for me. Once I have a sponsor though, it is important to hold up your end of the agreement to retain them.
“Once I have a sponsor though, it is important to hold up your end of the agreement to retain them.” Tweet this.
Chuck Wichert is a MMA event consultant and promoter. He manages MMA fighter Lauren Murphy and has managed other top level MMA fighters such as Thiago Silva, Thiago Alves, Marcus Aurelio, and more. Chuck can be found on Twitter, and at his company website.
The best ways to land a sponsorship is to:
#1, believe in the product in which is sponsoring you.
#2, Give back. Think, “What can I do as a sponsored athlete to help the brand that supports me?”
Ways to give back are to send referrals, social media, develop testimonials for the sponsor…marketing 101.
A lot of companies think they are sponsoring a fighter when in reality, the company is simply just buying advertisement.
“Send referrals, social media, develop testimonials for the sponsor…marketing 101.”Tweet this.
Mark “The Hammer”Coleman
Mark “The Hammer”Coleman is a retired heavyweight and light heavyweight MMA fighter. He was the UFC 10 and UFC 11 tournament champion, the first UFC Heavyweight Champion, the Pride Fighting Championships 2000 Open Weight Grand Prix champion, and is a UFC Hall of Fame inductee. Mark can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Kick some ass and show who you are.
Smile once in a while.
“Smile once in a while.” Tweet this.
Rosi “The Surgeon” Sexton
Rosi “The Surgeon” Sexton is a retired MMA Fighter. She is a veteran of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Rosi is also a writer for Fighters Only magazine. Rosi can be found at her site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
My #1 tip would be to always be aware of what you have to offer your sponsors.
When you write to them, give them reasons why you are a good investment.
Talk about how you interact with your fans via interviews, blogs and/or social media and how your sponsors will fit into the picture.
Don’t expect to get something for nothing.
It’s always better if you can find sponsors who you want to promote because you genuinely believe in their product, company, or business.
“Always be aware of what you have to offer your sponsors.” Tweet this.
Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres
Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres is a MMA Fighter. She is the #7 ranked female strawweight in the world according to the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings. She will star in The Ultimate Fighter: Season 20. Tecia can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Be yourself and work hard.
Most sponsors want someone who is true and genuine.
It’s more than just winning. Create a relationship and make sure to voice your appreciation.
Also, sometimes it’s okay to ask for something. The worst you can get is a “no”, or “we will work on it.”
“It’s more than just winning. Create a relationship and make sure to voice your appreciation.” Tweet this.
Frank Shamrock is a retired MMA Fighter. He was the first UFC Middleweight Champion and retired as the four-time defending undefeated champion. He was also the first WEC Light Heavyweight Champion, and the first Strikeforce Middleweight Champion. He was a brand spokesman for Strikeforce and is a Sports Commentator for Showtime. Frank can be found at his site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
My number one tip to landing a sponsorship is presenting yourself properly.
Present a long-term consistent growth plan that somebody, or a sponsor, could attach themselves to, so you can show how you will grow together.
“Present a long-term consistent growth plan.” Tweet this.
Charmaine “Not So Sweet” Tweet
Charmaine “Not So Sweet” Tweet is a MMA fighter. She is a two-time Canadian Muay Thai Champion, one-time IFMA World Champion, and one-time IKF World Champion. Charmaine can be found on Facebook andTwitter.
My husband Cord Crowthers has always been the sponsor guy for Team Tweet, but we have always followed a simple path: Start locally and work with who you know.
Very rarely is a sponsor going to get a return on their investment, when it comes to WMMA. What they are real investing in is “you”. Their belief in helping an athlete achieve her goals is the return they are getting .
And if by chance you hit it big, remember who was with you in the beginning.
Now that I’m fighting on UFC Fight Pass, lots of people who wouldn’t help me out a year ago are knocking on my door to be part of Team Tweet but guess what? We’re not answering.
We want to work with who was willing to build a relationship with us, not who just wants to jump on the bandwagon.
So to answer your question, take the time to build relationships and friends.
It’s so much more than just a sponsorship with Team Tweet, and that’s how we have always been, and it seems to work for us!!
“Take the time to build relationships and friends.” Tweet this.
Jessica “Jag” Aguilar
Jessica “Jag” Aguilar is a MMA Fighter. She is the reigning World Series of Fighting Strawweight Champion. Currently, she is the #1 ranked female strawweight in the world according to the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings. You can find Jessica at her site, on Facebook, on Twitter, and her Youtubechannel.
I think that the best way for upcoming fighters to land a sponsorship is to be the best person/athlete one can be. Also, social media is very important these days so I would say to get all social media going from the beginning.
“The best way for upcoming fighters to land a sponsorship is to be the best person/athlete one can be.” Tweet this.
Chris Schenk is the owner and founder of SchenkMMA; a management company that specializes in representing female MMA Fighters. Chris can be found at his site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
If I had to say, my #1 tip above all others to land a sponsor, or a sponsorship, it would be “building relationships and “talking” with people.
I truly think that is a lost art these days.
I’m amazed at how many people can’t even really talk on the phone or have face to face conversations with people any more.
I think as time goes on the “soft skills” as people refer to them in business will become harder and harder for people.
I think it’s very important that fighters and their management teams constantly work on these skills and to make them a priority in the fighters training just like they would their left jab, or right cross.
That’s truly how important I think these skills are, and ultimately you have to remember that people do business with people, not products, or company names, they do business with people.
“My #1 tip above all others, to land a sponsor, would be “building relationships and “talking” with people.” Tweet this.
Sam Wilson is one of the most respected matchmaker’s in women’s MMA today. She is also an athlete-relations representative, and sponsorship-finder. Sam has experience working with Invicta FC, Strikeforce, DEEP, KOTC, and more. Sam can be found on Facebook.
Fighter promotion and media coverage.
“Fighter promotion and media coverage.” Tweet this.
Roger Mitterling is a women’s MMA supporter and sponsor. Roger can be found on Twitter.
You have to make it clear what you will do to represent the company’s product and earn the sponsorship. You need to reach their target
“You have to make it clear what you will do to represent the company’s product.” Tweet this.
Ediane “India” Gomes
Ediane “India” Gomes is a MMA Fighter. She fights in the Featherweight division of Invicta FC. Ediane is a member of American Top Team and strives to be a positive role model. India can be found on Facebook andTwitter.
Carry yourself as a professional and represent yourself well. That way potential sponsors will know that you’ll represent them well too.
Make an effort to lead with a positive attitude, knowing that younger generations look up to you as a role model.
Nurture your relationship with your manager. Look for a manager that understands your needs and keeps your best interests at heart.
“Look for a manager that understands your needs and keeps your best interests at heart.” Tweet this.
Firas Zahabi is the head coach of Tristar Gym. Tristar is home to many internationally recognized fighters, such as Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, David “Crow” Loiseau, Kenny Florian, Miguel Torres, Ivan Menjivar, Yves Jabouin, John Makdessi, and Denis Kang. Firas can be found at the Tristar website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
I don’t think there is any real secret and I always recommend fighters to get managers who can use their network to make them money.
Training is tough enough, so there’s no time for fighters to spend all day on the phone.
With that said, use a manager you trust, or build trust together.
“I always recommend fighters to get managers who can use their network to make them money.” Tweet this.
Caley Reece is a Muay Thai fighter. Her accomplishments include being a Lion Fight Women’s Featherweight Champion, Pimp Juice Cup Tournament Champion, 2010 World Combat Games Muay Thai Silver Medalist, WKA Amateur Women’s Australian Welterweight Muay Thai Champion, WMC Amateur Women’s Western Australia Featherweight Champion. WMC Amateur Women’s Australian Featherweight Champion. WMC Women’s Intercontinental Featherweight Champion,WMC Women’s World Featherweight Champion,WMC Women’s World Junior Lightweight Champion, and WPMF Women’s World Featherweight Champion. Caley can be found on Facebook and her gym’s website.
Good sponsorship’s are hard to land in Muay Thai. The sport is still having trouble becoming a “mainstream” sport so it’s not in the media a lot which can make it hard to attract sponsorships.
Obviously being successful, with a good reputation and being well established can help.
I think it’s best to approach a company face to face, if not over the phone.
Send some information about yourself, your career to date, your future goals and plans and how you can help promote that company (i.e. Facebook, printed shirts, shorts logos, etc.).
“Send some information about yourself, your career to date…and how you can help promote that company.” Tweet this.
Mackenzie Dern is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. She is a Gracie Humaita Black Belt, 6x World Champion, 5x No Gi World Champion, No Gi World Absolute Champion, 2x Pan American Champion, and 4x European Champion. You can find Mackenzie at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
I think one of the biggest things is to market yourself.
Post pictures on social media. Not just of you but your training, with training partners, at events, and while traveling.
This will help you connect with people and make new contacts.
This is good because it shows businesses how they can gain by sponsoring you.
Also, you need to be a good role model because sponsors want good representatives, someone who can help lift their company and not give them a bad name.
“Be a good role model because sponsors want good representatives.” Tweet this.
Roxy Richardson is a former Muay Thai fighter. She held the IAMTF Women’s Lightweight belt as an amateur from 2008-2009 and turned pro an undefeated champion. She is the owner of Function 5 Fitness where she is the master trainer, and fitness, nutrition, and health coach. Roxy can be found at her website, Function 5 Fitness, and on Twitter.
My #1 tip for getting sponsors is to create a personal brand.
Sure connections and management is the next step, but creating a personal brand is the first step you do on your own when you are just starting out as a fighter, before you are even ready to get sponsors.
Creating a personal brand for yourself means you have to think of yourself like a business.
What are your core values? What is your mission statement? Who is your target market? Actually sit down and write that stuff out.
I’m not suggesting that you pretend to be someone else and market a facade. That is a lot of work trying to be someone you’re not…and a sure way to fail.
I am suggesting that you really get to know yourself and discover what about your unique personality you want to showcase to media and fans. We all have something special to offer.
Don’t try to please everyone. Not everyone will like you, not all sponsors will want you, but if you are true to yourself and market yourself smartly and from the heart you will shine.
Personal brands are also about the details.
Think of the small things that popular fighters let out to the media about themselves.
Ronda Rousey’s hair, her dog Mochi; Donald Cerrone’s cowboy hat; Rampage Jackson’s chain and Muay Thai fighter Kevin Ross’ love of doughnuts.
To create a personal brand you have to let fans into your life in small ways through social media.
They want to know about you. How you prepare for a fight, how you feel leading up to a fight, what you do in your free time, what motivates you, do you have pets, what TV shows you watch?
They want to know what makes you unique, and more importantly, how can they relate to you? All these questions and more help you develop a personal brand using social media.
You also have to stay active on social media. Yes, that can be time consuming, but you have to do it.
My suggestion is just pick two social media’s you like and update them regularly. The worst is going to someone’s Facebook fan page or twitter account only to see they haven’t’ updated it in months.
You have to be active DAILY and engage with fans to create a personal brand.
“My #1 tip for getting sponsors is to create a personal brand.” Tweet this.
Here’s The Next Step:
If you’d like a step-by-step guide, that shows you exactly how to use the pro’s tips to get a sponsorship of your own, you’re in for a treat, because I’ve created it for you!
It’s called the Firestarter Sponsorship Checklist.
Click the link below and enter your email to get access to the Firestarter Sponsorship Checklist.
Wow! A BIG thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy schedule to contribute to this article. Thank YOU mucho!
I’d also like to thank the following people whose contributions made this article possible:
Liz Carmouche. Liz is a MMA fighter with the UFC, fighting in the bantamweight division. She is the #9 ranked female bantamweight fighter in the world according to the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings. She can be found on Facebook andTwitter.
Lauren Murphy. Lauren is the former Invicta FC Bantamweight champion, and is set to face Sara McMann at UFC Fight Night 47. She can be found on Facebookand Twitter.
Rosy Hayward. Rosy is a retired Muay Thai fighter having won several belts in her native England. She runs the Female Muay Thai group on Facebook, which was voted Media Resource of the Year in the Awakening Female Muay Thai 2013 Awards. Rosy can be found at the Female Muay Thai group page on Facebook.
Anthony at MMA Swarm. MMA Swarm is a combat sports news aggregator focused on MMA, BJJ, Kickboxing, and more. MMA Swarm can be found on Facebook.
Eric at MMA Outsiders. MMA Outsiders is a group of hardcore MMA fans who love everything about the sport. MMA Outsiders can be found on Facebook and at their site.