Sponsorship and making it work for you


This is a piece I wrote for Equestrian Business Monthly recently, and was featured in their March Issue:


Entering into a sponsorship arrangement should be of benefit to both partners.

Everyone wants to land the perfect Sponsor or Rider, promote their brands and live happily ever after, but that’s not always the case. We look at the dos and don’ts of sponsorship and how this sometimes fraught relationship, can work out well in the long run.

Having worked in marketing for 20 years, I come across requests for sponsorship on a daily basis, and I never fail to be amazed by the lack of basic understanding of the sponsor/rider relationship.

As a sponsor, you work hard to establish a good, credible, quality brand. You spend money on development, sales, marketing and design. You get your product to market and it is doing well. You look for a suitable rider Ideally the rider you sponsor is someone who understands what you are trying to achieve. They understand your goals. Their will to succeed and excel at their chosen discipline makes them compatible with your brands’ need to succeed and excel. Their professionalism reflects your own.

They work hard for the brand and they are rewarded for their efforts. There is a ‘quid pro quo’.

So what are the characteristics of a good Sponsor/Rider relationship?

  1.  The Sponsor provides a clear idea of what they require from the rider.This stops all types of disappointment at a later stage. If you are supplying branded materials, be clear about wanting to see them in photographs where If you are looking for exclusivity for your brand, make sure you ask for it. If you want them to promote your brand with signings at particular shows, write a blog for your website, or promote your brand at clinics and events, make it clear.
  2.  The sponsor provides the rider with a clearly agreed amount of money/ product. There is nothing stopping you with providing your rider with adhoc equipment, or product, but remember this translates into money saved for them, and can mount up to much more than you think
  3. The rider promotes the company in a way that is acceptable to both parties. Be specific with your requirements. Instill in your rider the need for them to use the branded products you provide. Don’t take it for granted that they are as commercially minded as you. If you want them to be wearing your branding tell them explicitly.

There is a good working relationship with mutual respect. You both know that you are getting benefits from this relationship, there is open and regular communication and no one feels taken for granted. However, in the real world, sponsorship agreements are often not well thought out in advance, until you’ve been burned a few times, as either sponsor or rider!

It sometimes starts as an informal arrangement and grows from there. As your brand grows, you start to get unsolicited requests for Sponsorship, which in my experience range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

If you look at sponsorship as a relationship, each request for sponsorship should be approached like the start of a new relationship, and there are some relationship rules that should be observed:

  1.  Use the correct Company name. No one likes to be called by the wrong name, and it’s not going to get you very far in a sponsorship request. The regularity with which I get a generic request with an insert name here – with the wrong name inserted – is frightening. It doesn’t take much to get this right, extra brownie points goes to the prospective sponsored rider who actually finds out who the go-to person is, and uses their name.
  2. Show interest in your Sponsor. Again this sounds like a given right? Wrong! Most sponsorship requests sound like the rider is auditioning for the most improved rider award. It lists all their accomplishments and documents each rosette, but never mentions the Brand that they are so anxious to represent. Riders need to do their homework, and work for it a little. Most importantly don’t lie! Don’t say “I use your products all the time” and then fail to mention which product and the reasons you use it. If they are not making an effort at this stage, it’s not a good sign of things to come.
  3. Make sure you both want the same things: Leading on from showing interest, it’s essential that you outline a realistic proposal of what you have to offer the brand. If you are offering promotion on social media, take a clear look at exactly what this entails and how much real value it adds to the brand. Will you tweet about their brand regularly, not sporadically? How many followers/ likes do you have in comparison to their page. Just having a facebook page (not a personal profile), doesn’t make anyone god’s gift to Social Media. (And sponsors do check your personal profiles too to see if you are going to be a good fit for them)
  4. Don’t make requests on Social Media ( even private messages) A generic message (or worse one from your mum) on Facebook, is a no no! An email to the proper person is worth it’s weight in gold. There are a lot of riders out there performing at very high levels, if you want to be considered seriously, approach it seriously.
  5. Invest in the relationship. Sponsorship works when the sponsor brand and the rider brand are compatible and each gets a fair return from the arrangement. If a rider looks for several thousand pounds in cash/ product/ merchandise during the year, how are they going to give the sponsor a return on their investment, in terms of the amount of effort they are willing to put into the relationship. (It’s important for people looking for sponsorship/ to sponsor to have a good idea of what the same spend would get them if allocated differently. Think in terms of how much advertising space, how much stand space, how many named sponsor classes they would get for the same spend)
  6. Compromise sometimes. Both parties need to compromise from time to time. No one is perfect, but if everyone knows what’s expected of them from an early stage it makes for a more harmonious relationship. Sponsorship is a two way street. When it works, the relationship is mutually beneficial and ideas for developing the relationship further, flow easily between the two parties. Both brand and rider can really benefit from their association with each other, and develop brand loyalty in the wider market.

For both sides it can be like adding an extra person to their team. A good brand ambassador is worth their weight in gold when it works well. Some famous early examples of successful partnerships  (before the days of social media) were Harvey Smith and Sanyo, Liz Edgar and Everest Double Glazing, and Eddie Macken with PJ Carrolls.

Sponsorship can come from the familiar large brands such as Masta Rugs or Horse First, to more locally based sponsors such as Total Horse who can stay with a rider through out their career. Whoever you work with, remember it’s a two way street, and you need to give as good as you get!






Tattersalls Day 2


Great Britain’s Kitty King and Persimmon are in poll position after Day 1 of Dressage.

Day 1 of the Tattersalls saw last years’ winners of the Eventing Ireland CCI2* Kitty King take poll position in The Irish Field CCI*** after the dressage phase with PERSIMMON leading the way on a score of 40.4.

Lying second place is Great Britain’s Izzy Taylor, (who was so impressive at Badminton this year managing to get two horse home) riding ALLERCOMBE ELLIE on a score of 41.0 and  in third place is New Zealand’s Paul Tapner with INDIAN MILL on a score of 42.2.

Current World Number 1 William Fox–Pitt leads the way in the Land Rover CCI* class riding TOP BIATS on a score of 36.9 with Ireland’s Claire Abbott in second place riding OAKLEY on 40.0.

We were much impressed by the ride by Louise Harwood, on her fanatastic Horse WHITSON, who finished the day in 4th in the CCI***, and by Ireland’s Cathal Daniels in both 3rd and 5th in the CCIJ competition.

The Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair in association with Horse Sport Ireland continues tomorrow with day 3 of dressage and the beginning of the intensely competitive Cross Country phase of the competition. Tomorrow’s Cross country sees the highly competative CCI* take place on a slightly altered course that is  full of twists and turns. Cross Country continues all day Saturday along with Show Jumping.  The competition concludes on Sunday with Show Jumping and Cross Country.

Twitter bios and the great CV fiasco!

Social Media might mean communicating in 160 characters, but it doesn’t mean we switch off our BS radars!

I’ve just read an interesting, and wholly serious post about the necessity for a “professional” sounding Twitter Bio. This advocated using the correct number of relevant “action verbs” and perhaps getting a stand up comedian to write it for you. I was reminded of a Not The Nine O’Clock News Sketch from the late 70’s where the punchline was about the way something was said and not the content!

Ok it is hard to find something interesting to say in that small amount of space, but  do we really need to go the route of C.V.’s on our twitter feeds.

To me the new C.V. is almost impossible to read, full of aspirations, achievements and very little content. I’m only looking for one thing….Can you do the Job? Not can you spin me a story that is convincing enough to make me think you can do the job.

My BS radar comes out at this junction and if the whole thing smacks of “buzzwords” I’m going to bin it. After all, who wants to actually work with someone who spends their life following the trends of the latest and best Buzzwords to use?

Worklife is hard enough without encouraging this sort of nonsense. In short I want to know: are you honest, can you work hard,  and are you loyal and reasonably intelligent?

Everything else can be taught, absorbed or learned by anyone with these traits. I don’t want someone who can put the latest Buzzwords in a list and hope I haven’t noticed.

The same goes for Twitter Bios. There is a funny website that generates ridiculous Twitter Bios for amusement, however I found it astounding how close to the truth these actually are. Being on social media, and using it effectively as a marketing tool, may mean that you have embraced the future of communication, but it doesn’t mean you’ve lost the ability to make a judgement call.


Facebook changes it’s mind again – What does it mean for you?


Over the last few days, Facebook have finally caved on their Page Promotion guidelines.

Those of us who were tangled up in the web of dos and don’ts can now breathe a sigh of relief.

The Share and Like post is no longer Verboten! 


No longer the search for Techno wizards who can create “apps”. No more threats of page annihilation…..or so you would think.

However Facebook may have conceded that they just can’t police the Like and Share for businesses who make them their money, but they have refined the rules just a little to make it easier to punish any failure to comply.

So what does it mean for you?

If you have a Business Page, you are now free to create as many Like and Share competitions as you please all with the blessing of the Overlords at Facebook.

However where they have made a differentiation is on Personal Pages.

If you are running your business as a personal page…watch out.

The new rules are specifically for Business Page owners.

In my opinion this is to make it easier for Facebook to catch and make an example of non compliance without any serious consequences on the revenue side for them.


It’s now time to switch over to Business pages immediately. Having caved on something they spent a lot of time and effort on, I imagine those who continue to contravene the Facebook guidelines may find themselves in rather hot water.


Australia & GB lead at Tattersalls 2013

Pippa Funnel during the Dressage on Thursday

Pippa Funnel during the Dressage on Thursday


Pippa Funnel during the Dressage on


Australian Bill Levett & Great Britain’s Pippa Funnell currently leading after Dressage Phase of Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair in association with


Australian Bill Levett, riding Silk Stone completed his dressage test on a score of 49.2 and are currently lying in first position in the George Mernagh Memorial CIC*** class at Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair in association with Horse Sport Ireland.

Best of the Irish is Olympian Mark Kyle riding Coolio, finishing his dressage test on a score of 52.9 to put him into third place.

Great Britain’s Pippa Funnell is currently leading in the Irish Field CCI*** class with her mount Billy Beware heading into the cross country phase of the competition tomorrow.

The much anticipated Cross Country phase of the Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair in association with Horse Sport Irelandstarts early tomorrow morning, Saturday 1st June with the first competitor on course at 8.30am.


The Irish Field CCI*** Dressage Results (after Dressage)

1 Pippa Funnell (GB) on Billy Beware (40.4)

2 Pippa Funnell (GB) on Billy Landretti (46.5)

=3 Billy Levette (AUS) on Improvise (48.5)

=3 Giovanni Ugolotti (ITY) on Stilo Kontika (48.5)

Best of the Irish

=7 Aidan Keogh (IRE) on Master Tredstep (51.7)


George Mernagh Memorial CIC*** Results (after Day 2 of Dressage)

1 Bill Levett (AUS) on Silk Stone (49.2) (PICTURED)

2 David Doel (GB) on Koyuna Sun Magic (42.3)


3 Mark Kyle (IRE) on Coolio






A King among Horses.


It was with a sad heart that I learnt of the Passing of the great King Artus today.

Having made it around the cross country course at Weisbaden, Dirk Schrade’s beautiful Olympic horse, collapsed.

It seems that an Aortic Rupture was the cause of death, and for those of us in the equine world, we know that this can strike any horse at any time.

Our thoughts are with Dirk and his yard who have lost an amazing member of their team.

Badminton Radio – We need more of this!


BHT-SN-2744Well Badminton got off to a great start in the sunshine on Friday Morning!

Not able to be there in person this year, I, like many others, sat at my computer for the day and listened to Badminton Radio.
Now this is the best radio station you’ve ever heard as far as I’m concerned. Commentary on every dressage test, only equestrian news, and great interviews with the riders. What’s not to like?

Well yesterday they went one better. They had Pammy Hutton as a commentator!

This was spectacular, as Pammy knows everyone in the Horse world, and better still knows how the test should be ridden.
She didn’t hold back with her comments, ” A 1? That’s a bit Harsh!” and “Oh a 5 there, can I say that was a bit mean?”
How often have we all felt exactly the same after a dressage test? So wonderful to hear one of the top trainers saying it!

On twitter someone said she was “The Joan Rivers of the Horse world” and even having to have lunch in the judges tent didn’t deter her.

We need more of this. We need to make more use of the fantastic knowledgeable people we have in our industry and let them tell it as it is.
It was a joy to have real insight into what was going on, and my only lament was…this should have been going out on Television.

After the Olympics last year, have the broadcasting authorities not seen that there is an audience for this sport, and a worldwide one at that.

I’ll be tuning into @BHTRadio this morning and following the hashtag #MMBHT to make sure I don’t miss a minute of this years Horse Trials!

We’ll be shouting out for all the Irish Riders and horses, Sarah Ennis and Esib Power are first of the Irish out this morning, But wow what a fantastic test yesterday by Aoife Clark, to push herself into joint 4th with William Fox-Pitt

And if you’re there…bring the sunscreen and the waterproofs!BHT-SN-2735