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.

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

Ian Stark Course Walk Tatts 2012

Just over the top...

A huge thank-you to the fantastic Mr Ian Stark for walking us around his course at Tatts. It was fascinating to get his perspective on it.


New Year, New Site?

I have already had queries from people to update or spring clean their existing sites for 2012!

Great news for me but I have had to look at why.

Why do the majority of businesses I talk to feel their site is not meeting expectations? Are they too high? Unrealistic? Or did they ever meet the criteria that all sites must have… to Sell the Product or Service?

Businesses do not spend their web budget with the idea of “Having a Web Presence” they need their marketing to actually produce results!

So if you are looking at a site that looks tired and dreary, ask yourself one question…what return do I get from this.

If the answer is I don’t know, then it is time to rethink your expectations and be realistic about the message you want to get across, and to examine how you are going to do it.

Perhaps you have a new market, or your business has diversified and the target audience needs to be rethought.

Perhaps the message needs revitalising for the year ahead.

Either way, if you are not getting the return you envisage it’s time to talk to your designer about realistic plans for the new year.


If the answer is none then it’s time to get a new site immediately!

Goodwill Hunting – Social media reality for Business.

Once upon a time, Goodwill would have appeared on your Balance sheets, as a financial reflection of your good standing amongst your customers. It was what was known as an Intangible Asset.

And so endeth the lesson for today on archaic accounting practices.

However should Goodwill be something we are willing to write off so quickly? Does it still hold a valuable position in today’s business world? If so how does Social Media use affect it?

Sometimes something niggles at the back of your mind, and keeps going until you can’t ignore it any more. It’s the proverbial itch waiting to be scratched.

It often is prompted by hearing something that resonates with you and then recedes to the dark spaces of the brain.

Sometime later you receive another little prompt, and if you ignore that you can be guaranteed a full onslaught of related material until you take out the original idea and reexamine the now fully formed notion.

So it was with this post.

A little while ago at dotconf, I listened to Sabrina Dent give an inspired talk about  “Bronies“. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it relates to a whole new world of My little Pony Fans….yes you did read that correctly, who are young? men between the ages of 15 and 55 who love the newly relaunched My little Pony cartoon series released originally for 5-8 year old girls. The “bros” who love Ponies became Bronies,  (God forbid that gets into the OED), and they showed us how fans can elevate a brand above and beyond company expectations.

Anyway, the core of the presentation was on the relationship Brands have with their online community, and how this relationship could be used for good (read Mattel embracing the Bronies) or for ill (See Nestle’s online relationship with Greenpeace).

I loved it because it was exactly how I was advising my customers to behave. To respond in an inclusive way to all reasonable online mentions, and try to maximise the Goodwill existing for your Brand.

A few weeks later I got a little reminder from Ashton Kucher via my twitter stream. One of the most vocal, and possibly the most followed person on twitter (7,587,379 at last count); he had a full on slanging match with the Village Voice in New York. The Village Voice did not come out smelling of roses.

In the last week, I came across two more noteworthy pieces. Both of which caused little sparks in my brain as the synapses crackled. (I couldn’t yet put together all the elements, as is often the case when information is bombarded at us.)

First was an amazingly accurate piece from Ben Hammersly that should stop any business in it’s tracks.

He outlined how quickly technology changes, and how quickly we need to get to grips with this!

His assertion that

” a two term Prime Minister today would end his term of office with an iPhone 64 times as powerful as the one he won the election with. (Or the same thing, but 1/64th of the price.) His policies, therefore, need to written with that future in mind, not the present.

made me realise that here was someone who really gets it. But what was the “it”? The notion still eluded me.

The final piece of the jigsaw presented itself this morning with a podcast from the lovely people atFor Immediate Release. It was an interview with Jeremiah Owyang on Social Business Readiness. Who spoke of crises as something a business is unprepared for. I scratched the itch!

Put together, all of these lead me to the same conclusion.

Now more than ever, small to medium enterprises are relying on word of mouth for business. This need for “Goodwill” amongst our consumers is only the tip of the iceberg. Not only do we rely on Goodwill, but Negative Goodwill, or in common parlance, “a bad review” can really make a difference to our business.

We think we have embraced the internet, with lots of companies and brands starting Facebook pages and Twitter streams. But at the heart of that fallacy lies the crux of my notion.

That we as businesses have been unprepared for the use of Social media.

That we are in crisis.

That we really need to get a grip on what kind of message we are putting out.

That we really want our followers to be like the Bronies, and not spamming our Social Media streams with endless abuse….

The internet has made your own specialised Global Market a very small, and immediately accessible place. It gives your audience a chance to really interact with you. It also allows your audience to tell it how they see it , whether you like it or not.

Social Media hands you the opportunity to be a big fish in your own particular pond, if handled properly,  in a  way that reflects not just you, but everything you and your company stand for in a positive light…your ethos. Handled badly it can expose you as at best inept, at worst … (Again see Nestle)

Nonengagement will not excuse you from poor performance. (People will talk about you even if you’re not there!)

How are we dealing with Social Media? Is our message courting goodwill or bad reviews?

Are you aware of how you are percieved by your online community? What are you doing to make sure that you are breeding Bronies?

Social Media is a marketing tool, in the same way that a scalpel is a surgical tool. Yes I can use it to cut up bits of card for the kids’ school project, but a surgeon uses it in an entirely different way. To realise it’s true potential it needs to be wielded by someone who knows what they are doing.

People are  aware of the real value of their data as they allow it to be used for various marketing ploys, don’t be mistaken here. We do know what we’re doing when we give our information to Tesco, or iTunes etc., even if we don’t want to think too much about it.

Why are we so surprised when our audience question the true value of what we put out on Social Media.