A Two-Way Street

Strengthening the relationship between competition organizers and vendors is crucial to a successful partnership.
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Much of the success of CrossFit has impacted the growth of non-sanctioned weekend throwdowns and invitationals. These events range from small-scale inter-gym bonding experiences to nationally acclaimed events with budgets in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We all know (because they say it over the public address system) that these events wouldn’t be possible without the sponsors — except most vendors walk away from these events underwhelmed and confident that return on investment was just a lofty dream. I’d argue that though most event organizers know to mention terms like “return on investment” when courting potential sponsors, often there isn’t a conscious strategy to create an environment for brands to do so. Once organizers get their sponsor checks, the focus becomes heat times, having enough judges and field of play details.

With the growing number of noteworthy events around the nation, relevant brands need, maybe for the first time, to be strategic in how they align with competitions as a sponsor. In that way, the event coordinators who can find creative ways to make these events worthwhile for brands may be the only events that survive this period in competitive fitness.

As the owner of a brand in the community myself, I see no shortage of people who want and need sponsors to make their events happen. Rarely do these organizers come to me with a compelling strategy, however. What many of them don’t realize is that them simply having an event often isn’t enough to entice sponsorship. In fact, if this relationship truly was a two-way street, I think event organizers would see more brands spending more money to support the community.

Getting sponsors is very hard. The task can be made easier, in my opinion, with a little investment and creativity. We’ve seen all the sponsor tiers before. More money gets you a bigger booth, a bigger logo on the shirt, and a few more shout-outs on the PA. These things, however, aren’t really what brands are after.

What I think more event organizers could do is enroll themselves in mutually beneficial strategies. I don’t think gym owners who ask brands for sponsorship money should do so if they aren’t willing to retail or represent the brand in their gym, for example. Other strategies for mutual support can be as simple as a commitment to social media. In some instances, this can be specific (number of posts, use of promo codes, hashtags) or more general, where even without a prior agreement, a vendor and host can see each other on game day with no doubt that both parties were pushing for the most successful event possible.

Depending on the type of brand, facilitating sales at the event can be a team effort, as well. Nearly 100 percent of event coordinators want a check upfront. What if event coordinators shared the risk? Agreements to share revenue, especially for food and coffee vendors, adds peace of mind for the vendors who often take a hit by taking a chance on an event that few people come to. It also puts accountability on both parties to deliver.

These aren’t the only initiatives that can bring the relationship between competition sponsor and competition organizer together, but it opens up the conversation. It’s a jungle out there, and I believe that most vendors would agree that this part of the amazing competition atmosphere is one that can improve greatly. Soon, many events must improve this or face extinction.