I thought I'd write a post giving some hints and tips on how to apply for brand sponsorships since I get dozens of applications and, I'm afraid to say, most leave a lot to be desired.
My background is fashion, interiors and beauty marketing working in London for the likes of Jigsaw, Habitat, Graham and Green and more. I've worked on lots of high level promotions and business partnerships over the last 15 years in-house, agency side and as a consultant and would like to think that I'm pretty savvy when it comes to business matters. I have also worked with two Eqco sponsored riders and am always on the lookout for new exceptional talent.
So here are some pointers which I hope will help.
Working 9 to 5
The first - and absolutely most important - point to remember when applying for sponsorship (whether speculatively or in response to an advertisement) is that this is about business. The brand you are applying to wants your help to grow their sales (or they will do once they've heard from you!). How are you going to help them do that? Think about what you can offer and what they're about before you start your application.
This might sound blunt, but sometimes it's good to cut to the chase and tell it like it is. Business is about money. What you're looking for is free products. What the brand is looking for is increased sales through awareness and engagement. Or ideally just direct sales! How much do the brand's products cost? How many are you looking for and how often? If you are asking the brand to give you - for example - £500 of rugs, headcollars and bandages plus branded clothing and so on a year (before even thinking about paying for entry fees and the like if you're going down that route) you will need to give the brand confidence that they can recoup those costs (and more).
Sending that saddlepad to you means it's a saddlepad the brand can't sell to a paying customer so they need to feel really compelled to get you on board.
Awareness and engagement are GREAT and all contribute on the journey towards sales, but nothing in life comes for free - you're going to need to work for those pretty parcels in the post if you're not going to pay for them. Are you on a large yard? Do you teach? Are you in a riding club where people will see the products you and your horse are wearing? Think about how you can help get the orders flowing for the brand.
Keep It Short And Sweet (KISS)
Don't tell them your life story - it's lovely to read a good bit of narrative about you and horse or pony but you'll lose their attention if you waffle on about the time you bought a purple bum warmer but then wished you'd had a blue one instead. Bullet points are your friend.
The Links Effect
Include links to your social media sites in a clear way. You'd be astonished by how many people don't do this!
It's All About The Numbers
Tell the brand how many people you have on your social media sites. Also tell them how often you post, what type of posts you make, what your typical number of likes, shares, re-tweets and comments are. Give these in numbers and percentages. If you can attach a spreadsheet, all the better.
Also let them know how your following is growing - describe this in month-on-month and year-on-year growth. Tell them how you're marketing yourself and what your strategy and angle is for growing your own brand.
Location Location Location
Do you live near where your target brand is based? This is a good bonus factor in case the person/people want to come out and see you train in person and take some photos. Maybe they want a quick catch up with you to see how a product is trialling. Or - you never know - they might want to use you in a forthcoming photoshoot.
Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
Tell the brand (in brief terms) what you like about them and their products. Give examples. This shows you've taken the time to research them and aren't just churning yet another generic application out.
Be Realistic And Play To Your Strengths
This might sound hurtful but the intention is to reduce rejection emails which can REALLY hurt, I know. Be realistic about the brand you have in mind, what their market position is plus what you can offer/what type of horse and rider combination they're going to be looking for. If they're a premium brand with hundreds of thousands of followers, really high price points and Charlotte Dujardin endorsing their products and you're just starting out, it might be better to hold fire a year or so and grow your following and get some more rosettes under your belt. And look to talk to a smaller brand in the meantime. Look at who the brands' other sponsored riders are and see how you compare with them. That's not to say that, if you're a happy hacker who makes amazing videos giving detailed product reviews which get tons of likes and positive comments from your following you might be exactly what they're after to broaden their audience.
Also play to your strengths - if you haven't got a 17.2hh Dutch warmblood who piaffes like there's no tomorrow, but DO have the funniest hairy cob who helps you take the best photos and you also happen to be a whizz at video editing then big that up.
You're The One
Lastly, tell them what makes you so special and how you're different from all the other applicants they'll be hearing from. Don't go all X-Factor and say it means the world to you and so on - keep it honest and on point. For me, what really stands out apart from a pretty pony who does fancy leg movements and an instagram account with 20 billion followers who like every post and buy all the products the person mentions, is someone who can demonstrate reliability, integrity, commitment and someone who really 'gets' the brand.
I hope this helps and good luck!
p.s. anyone who wants to apply to Eqco, please email me! It's so much easier to use than social media.