Getting Started Finding Sponsors

by Jennifer Hearn

The first thing you need to do is take a look at the Whitewater Racing Schedule and figure out what domestic races you are planning to attend.  Then look at the international races as if you are already a member of the Team. 

Here is are a couple links to the whitewater races we know about http://www.daveyhearn.com/Whitewater%20Racing/2005%20Schedule/2005_schedule.htm -and- http://www.canoeicf.com/slalom/events.php?year=2005

The next part is to figure out your ideal Racing Budget.  How much cash you would need to attend all the races you just listed above?  For domestic races include on Entry fees for the entire season.  For races you drive to:  guess on your share of gas money, all of your meals, your share of housing for nights away camping or staying in a hotel.  If you think you may fly to a race include money to get your boat on the airplane (or paying someone cash to drive it to the race), and the cost of an airline ticket. www.expedia.com is a good tool to research flight costs.  If you have to pay a share of a rental car/van, include gasoline and tolls (both are more expensive in Europe.)  I realize the Junior tour does a lot of planning for you, so you may wish to use the amount that you had to pay last year, also include any money you may have gotten from people, clubs, USACK that helped pay for your trip.

Next get a decent action photo of you on the water and a head shot that shows your pearly whites (in uniform would be good).  Then write up your two-part biography:  Personal (part 1) should include name, age, hometown, school, include clubs, awards and other activities you may do. (Sometimes people include their height and weight, parents, siblings, favorite river, etc.) If you are featured on any websites include these website URL addresses.  Whitewater Slalom Canoe Kayak (part 2) list your boat class and write it out for those not too familiar with whitewater slalom racing.  Write that you are a member of any previous Team/s towards the top of this section.  Include awards and placing in Junior Olympics, National Championships, Team Trials, Olympic Team Trials, etc.  Talk about how you got started in the sport and what your goals are this year and into the future.  List any recent or current sponsors (if this is okay with them.)

Here's a link to Davey Hearn's bio to give some more idea's http://www.daveyhearn.com/Coaching/Whitewater%20Champion/Racing%20bio/racing_bio.htm 

You can also check out some more bios on USA Canoe Kayak here http://www.usack.org/athletes/slalom.asp 

With all of this information from above you can create these documents to present to potential sponsors/supporters:

1. Your ideal Racing Schedule with dates, event names, river, town, and country.

2. Your ideal Racing Budget so you can attend all the races without stressing about cash.  Include dollar figures for the budget items you can figure out.  For example, I remember it cost me ~ $250 in entry fees to race domestically in the 1990s.  Taking my boat on the airplane ran from free to $270 per international flight.

3. Your Bio including personal and racing information, plus 1-2 photos.

Don't forget to SPELL CHECK everything.

Then work on a letter of introduction.  Write a couple paragraphs about who you are, how you are training daily for the incredibly exciting Olympic sport of whitewater canoe kayak slalom (describe it briefly if they may not know it).  Talk about how you are working towards making the _____ Team, and how you need their help and support to accomplish these goals.  Let them know that a financial contribution of any size will help you.  Let them know that you have included a bio, budget, racing schedule, and photos with your letter or email.  Be creative, because some people may be in a position to give you product that you can use rather than write you a check.  Perhaps they may be interested in donating their airline frequent flyer miles to you to help you get to the races?  There are also other in-kind gifts that may help you like a new boat, paddles, paddling gear, energy bars, groceries, dry land training equipment, watch, running shoes, heart rate monitor, etc.  Be specific, let them know that $1000 will get you and your boat to Europe and $300 will pay all of your entry fees for the year.  Include all of your contact information at the top of the letter: name, address, town, state, zip, phone, cell phone if you have one, email address.

It may be easier to speak with someone about sponsoring/ supporting you in your quest for whitewater slalom excellence if you know the person, or know a specific person at a company, or if you know someone that can introduce you to this person.  You should talk on the phone briefly with these people, everyone is busy.  Look at your notes from your letter of introduction above as you speak with them, and ask them if it is okay to send them some information about supporting you in the mail or via email.  Wait a couple weeks and call them back to make sure they got everything okay, and ask them if they have any questions, and if they may be interested in supporting you.

Individual contributions can be tax-deductible if they are a business expense for the contributor.  Someone could make a contribution to a non-profit like USA Canoe Kayak (or your local paddling club) with a separate note attached that identifies you as the recipient.  For USA Canoe Kayak, their financial support could be identified as <<the whitewater ____ athlete that lives in ____ and trains on the ____ River >>, if this describes you as the only one.  Please check with USACK (704) 348- 4330 to organize any financial contributions in advance.

And remember to say THANK YOU.  Send them emails, postcards, and write thank you notes to everyone that lends you any financial or in-kind support.  (Bring a list of names and addresses with you to Europe so that you can send postcards home.)  Stay in touch with these people like they are part of your paddling family so that they can feel that they are part of your whitewater racing career.  Best of luck to all of you!

This how-to find a sponsor feature is dedicated to all of the USA Whitewater Team members that routinely spend anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 each getting to domestic and international races every year.

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Last updated: January 18, 2006

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