Recently in an online bike forum (which I usually avoid due to the hubris that can occur) a moderator posted a press release from a bike shop (that will remain unnamed) regarding a sponsorship or ‘ambassador’ opportunity. It seemed pretty straight forward; a wholesale cost bike, discount kit and accessories and free servicing in return for some social media love and influence within cycling circles.

People were tagged with gusto and it was pretty popular, before all hell broke loose when one person pointed out that there wasn’t even a free bike for all this media posting and Insta-snapping! (NOT ONE FREE BIKE!) Rereading the post to see if I had missed something (I hadn’t) it sprung upon me to bust some myths and assert some facts about sponsorship in the bike industry, because goddamnit why does anyone deserve something for nothing?

What's your value?

Why should someone give you a discount off retail pricing? No one owes you sponsorship, even if you totally took that B grade race the other week. What’s the value of having you advertising the shop/brand? When speaking about sponsorship it seems like it’s all about the rider, and indeed I have overheard a few junior riders at development camps talk like this ‘I’m sponsored so I am better than x’. Sponsorship is almost never about the rider’s results, it’s about value for the brand. If someone is renowned for pushing newer riders into the bushes or fails to be able to converse articulately in a public forum, then choosing them as an advocate for a brand would be a stupid idea, even if they have legs like Paul Van Der Ploeg. Lose the ‘I’m racing so I should get stuff for free’ mentality and understand the principle behind it.

It’s not free anyway

Those local guys that look so cool lining up on the start line with their matchy-matchy bikes and kit? They must get so much stuff for free! Yeah…nah, they paid for them. Perhaps not retail, or perhaps not all in one hit. Maybe they got some free or discounted kit but that’s about as good as it gets. On the domestic bike scene nothing is for free, though many riders make out how much free ‘stuff’ they get, which is just another way of saying ‘I’m sponsored so I am better than x’.

Canyon Bikes Koblenz Sponsorship Canyon's Enduro team get around in style - but do you offer the same as they do?

Look to the local for sponsorship

If you ride bikes then you probably have a local bike shop. This should probably be the first port of call if looking for a bit of support, especially for newer riders. Keep it in perspective; if your kid is 14 and looking for sponsorship, they have the life experience of an ape and potentially are about articulate as one (though sometimes I am pleasantly mistaken!) so the cost-benefit ratio of a shop reducing their profit for a sponsorship deal may not be high. How is your 14 year old going to help the shop/brand sell more bikes? One could, however, increase the chance of a shop sponsorship by not shopping around at 47 shops for the best deal on a 70mm -6 degree stem, or loudly muttering “I can get it for $24 online…”, see the last point.

You will need to do more than ride your bike

You’re not Nino Schurter, after all, and even Nino does a lot of social media work. Sponsorship has to give back, you will need to talk the talk, have good product knowledge and be of influence to riders around you. Instagram, Twitter, blogs and Facebook can all be good platforms to gain visibility for potential sponsors but it can be a tightrope: your 400 friends nor myself want to see daily updates of you in the gym in your activewear with a bike in the background drinking “Amazefuel” or whatever nutrition brand is ‘helping you out’ #idontgiveaf*&^. Be genuine, not pushy.

sponsorship team You'll need to do more than just ride well.

Loyalty

As touched on in previous paragraphs, loyalty is really important. Some riders seem to jump ship every year or so, which doesn’t say much about the value they hold in the products or relationships with the brands they represent. Look to see where your existing relationships lie and use these. Look towards, and have good relationships with those who have helped you out and I would advise caution at jumping ship because x gives you one extra kit a year and some free tubes. Bridges are easy to burn and hard to rebuild.

So there you go. Perhaps you have some other ideas or commentary about sponsorship in the little microcosm of mountain biking in the Australian bike industry. If you do, let me know!