So you want to be Sponsored? Be an Ambassador? An Athlete?
There’s not a day goes by that I’m not asked about how to become an ambassador or athlete for She Lifts Gear. Some days I’ll maybe get one inquiry, but then there are others when I’ll get several. I wanted to take a moment and update everyone where I’m at with regard to starting an ambassador and athlete program as well as shed some light on my personal feelings about becoming an ambassador in general for me or for any company.
First of all, I’m an athlete, so I get it. I have been on the other end dozens of times over the last 10 years and have had the privilege to work with some amazing global companies – ranging from Under Armour to Brooks, to Mizuno, to Saucony (see a running theme here) to Blendtec, to INKnBURN, to Bucked Up Supplements, to Lorna Jane, and to countless other food, supplement, clothing, and fitness related companies. But they didn’t just fall in my lap. And I didn’t just “get” the deal by asking.
That’s not the way it works…at least not from my experience.
I work in a very competitive field. Utah in and of itself is an extremely competitive market when it comes to fitness related companies. They are everywhere. I think it’s partly because we are surrounded by beautiful mountains, terrain, and have some of the most incredible sunny weather imaginable. And that’s in the Spring and Summer. In the Winter people here are just as active outdoors from skiing to snowshoeing. Every day I see really well built athletes at the gym as well as cycling on the roads and preparing for any number of races and/or competitions that are occurring on a weekly basis all around me. Like I said, it’s everywhere.
I am friends with many of the owners of many companies here – especially supplement companies. When I first entered in to the bodybuilding arena (which was back in 2007/2008), it seemed like the thing to do was to search for a “sponsor”. Everyone wanted to be “sponsored” by someone. The bigger the better. The more sponsors the better. Back then I didn’t even know what that meant.
Now I do. And I also know that more and more athletes are entering the field and as a result companies are being inundated with requests. I worked for a time with a growing supplement company here in the valley. I managed the social media as well as the ambassadors and athletes. I kid you not…I’d receive dozens of requests mainly from women wanting to be sponsored. They wanted to affiliated with the company in some shape or form – whatever that meant. Some wanted money to use toward future endeavors (ie competitions), while others were after the title, and still others were hoping for a promo code where they could earn free product and/or a kick-back off of sales. Some wanted and felt they deserved all of the above.
It was then that I saw first-hand the other side of the request and what an incredibly touch decision it was for this company (including me since I was a part of it) to make decisions on who to bring on board.
Enter parameters and guidelines. It was with them that I helped develop specific criteria when considering bringing someone on. We couldn’t realistically bring on every person who wanted to be a part of the team – though I know in a heartbeat we would have loved to. That’s just not feasible and it’s definitely not good business sense. There is a cost attached to every new person brought on board and while the hope is increased brand awareness and sales, that’s not always a guarantee, so it makes sense to have guidelines in place.
As I mentioned early on I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible companies, but there were reasons I was chosen for each campaign or opportunity.
From experience I can narrow down what I think companies are looking for when considering sponsoring and/or bringing on new ambassadors and athletes:
Story and Relatability
Familiarity with the Product
Personality 😊 What is your personality? Are you outgoing? Do you like being in front of people? Are you comfortable having eyes on you? Like the center of attention? Or are you quiet, have your Instagram turned to private, and like to keep to yourself? Both are commendable, and I have friends who fall in to both categories. Honestly on any given day I might fall in to both categories. However, when you are looking to represent a company in ANY fashion they are likely looking for you to put yourself out there, market yourself to some extent, and attract people. That means going outside your comfort zone. It might mean public appearances, speaking engagements, or more “selfies” on your social channels than normal. Think of sales. Who makes the sale? The quiet introvert or the fun outgoing extrovert? Personality.
Story and Relatability What’s your story? Why will people want to follow you? What is your experience like? Where did you come from? What goal did you set and achieve or what obstacle did you experience and overcome? What is it about you that people will relate to, or want to relate to? For me in a nutshell was that I was middle-aged and fat (for lack of a better word – it is what it is), with very poor eating habits, a non-existent exercise schedule, a yo-yo dieting history, climbing the corporate ladder woman who found herself staring down 40 and bigger than ever. I was also an adoptive mother of 2 who’d experience investigative surgery, underwent two failed in vitro surgeries, and struggled to have babies naturally. By the time I was 38 I’d lost 60 lbs and begun my “new” life and passion in fitness. I took my life back. I started running. Exercising. Weight-lifting. I started setting goals. Starting with 5ks, sprint triathlons, then 10ks. Then my first half. And my first figure competition. Since then I have run 5 marathons – including Boston 2x and NYC 1x, and I have competed around a dozen times mostly in figure and more recently in masters’ physique. I’ve published a cookbook. I judge for the NPC. For a year I had my own column in M&F Hers, and several other articles in Oxygen, GORGO, Iron Man, Haute Health, as well as other magazines. I started my first social channel on Facebook organically – meaning I didn’t “pay” or “advertise” to grow it. Within 2 years it grew to 150k. I put my heart and soul in to my new found passion. I lived, breathed, and enjoyed everything that my new “fit” life had to offer. I sought out opportunities and went after them. But that was only part of my story. I also suffered big time adrenal fatigue in 2012 and had to pull out of Boston (thankfully able to run it the next year in 2013). I learned I had severely under-active thyroid and Hashimotos. Over the years I’ve struggled with food – from meticulously counting everything to an unhealthy extreme to binging. I’ve had severe ups and downs and everything in between. But they are all part of MY story. And that’s what makes me relatable – to some. Women from all over the world have reached out to me because I have touched them in some way – whether it being overweight, middle-aged, struggling to get pregnant, suffering from adrenal fatigue, competing and running, or trying to get in to Boston. So many touch points. We relate through stories. We relate through the heart. Your story is what will speak to those following you. Not just your pretty face…while of course that DOES help! And you have to be willing to put it out there. This is MY opinion, nothing more. But I have strongly felt that the more vulnerable I’ve become and the more transparent I am with those who choose to read what I have to say the more “in touch” I am with my readers. I am no different from them. I don’t try to make my life look perfect. It’s not. But time and time again on social media that’s the feeling I get from so many, when I know the reality is anything but. We are constantly surrounded by images of men and women (mainly women) who appear “perfect”. They post about their “perfect days”, their “perfect families” and upload images of their “perfect bodies”. What about the coffee they spilled down their shirt that morning or the cellulite they didn’t like in the first picture they took? What about the mascara that’s smeared all over their face first thing in the morning or the hair they are struggling to maintain? What about that extra bloat they feel on their non-typical days? What about that stuff? You know? To me relatability is huge, and I personally would much rather follow someone who is real rather than appears to be perfect. But maybe, just maybe, that’s just me.
Demographic. This one is probably pretty straight forward. For example. I’m probably not going to do well posting to or hoping to reach teenage girls. I’m also probably not going to do well trying to give mom advice to grown men. You need to know your audience. This comes back to your story. Who do you relate to? What does that group of persons look like? Where are they from? What is their age group? Are they men or women? Are they both? What sports are they in to? What are their interests? What is their education level? People with like-minded interests and activities are your demographic. If a company is looking to bring someone on to grow their new “mom” line, and you’re a young 20-something not even a mom potential candidate, there’s a good chance you won’t be considered. Why? Wrong person for the wrong demographic. So be mindful of that. The reason some of the companies I mentioned above chose me either ongoing to be a representative for them or those companies who wanted me for specific campaigns was because I have some influence over the demographic they are interested in attracting and/or growing. Make sense?
Reach. And here’s a touchy subject, and it might not feel good at all. Sorry. I’m hit up all the time by absolutely stunning girls and women who want to be ambassadors, but when I click over to their social channels I find they have maybe 300 “followers”. Sometimes more but the majority are usually 1000 or less. As a business leader, I have to consider reach. If I only have so many spots to fill or if I only have so much room to work with discount-wise and/or free-product wise, I have to consider the “best bang for the buck”. I am sure you’ve heard that before. Wouldn’t you agree if you were in the same position? I had one sweet girl message me telling me she was the most popular group fitness instructor at her gym and therefore I should send her free stuff that she would happily “advertise” for me. I am sure she would, and I know she’d rock it, but again, every product I send out or discount is a cost to me. I have to be smart. All companies need to be smart. When I work with Fitfluential – a company that represents ambassadors from all over the world – they work with a number of big companies at a time. Each company will first enter certain “numbered” criteria. How many do you have on Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? You Tube? Pinterest? Your blog? Snap? Etc. They’ll first use THAT information to narrow the potential candidates down. From there they’ll look at everything else. Again, “bang for buck”. So if right now you have a weaker social presence, do something about it. You totally can. There are so many great tutorials out there on how to grow your social channels. Run polls, giveaways, contests. Use trending hashtags. Be known as the go-to person for “xyz” – whatever that is. Recipes? Tips? Videos? Glute training? Funny memes? Quotes? A combination of the above? One of my good friends has done a crazy amazing job of growing her IG. I’ve watched it happen firsthand. The one thing I feel that has helped her most is that every post has a purpose. Every single one. They’re not just thrown up. No, they are well thought out and I can tell a considerable amount of time has gone in to them. It takes her time for sure, but within the last year I’ve seen her IG grow by 50k. I’m not even kidding. Work on growing your social presence if you are looking to get recognized by companies you admire. Reach is huge.
Marketing Channels. Again this one is pretty straight forward and really does tie in to Reach. Right now the majority of what I do marketing wise is on IG. HOWEVER I would love to grow my influence on other social channels. When the time comes and I start looking at candidates I’ll probably look at influencers who have better reach than I do on channels I am weak on. Each company you are looking to work with will have different requests. Some will want to focus just on Facebook. Some are really heavy on You Tube. I literally have nothing on You Tube, so of course that would interest me. But the point is with the companies you are approaching look at where they are currently marketing and find out where they are both strong and weak. Use that in your positioning statement. How can you help them in each of those channels? If you feel every other post you read on IG is ties back to a certain company, there’s a good chance they aren’t looking to grow their presence even more on IG. So maybe your Pinterest is strong. Position that. Be mindful of Marketing Channels.
Added Value. This ties back to your story. And really everything. Knowing that there are literally dozens if not hundreds of others just as pretty, just as popular, just as “anything” as you going for the same sponsorship and/or ambassador/athlete position, why should the company you are chasing chose you? What sets you are apart? What differentiates you from all the rest? What makes you different? If I am looking at 30 different IG profiles, and every single person I’m looking at is a bad a$$ potential She Lifter, why should I pick one over another? What is the most compelling reason I should choose you when compared to everyone else? What is it that YOU bring to the table? Is it your story? Is it your reach? Is it who you know? Is it your network? Is it who you might be able to put me in touch with? Is it your vision? What is it about you that I can’t go another day without having you on my team? Here’s why this is so important. We are in the business of fitness. Even more concise we are mainly in the business of lifting and competing. Competitors are known for being beautiful. There are countless beautiful women in this industry. They could ALL be amazing absolutely perfect ambassadors for ANY company. But how do you choose? The last 10 years have been interesting for me. I was never the youngest. I was never the prettiest. I never had the best shape, the best structure, or the best physique. I never had the pro card. I had to sell myself on everything else. Those things became my positioning statement and my added value. THAT’s what mad ME different. I never tried to falsely sell myself on being the prettiest, having the most talent, the best shape, none of that. They would be complete lies. LOL. But I DID focus on my strengths. What is your added value?
Lastly, what is your familiarity with the product? I’ve thought about this one a great deal – especially since starting my own business. And I’m going to make this a little personal, but I do believe it applies to all companies. She Lifts Gear is just me and my momma, but mainly me. I don’t have investors. I don’t have a ton of capital. To be honest, I started with a little bit of money my mom gave me but then lost by using the wrong manufacturer in China. I am still fighting to get that money back. I’ve never seen or sold a product from that manufacturer and probably never will. Boo. So what did I do? Every dollar I brought in through campaigns I’ve been working on and meal plans I’ve been writing for women I’ve put right in to She Lifts Gear. Inventory. Website Development. Marketing materials. All the stuff that goes with starting and maintaining a small business. Greg, my hubby gave me his blessing in starting She Lifts Gear, and he doesn’t tell me at all what to do or what not to do – he just doesn’t let me touch in to “our” money (which there’s not much of anyway). No, I can do whatever I want as long as I am using my money. So I think I started initially realistically with $400. That’s it. A few designs and very small runs (quantities). I’ve done it all through PayPal mainly so that I don’t spend it. It’s not as easily accessed for me, so I won’t tap in to it. And I haven’t. Not one cent. EVERY dollar I’ve spent has gone right back in to the business. And now that taxes are behind me I am finally in a position to pay the Dream Foundation Charity 5% of the sales in 2016. I’ll be cutting that check soon, and I can’t even tell you how excited I am to make that real. It won’t be a lot, but it will be something. And I WILL make a big deal out of it on social. I promise.
The reason I share all this with you is to let you know my finances are limited. The company IS growing, but it’s little by little, layer upon layer. What started as $400 is now several thousand (yay), but I am still ever so cautious with every penny. Every penny.
Part of the mission of the company is to donate 5% of every sale to charity. Most companies donate 1-2%, if that. I decided on 5%.
Most all women who have ordered through the website have done so not just because they love the product but because they love the mission. They love the cause. They were touched. They have been affected in some way by cancer or by some terrible disease. Others have embraced the company because they love that it’s a company focused on empowering women, bringing women together, and celebrating a sport that so many of us love. Then there are those I’m sure who just happen on the page, see something they like, and order it. I love them all! I love YOU all! I’m not just saying that.
So when I have women asking to represent the company – whether it be for me to sponsor or make them an ambassador and/or athlete without first being a customer – well, that’s just hard for me. Why? Because there truly is something to be said about women who first believe in the mission and the cause so much that they want to be a part of it with no strings attached. You know?
So when I get to the point where I am choosing my team, I know that IS one thing I will be looking at. I can’t say it will be a steadfast rule, but I can easily think of a handful of people already who have been so extremely loyal to the brand that it would be foolish of me to not reward them in some way.
That’s just me speaking on behalf of my little company. But I am fairly certain many companies feel the same way. There were a few times I reached out to companies early on having not first tried their product. How can I rep something without first having my skin in the game?
So (and it seems I start a lot of my paragraphs that way…sorry, not sorry) I hope that gives you some things to think about as you approach companies for any kind of a partnership. The more you do your homework, the more compelling your story, the more passionate you are about the industry, the company, and the product, and the more you bring to the table, the better chance you’ll have in landing any kind of deal.
Don’t be the girl who messaged me privately (I didn’t even know her) and stated matter of fact, “I want my first hat for free.” And that’s just one. I’ve had several interesting propositions.
I’ll keep you posted when I’m ready to make that next step. I don’t know what it will look like. Not yet. But I know there is huge power in building partnerships. And I know so many of you would rock the gear. I appreciate everyone who is already doing it.
I love you all. You’re all #shelifters, and for that I’m thankful.