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Getting the hookups: Sponsorship is a two way street
By Bill Mills - Jan 2005
WARPIG File Photos By Dawn Mills

That would be the life, to be a sponsored paintball player.  Never have to buy a thing again, and itís just paintball day and night.  There must be companies out there that just want to hand out a free ride, because if they pay for you to play, then more people will get into paintball and they will make more money, right?  You donít have to be a Todd Martinez or Chris LaSoya to land a sponsorship, but you do have to understand what they are if you want to get the hook-ups.  In this first installment of a two chapter article weíll look at what paintball sponsorship is, and what it isnít.

Thereís no such thing as a free lunch.

Sponsorships take many forms in paintball, but the one shape in which you will almost never find them is paintball welfare.  Just because a sponsored player or team is getting money or goods from their sponsor does not mean they are getting it for free.

The big thing to remember when talking about sponsorship is that it is a business deal.  The sponsor is giving goods or services to the player or team, and if itís going to be a good deal for them, theyíve got to be getting something back.

Letís look at a hypothetical sponsorship request.  Joe Longballer is calling up Tim Splatswell from FlyRite Paintball, to see if he can line up a sponsorship for Team Chupacabras.  [authorís note: While I am using a number of fictional people and businesses in this article, the numbers and dollar amounts are based on real businesses.]

Joe:  Hi Tim, howís it going?  You recovered from that wild night in the bar the last night of World Cup?

Tim: Whew! That was some night.  I missed my flight home the next day, but Iím doing good now, ramping things up for next seasonís marketing campaigns.  How are the Chupacabras doing?

Joe:  Fantastic, we picked up a couple of new front players, from Team Hello Kitty, that really rock.  Weíre going to have a fantastic season.  In fact, thatís what I was calling you about, I wanted to discuss sponsorship for the new year.

Tim: What are you guys looking for?

Joe: Well, you saw how well we did at World Cup, we almost made the semifinals, and that was out of 60 teams.  Weíre planning to play all 6 of the Mid-Local-Region series.  Weíve scrimmaged with a lot of the teams from the MLR and just whomped on them, so I know weíll be taking home trophies.

Tim: Uh, huh.  But what is it you need to do that?

Joe:  Well, you know, itís expensive to travel to all those events.  Weíre using up all our money now on paint.  If you sponsor us with paint for the events, and for practice weíd be able to afford our entry fees and travel costs.  I figure thatís 10 cases per tournament, plus another 15 in practice before each one, so 150 total.

Tim:  Hmmm, 150 cases of paint, letís see, those normally sell for $80 each, so weíre talking about a value of $12,000 for the season.  And what will we get.

Joe: Well, youíll be our sponsor!  Weíll have your logo on our jerseys and weíll tell everyone at the tournament how good your paint is.  Plus, when we win, you know everyone will shoot FlyRite, because thatís what the winnerís shoot.

OK, now letís take a peek inside Timís head and see how heíll be evaluating this.  Joe is asking him for $12,000 worth of sponsorship.  Now really, FlyRite would only pay their own wholesale cost for the paint, so lets say the cost would be around $6,000.  But we also need to consider that by giving this away, FlyRite is missing out on selling 150 cases of paint to the store that Team Chupacabras buys their paint from, so the real cost of the sponsorship is still around $12,000.

Easy, itís a ďwrite off,Ē a ďpromotional expense.Ē  After all, Tim has a budget at FlyRite for advertising and sponsorships, so this should be a no-brainer, right?  Well not really, just like every paintballer, paintball companies have to work on a budget too.  They want to put their dollars where they will do the most good.  So how good a deal is this sponsorship for FlyRite?  After all we know it would be fantastic for Team Chupacabras.

In the advertising game itís all about getting your message out to enough of the right people.  One of the most common terms used in advertising when comparing dollars to reach is cost per thousand, or CPM (M is the roman numeral for 1,000.)  So what is the reach of a Team Chupacabras sponsorship in CPM?  Letís see, they will be playing the six events of the MLR, which a little research would show us draws some 40 or so five man teams per event.  With an average of 8 people per team (alternates, family members, etc.) we can expect that each tournament will have around 320 people.  For a grand total of 1920 people that might see the logo on the jersey.  Oh yeah, if Team Chupacabras wins, the 50 or so people who hang around for the awards ceremony might see it a second time.

OK, so we divide the cost by the impressions, and find that FlyRite would be paying $6.25 per person who saw the logo, or (multiplied by $1,000) or a CPM of $6,250.  The question should be obvious at this point.  Is it worthwhile to spend $6.25 a person to show the FlyRite logo to less than 2,000 people?  Will that bring in more than $12,000 in sales to make it a profitable move?

Now lets compare the sponsorship to some other ways the money could be spent Ė a magazine ad for example.  A one page ad in SuperPaintMag that prints 80,000 copies a month will cost around $1,200 and with discounts for a one year contract running the ad for a year is equivalent in cost to the deal Team Chupacabras wants.  80,000 copies of the magazine per issue, times 12 issues gives us 960,000 impressions Ė and these are more than a logo, itís a full color page where we can really talk about how great FlyRite paint is.  For the print ad, weíre paying a CPM rate of $12.50.

OK, do the math, a magazine ad with a CPM rating of $12.50 or a team sponsorship with a CPM of $6,250. 

Tim: Uh, yeah Joe.  Iíve known you for a few years now, and youíve always been a stand-up player.  Iíd love to be able to help you but thatís just not a cost effective way for us to promote FlyRite paint.  We can probably set up something to give you a price break on paint if you commit to buying all 150 cases of paint you need for the year through Splaterrific, your local FlyRite dealer. 

OK, Timís a bright guy, he knows the math and unless heís trying to run his company out of business, he knows that a team having determination, or a desire to win isnít whatís going to benefit his company.  He knows that itís advertising exposure that will help his company.  Heís also not missed out on the fact that Team Chupacabras could be a help in marketing FlyRite paint, as long as the deal is something that benefits both groups.

Itís not your dedication that counts, itís the size of your audience

So what kind of sponsorship deals are beneficial to both the sponsor and the player or team?  Well, to start with, if a team gets a lot of media exposure now theyíve got something to offer.  If you go to a bookstore and look at two or three tournament paintball magazines youíre likely to see at least a dozen full page photos of players from team Dynasty.  Cruise the photo galleries of a few major paintball web sites, and youíll find hundreds, if not thousands of pictures of them.  In many of them sponsor logos and gear are seen.  Every one of those pictures, in every copy of the magazine is bumping up the exposure rate that Dynastyís sponsors are getting.  In this case the high readership of the paintball media is working for the team, rather than against it.  Superstar teams and players make sense to sponsor because they are seen by a large audience.  The larger the audience, the more people are reached with every dollar spent on the team.  The CPM rate goes down, and the sponsor is getting a better deal.

So, if we can apply this to the Chupacabras, letís consider some ways they can improve their CPM.  That means either lowering the cost, as Tim did, or raising the amount of exposure the Chupacabras would get for FlyRite.  One way to get your mug in all the paintball mags is to win a bunch of major tournaments.  But lets get real here, for every Dynasty, there are thousands of other teams youíve never heard of.  The chances of an unknown sweeping onto the scene and skyrocketing to the top are extremely slim.    Winning tournaments isnít the only way to get an audience Ė being newsworthy is Ė and so is getting to know those who report the news.

Playing at national tournaments one is bound to run into people with ID tags that say ďMediaĒ instead of ďPlayer.Ē  Taking a minute to give them a friendly hello can make a difference.

Hereís a common scenario that Iíve seen time and time again.

Joe: Hi, Iím Joe, captain of Team Chupacabras.

Dawn: Hi Joe, Iím Dawn, webmaster of  Iím out here shooting pictures for the web site and a couple of the magazines that are our media partners.

Joe: Thatís why I stopped to talk with you.  I got into paintball because of your web site, and now Iíve been playing for three years.  Weíre a new team from the midsoutheast region of the west, and we are about to go on field.  We were hoping youíd be able to get some pictures of our game.

Dawn: Well, Iím about to shoot a game between Philly and Detroit in a half hour, so as long as your game starts on time I should be able to get it, too.

Joe: That would be great, thanks!  You know, we get together for pizza after practices and watch PigTV, and we love it.  Any chance one of us could be the guy that introduces the show or says ďWeíll be right back?Ē

Dawn: Probably.  Iíll tell Bill youíre interested in doing it.

And conversely Iíve seen some of these kinds of conversations.

Slim: Yo, hey itís the Warpig lady.

Dawn: Uh, hi.

Slim: You know Iíve got a bone to pick with you.  Last year at World Cup you took a picture of me, and it made me look fat.

Dawn: Oh, sorry.

Slim: Yeah, you better make me look good this year.

Put yourself in Dawnís shoes Ė even talking to the most understanding and unbiased reporters and photographers you may hope to find, one of these guys is going to have more media exposure for his team after the tournament than the other.

Thereís more than one way to skin a cat.

What a lot of people donít realize is that playing in tournaments isnít the only way to get exposure.  Paintball web site and magazine editors all have one thing in common Ė they need content Ė articles and photos for their publications.  Most will gladly accept, and often publish freelance submissions Ė a quick e-mail to the editor can find out if theyíd be interested in a topic youíd like to cover.

Now, consider this.  If you, or someone on your team writes two or three articles on say Ė running drills, packing gear for a paintball tournament, even reviewing a product you recently purchased, the pictures you take to illustrate the article will all have your team members in them.  This route can get you the same kind of exposure as when your picture is taken at a tournament, but without the cost of competing in a tournament, and with a much higher chance of it being your team being featured.

Publicity isnít the only thing a player or team can offer to a sponsor.  Weíll look into other resources a team can use to meet their goals in part two, so stay tuned.

Continue to Chapter 2 HERE.

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