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Getting the hookups: Sponsorship is a two way street - Chapter 2
By Bill Mills - Jan 2005
WARPIG File Photos By Dawn Mills

This article is a continuation of Getting the Hookups: Sponsorship is a two way street.  You may read Chapter 1 here.

In the first installment of this article we considered what value a company logo on a player’s jersey can be to a sponsor, and why it isn’t always something they can use.  But sponsorship for publicity’s sake isn’t the only thing paintball companies need.

Publicity is not the only thing you have to offer

Let’s get real, if you don’t have the track record of big wins, there is no way you’ll be able to convince a potential sponsor you’re any different from the thousand other teams who think they will be next years big winners.  While publicity is probably the basis of a sponsorship most people want, it’s not the only way to work a deal.  It’s easier, because it usually doesn’t mean much extra work, but some potential sponsors might benefit from your team in ways other than getting their logo or product in front of a lot of people. 

In the 1990s, the Phantom Jesters were an amateur tournament team who took home their share of trophies at NPPL events and the International Amateur Open (some of the team members later went on to become NXL referees.)  One of their main sponsors was Pro Team Products.  One of the things the Jesters were required to do as a part of their sponsorship package was supply one or two people a day to work in Pro Team’s booth at the Paintball World Cup.  This met a need Pro Team had – additional staff for their booth, and since they knew the Jesters were familiar with their products, the team was able to provide the sponsor something they might not be able to get through many other people.

Paintball fields are a great potential sponsor for an exchange of services arrangement.  Field owners always need workers – whether it is for clearing brush and building bunkers, or refereeing games.  For a field owner, if they can get workers without paying out cash in salaries for them, they’ve helped their bottom-line.  A fairly common sponsorship arrangement between a paintball field and a team is for the team to provide an agreed upon number of people to work at the field for a set number of hours each month in exchange for not having to pay to use the field for practices, and a discount on buying paint. 

The more angles you cover, the better the deal

Publicizing your team, by making sure publications know about things you do and submitting stories and photos may not close a sponsorship deal on its own.  It can however, sweeten the deal if you’re doing something else for the sponsor.  In the mid 1990s, before I’d ever played in a tournament, I was a sponsored player wearing the I&I Sports logo.  I’d developed visibility as a writer in paintball magazines and on the Internet, and helped I&I launch their presence on the Internet, customizing shopping software to work with their existing store databases. 

So, let’s assume that our hypothetical friend Joe has read this article and taken the lessons to heart.  What might his conversation with Tim at Fly Rite paintballs sound like? 

Joe:  Hi Tim, how’s 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 I’m doing good now, ramping things up for next season’s 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.  We’re going to have a fantastic season.  In fact, that’s what I was calling you about, I wanted to discuss sponsorship for the new year.

10-4 Good Buddy

This phone call started out the same as the first example.  Why?  Because Tim definitely started out on the right foot.  One thing he did understand is the good buddy angle.  At paintball tournaments and trade shows there are usually opportunities to chat with people from the paintball industry – at lunches, player parties, trade show booths, and at many events at popular night spots frequented by attendees (such as Old Town Kissimmee during World Cup, or the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel at the International Amateur Open.) 

Little things, like helping someone carry their boxes from their car to a trade show booth can make a big impact.  If there are two teams both vying for the same sponsorship package, and one of the teams has taken the time to get to know, and make a good impression on the company reps, guess who’s going to get the deal. 

OK, back to our phone call. 

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.  We’re planning to play all 6 of the Mid-Local-Region series.  But that’s not all we’re doing.  We’re also taking promotion of our team and sponsors serious too.

Tim:  Really?  How so?

Joe:  Well, the MLR tournament series is a great series, I went to a couple of their tournaments last year.  Their problem is that as good as it is, nobody out of the area knows about it.  I’ve already talked to Duke Logan at SuperPaintMag.  They ran an article on team practices that I wrote last year, and Duke said that if we send them in articles and photos from the tournaments, he can make sure that at least a couple of the key pictures promoting our sponsors get used.  Last year the MLR had a big FlyRite Paintballs banner on the stage where they gave out the trophies – we could make sure that showed up six times a year in SuperPaintMag, with the first place winners holding up trophies right underneath it.

Nice move by Joe.  He's found a way that his team doesn't have to be the one that wins the tournament to get the sponsorship benefits linked to the publicity of the win.
Tim: That would be good for us.  We already sponsor the MLR and something like this would help us get more out of what we are already putting out.

Joe: That’s exactly what I was thinking.  There are a couple of the big web sites that I’ve talked to also, who said that if we sent in photos of the tournament, they’d be willing to put a link to your web site with “Tournament photos made possible by the support of FlyRite Paintballs” on each of the photo gallery pages.
Tim: Really?  Promoting our web site some more would really be a plus for us.  So what is it you are looking for in the way of support?

Joe:  Well you know, like a lot of teams, we’re pretty much funded by our own credit cards.  We’ve already got Big Paint Adventures as a sponsor.  They are our local field, and we’re reffing on Sundays to be able to use the field for practices on Saturdays, and even get paint at the field’s cost.  That’s helping us set aside the money for hotel rooms, but if we could get five or six cases of paint for each of the MLR events, we’d be able to save that money for the entry fees.

Tim: I think we could do that.  Since we sponsor MLR, I’m already sending a truck of paint to each one of their events.  You know, since you guys are close to Orlando, if you  can give me 3 guys each day of World Cup to load and move paint, I can put an extra five or six cases for you guys in the delivery to Big Paint Adventures the month before each MLR event to help with your practices too.

Joe: That would be fantastic!

Tim:  Great.  I’ll e-mail you one of our sponsorship contracts with an outline of the details for both sides of the deal.

That sure went better.  This time around Joe used didn’t just lay out what Team Chupacabras could do for their sponsor, but he also brought up another sponsorship deal he had already arranged, building on that momentum and making his team look more desirable.  To top it off, he opened with what Team Chupacabras could do for FlyRite, not what they wanted take from them.  For a potential sponsor the team that approaches with a helping hand, instead of looking for a handout is much more attractive.

The key to setting up a good sponsorship deal is remembering that it’s not paintball welfare.  Sponsorship is a commitment between two groups to help each other, so they have to both benefit in real ways.  Figuring out what you or your team have to offer a potential sponsor is the most crucial step in finding a sponsor that can provide what you need.


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