Since I returned back from Hamilton Island where the inaugural event of a new triathlon format took place in March, I cannot stop thinking about sponsoring as a useful marketing tool for small businesses. The topic haunts me over years already. But now I finally got the guts to say ”no” it doesn’t make sense and won’t help you to grow your business.
Hamilton Super League was the last time that we decided in favor for sponsoring an event. It was based on a lot of promises that in the end were not fulfilled. If people are desperate for money the promise you anything.
The Super League Triathlon is a good example. Due to my close relationship with Chris McCormack, who is one of driving forces behind this event, I was pulled into this venture even though hesitating in the beginning, we did the step and agreed to sponsor this competition.
The format was first of all outlined for the television, all and everything therefore the venue was mainly branded with the Super League logo, all colored in yellow and black. The other sponsors were last minute deals, little colorful add-ons.
By now the social media got an established commercial platform. Sponsored ads are chasing each other for attention. Athletes, be they professional or amateurs are posting for companies of various kind. The efficiency of the means may be doubted as the flood of the stimuli loses its quality as a signal making sense, but turns into insignificant noise.
This was not the case when I started using them in 2008.
The landscape of triathlon events changed massively and is dominated by two companies worldwide, IRONMAN and Challenge. The triathlon community as small global phenomenon is about to dissolve. It resembles more and more the mass movement of marathon. The pioneer times of the sport are definitely over.
This is why I - representing a small business doing pioneer work - need to question the feasibility of sponsoring concepts for companies of our kind with limited resources.
To cut a long story short: Here I want to give you my reasons, why sponsoring in the original sense of the word does not work for small businesses such as the Biestmilch company anymore. Maybe, it never did. The proof of concept for me is undoubtedly provided. I gave it enough time and money to make this conclusion.
The athletes’ agreements I elaborated on average 6 years ago were based on a dream of communication and team work using the social media as platform of knowledge exchange and discussion. My intention was to give all of us - the athletes and the company - more exposure, credibility and authority. My expectations did not get fulfilled. My dream burst.
For the big companies sponsoring may work. Firstly, for them sponsoring is a brand reminder. Logos on athletes' jerseys and banners along event courses suffice to engrain once and again the already established brand. Credibility and acceptance by the market place are not of their concern. Secondly, they don’t have to care, if they lose money. They are big enough to have turned into stable entities, even in the case of huge losses. Sponsoring for them is not about a return on investment.
For us it is, unfortunately the return on investment never happened through all these years. Having our logo on your jerseys or the tattoos on your bodies undoubtedly gave us some great moneys of brand awareness. Here your popularity, credibility and thus media presence payed back. We have been lucky to have your great names on our side.
Nevertheless our sponsoring measures never achieved others to understand how and for what to take Biestmilch. Your influence on sales remained negligible. I personally think that the credibility of sponsoring as such experiences a big crisis. The social media made all advertising inflationary, flat and short-lived.
As a company selling a healthy sport to people Biestmilch needs a different exposure. Bikes, apparel and other equipments receive attention by the media without any effort. Moreover they are visible at any time. The picture painted in the magazines and the prevailing mindset of athletes are that of a society infatuated by technical devices. Tech tools are never basically questioned while Biestmilch as such is still confronted with serious credibility issues.
Health, wellbeing and fitness are attributed to your hard work and the work of your coaches. Fine so. Biestmilch is not considered as an integral part in your build-up and receives no exposure that convinces others of its outstanding quality. Never ever it is mentioned in an interview, it is simply invisible. Here the exception roves the rule.
Since I got involved in the sport in the beginning of 2000, triathlon has changed conspicuously. It became a community sport and resembles much more the marathon scene. It seems to me that CEOs don’t play golf anymore, they do triathlon to get fit, good looking and cool. The age group under commercial focus is 35 to 50. These guys look for role models who teach them how to balance their lives between job, family and themselves.
Pro athletes play a far lesser role than 5 or 10 years ago. That’s sad but a fact.
Only racing without any kind of knowledge transfer in lectures, personal exchange of know-how in training camps etc., only occasional name dropping (I mean dropping the name biestmilch) on the social media does not increase credibility and does not help to sell. Without you sharing experiences and advise people why and how to use Biestmilch our marketing efforts remain too low key to be perceived, the classical dilemma of a small business.
I always tried hard to compensate for our deficits in cash money with video filming, interviews, pod cast series, and posting on all the social media. The work was usually on the side of Biestmilch and usually not shared with the community.
Never ever (at least I don’t remember any official occasion) Biestmilch was mentioned. To talk about wellbeing, and what it needs to stay healthy or get healthy is obviously an intimate subject we keep for ourselves.
To stop the kind of sponsoring I did through all these years, is a difficult decision for me.