An Athlete’s Responsibility to Sponsors and How to Attract the Right Sponsor for YOU!

By Elisabeth Clay

This is a topic I have a lot of passion for. It is the bread and butter of how competitors survive financially in this life. So, let’s start off talking about the second part, attracting the sponsors that are right for you.

Let Me Give You Some History First

When I first started training in jiu jitsu, I was at a gym where much of the time I could do nothing right. Getting a sponsorship was not an exception to the rule. I was told not to cut my hair, not to color my hair and to always dress in an ultra-modest way. I was told not to stand out except in my jiu jitsu skill. They frequently told me that the well-known females in the sport all were alike and that they had what sponsors were looking for, that the loud-mouthed, outspoken and opinionated women would never be liked or sponsored. If I was to get a sponsorship, it would not be from good company’s. I was told that I just needed to conform to reach my goals, but that I should expect that until I was well into my twenties. 

Well, I am Not the Norm. I like to Do Things Differently

I like playing around with my look, and my approach to life is to just what I do. It keeps me entertained. This last couple of weeks was the first vacation I have ever had in my life. My family has had lots of fluctuations in income, so the trip moving to Alaska was the only sort of vacation I had ever had. Even when I went on tournament trips, I did not allow myself to do fun things as it used more money and my focus was on competing. Anyway, side note there, so I spent money on coloring product as a diversion to academic work and training. I found who I liked to be on the outside by experimenting.

I have learned that the very most important thing in life is BE TRUE TO YOURSELF!

When you are true to your feelings, your heart, and your needs and desires then you can be something for everyone else. This is what brings happiness and fulfillment. Do not change you to fit a mold for someone or something else, this is something I still struggle with in interpersonal relationships, but I am working on this in all aspects of my life. It is easy to display this outwardly, but harder to feel it deep inside of yourself. However, this being YOU is what attracts the right sponsors for you. If you do not know who you are, what you stand for, what you like, and what you feel, then how the heck are they going to know if you represent them?

How I Was Blessed Enough to Get ZEBRA as a Sponsor

Well, as you know, my hair is shaved and colored. I wear clothes that make me feel the most comfortable while competing and training (and it was different than all the rest on the mat). In fact, Tom DeBlass told me that he thought the following at that first ADCC trials: who is this little MMA chick, she won’t make it. Yet he was surprised as I kept winning.

Not only did he notice but so did ZEBRA and a few others. I not only won, but I was different. I looked different and I competed different. Not that I am the best, far from it, but I am working hard to become the best, and I stood out. When Zebra called that was one of the things they mentioned that they did not want to change me. They liked that I was a standout. In fact, in that first conference call with them, that was one of my questions to them; I did not want to be told how to be, how to act and so on. I guess I was still sensitive about all of the control that my first gym tried to shove down my throat. It was such a great fit. I love ZEBRA and all they do for me, as well as my other sponsors that I have picked up.

What You Owe Your Sponsors

Now, what do you owe your sponsors, after you make sure that you are a good fit for them and they are a good fit for you? First, read the contract and make sure that you can and are willing to fulfill the terms and with a happy heart. These companies support you; they allow you to keep training and focusing on what it is that fulfills you. In exchange, make sure that you do all that is asked of you.

When you wear their patches and shout out to them, you are a reflection of their company and what they do. I hear guys all the time talk about how they short the companies that sponsor them, and they laugh about it. That is wrong, and it is theft; they took money, products or services and they now owe them and must give back. I love my sponsors, and maybe that is the key. I cannot imagine my life without them. I am so very grateful for them believing in me and trusting me to perform and represent them. I will do my very best to respect and honor those commitments with humility. May we all take care of our sponsors so that they continue to take care of us. Thank you again Zebra, Albino and Preto, Leao Optics, Fightback CBD, and About Blends Hair Studio. PTAFW and become your lioness!

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