A little point of view about being (or wanting to be) a sponsored athlete.
This post is partly inspired by a few articles that have been written over at Ultra168. The writers there have done a great job discussing sponsorship in ultra-running and the links for those articles can be found at the bottom of this post.
I have wanted to write about this for a while but have put it off as I figured it won’t be worth even 5 cents and might stir some ‘controversy’. The opinions here are entirely my own of what sponsorship means for me as the average athlete. But here goes.
A short history
This website was purchased in 2007 and was originally created and used as a photography portfolio website. Back then, I was studying IT and was quite involved in photography, helping out in my friends photography business (do check out his site!) and taking on freelance assignments of my own. Fast forward a few years later in 2009, I started running and the rest is as they say, history.
Prior to the end of 2010, I wanted to drop the photography portfolio due to lack of interest but I still wanted to keep the domain name, so I created this running blog. What started out as just random posts about running became a website that chronicled the important running events in my life, races, gear reviews, etc. You get the point.
This website has grown so much since I first turned it into a running blog. Through this website, I’ve had the chance to meet elite international runners like Anton Krupicka, enter the VIP pen at Sundown Marathon in 2012, as well as be invited to speak at a major sports conference. I occasionally get invites to media events and also receive shoes to test and review, such as the Newton Energy NR. In some way I do fall into the group of ‘sports bloggers’ of Singapore. Hell, I even had to make a name card!
In March this year, I became a sponsored athlete for Nuke Optics, a local eyewear company. This was ‘a big step’ in the minds of my friends and peers who have encouraged and supported my running journey. It definitely felt like a form of recognition for the passion and effort I’ve put in towards trail running. I will admit, it does feels nice to have a sponsor to help you out with your gear for race and in return help promote the brand and the product; it works both ways.
I often get questions on whether I have any other sponsors, or rather why haven’t I gotten any other sponsors. The one question that pops up regularly was if I’m sponsored by Salomon.
I have worn their kit for the last few years since I was introduced to trail running. The reason was because back then in 2011, there wasn’t much brands which carried trail specific gear that also came in size XS (I didn’t know anything back then to be honest). After knowing that Kilian Jornet was a Salomon athlete, it felt natural to be acquainted with their gear. My first purchase of a Salomon product was the S-Lab Hydration Pack. Over time, I accumulated a number of Salomon attire and used them mostly for extended periods of training and race days.
The trail running scene has changed a lot now. While I still have high regard for Salomon, I had started to feel the need to break away from using their kit and find something new to use. I don’t want to be a free advertiser or running billboard for Salomon. I’m sure everyone knows them by now.
The hurdles of trying
I’ve had discussions with my sponsored peers and friends in other sports who tell me it’s easy to get sponsorship or you could just ask. I don’t know, asking for sponsorship. Really?
- I can’t win races nor do I have a background of winning races.
- I don’t have a large following on social media.
- I don’t have a charity or cause to run for (see link #4 below).
- Specific brands are usually tied to a specific distributor. So in some ways, you have to have a feasible working relationship with the company or be in the good books of the representative.
As bitter as I feel about it, being a sponsored athlete is just an icing on the cake, especially for an average runner like me. Every athlete who is one or would like to be one has their own reasons, motivations, aspirations and to find/have a sponsor to assist them with it. Some may have the athletic qualities to win races and by having sponsors aids them with their training, while others aspire big challenges and while may not win races, will definitely make great story tellers and ambassadors of the brand they are representing. I’ am very thankful that Nuke Optics was willing to bring in me as a sponsored athlete when they first called out for applications earlier in the year.
In the end, trail running and running itself has always been something that has helped me with my life’s problems and allowed me to connect with many wonderful people and opportunities. This website now serves as a platform for me to write my thoughts, stories and occasional product reviews and event information. I have never made money off from this website, with even Google Ads on this website barely reaching $2. I do think about sponsorship from time to time but I try not to dwell on it.
With that I end my lengthy post. I hope I didn’t offend anyone! If you have a comment for me, please leave it below or hound me on Facebook. Cheers!
On the point of gear, I’ am currently looking forward to receiving the WAA Ultra Carrier Shirt, which I hope to use during my first 100km race in March next year. WAA is a brand that’s known to many in the stage racing and desert ultra-marathon circuit.