Rider Sponsorship: Get A Leg Up on The Competition

By Ali Barros

Professionals, adult amateurs, and young riders alike may be on the hunt for sponsorship and ambassadorship opportunities. The competition is stiff and companies receive an overwhelming number of requests. It is important to be familiar with the terminology and requirements for becoming and maintaining sponsorships and ambassadorships.

What is the difference between ambassadorship and sponsorship? Many riders are unfamiliar with the differences between the two concepts –which can lead to confusion. Companies can offer ambassadorships and/or sponsorships opportunities to eligible riders. Ambassadorships offer discounts to riders for merchandise or services. Sponsorships provide riders with free merchandise or services.

Once you determine which type of partnership you are seeking, it is important to write a professional letter that includes a brief bio, your riding career highlights, memberships and affiliations, references, horses you own or compete, and social media pages. Since companies receive hundreds to thousands of requests each year; professionalism will increase your chances and help you stand out from other applicants.

Companies often narrow the eligibility pool. For example, Bit Of Britain offers an annual young rider sponsorship competition for eventers. The competition is open to riders who are 25 years of age of younger, competing at Training level or above, active on social media, and have no other major sponsorships to apply. Out of many applications, Bit Of Britain selects eight semi-finalists who are given the opportunity to share their blogs, in hopes of securing one of three top spots based on public voting. This public vote constitutes for 50% of the sponsorship decision. On January 5, 2018 the selected riders were announced: Austin Skeens took the top spot; he is an eventer from USEA Area II who competes on his Canadian Sport Horse Gelding, “Rocmaster.” There was a three-way tie for second place: Lauren Yeagy, Elizabeth Henry, and Emma Sloan; third place was awarded to Magdalena Valenti. These riders received a variety of products in differing amounts, including: first place ($1,500 USD), second place ($1,000 USD), and third place ($500 USD).

Southern Equestrian LIfe offers an ambassadorship program for mid-south riders. The Georgia based equestrian clothing company asked interested riders to submit a video on Instagram and a written application on their website. The brand allows a variety of equine enthusiasts the opportunity to participate: barrel racers, hunters, jumpers, eventers, polo players, saddle seat riders, and Quarter Horse riders. In 2017, some notable mid-south riders who were selected included: Cooper Dean of Alabama, Amanda Agee of Tennessee, Tayler Adams of Georgia, and Mari Pawlowski of Florida.

Companies are looking for well-rounded riders who are passionate, competitive, and tech savvy, with social media usage becoming an important factor of the last few years. A good rule of thumb is to create an equestrian centered website, a Facebook business page, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

Whether considering sponsorships or ambassadorships, first read the guidelines in the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) rulebook under your selected status (professional, junior, or amateur). According to the USEF rulebook, non-professionals may accept reimbursement for any bona fide expenses directly related to the horse (farrier, vet bills, or horse show entries), but many not receive reimbursements for travel, hotel, equipment, room and board. Non-professionals may only accept a non-monetary token gift of appreciation valued less than $300 annually. Therefore, juniors and amateurs may not accept large sponsorship gifts, such as a saddle or large cash donations.

Best of luck on your search!

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