The words "sponsored/sponsorship" have been thrown around quite a bit in our industry lately. As we see professionals and now kids running around with patches all over their shirts, we want to create a little clarity in what that looks like from our point of view.
SPONSORSHIP: noun. the position or function of a person or group who vouches for, supports, advises, or helps fund another person or an organization or project. In other words, a sponsorship is a relationship between two people or a person and a company or organization with a common goal in mind who work together to support each other's cause.
ADVERTISEMENT: noun. a public communication that promotes a product, service, brand or event. In other words, an advertisement is simply promoting something that you get very little to nothing in return for.
DONATION: the recipient gives nothing in exchange for the donated product, service or financial contribution.
Before you pick up that patch on the table and iron it on your shirt, send in that sponsorship application, or ask someone to do something for you, know what you're signing up for. An advertisement, sponsorship or donation. A couple things to keep in mind.
1) Let's start with advertisements.. If you're picking up a patch or something that you can visually see with no commitment from the company/organization, you are simply a free advertisement for them. If you're putting their stickers on your truck, trailer, etc. you are an advertisement. If they are investing nothing back into you excelling, through providing a trade in products, knowledge, wisdom, opportunity or money, that apply directly to you, you are an advertisement.
2) If you desire to be sponsored, it's a two way street, a relationship. With a sponsorship, you need to be willing to put some skin in the game like going out in public, to have conversations with people, create material and testimonials for the company or organization to use to further their cause, use their products, attend meetings, etc.
3) If you just want to take from the company, without giving anything in return, you're asking for a donation. There are times a person needs donations to further their cause, but make sure you check yourself before you ask, look at the big picture as to how you plan to use the funds. If it's strictly for a personal agenda to win trophies, saddles that have nothing to do with helping others and growing the western industry, maybe you should consider collecting cans, mowing yards or picking up dog poop to raise money for yourself to achieve goals so donations can go to bigger causes that serve many people.
4) No matter what you're looking for, make sure you align with the message and/or products the company is promoting. If you wrestle with pigs, you both get dirty. Be cautious of creating partnerships or receiving goods from a company, organization or individual you aren't familiar with or don't truly align with. If you're walking around representing their company and that leads another person to them and they get hurt, you played a part in that as well.
Educate yourselves, know what you're asking for, know what you're willing to offer, and remember, who you surround yourself with matters in all cases!