Sponsorships in Jiu-Jitsu /// By: Vincent Inoncillo
How does Jiu-Jitsu spread across the world? Not only has the number of people that train increased, but the number of companies that are particular to this sport have as well. It’s pretty common nowadays to see an academy patch on the back of a kimono accompanied by a company logo of some kind. Many of these athletes are supporters of these brands or are even sponsored by the companies themselves. Unlike professional sports such as basketball, golf and tennis endorsements for athletes are few and far in between. However, in Jiu-Jitsu there is so much talent that there is also a lot of room for athletes to be sponsored or become ambassadors for a brand.
First, what does a sponsorship mean? The first thing that may come to mind is free gear. It’s true that companies offer free products to athletes from time to time. Free or promotional products is a good way for any company to spread the word about their brand. The type of sponsorship programs that companies offer athletes may differ. Some offer financial sponsorship along with an allotment of apparel a few times a year. Others may offer other things along with apparel such as a personal discount code for the athlete to purchase their own gear and another discount code which is less than their own that they can give to their friends, family and teammates.
There seems to be a common misconception about sponsorship and what it entails. As we just mentioned it’s different for each company as to what they are looking for. Some are big enough to offer money and free gear while others are only able to just offer a discount code for their products. Whatever the case may be, sponsorship is a two-way street. It’s quid-pro-quo, they do something for you while you do something for them in return. That something is usually reposting their posts from social media, posting about them in your own social sites while wearing their product along with other requirements that would help them promote their company. Ultimately being sponsored means you are a walking, talking billboard for the company you are representing. You are a representative, an ambassador or even an extension of what they are about.
A good majority of the biggest companies don’t just sponsor anyone, they sponsor athletes who take the top of the podium at big events, or even the ones that have a big following and are able to advocate that company’s vision or message. At times these big brands also invest in athletes that are up and coming through the ranks. It just depends on what the company is able to offer at the time.
One scenario of “sponsorship” can look like this: an athlete gets to know an up-and-coming company from the beginning. This company starts to create a buzz and soon becomes sought-after, but still easy to obtain their products. The athlete buys some of their products and post pictures on their social media and tags the company and occasionally reposts some of their posts. At the same time, the athlete is in contact with the company talking to them and building a relationship. The company then decides to give the athlete a discount code and even some patches to wear on their kimonos to promote and represent the brand. At this point this is not a sponsorship, but just a building block towards one. A lot of athletes can get this situation confused with being sponsored and leads to them asking the company owner for free gear. Some companies may give out some free swag, but sometimes not. Either way this wouldn’t warrant the athlete to reach out in such a way. Especially if the company hasn’t formally offered them a sponsorship of some kind where the details are laid out as to what is expected of both parties.
Another scenario could look like this: an athlete makes the podium at many of the major competitions. A company who regularly “scouts” for new talent/athletes recognizes a familiar face always making the podium, but who may not have a large social media following. They make contact with the athlete, gets to know them, and eventually offers them a provisional contract to test out how feasible the relationship between the brand and that particular athlete would be.
Whatever the case may be, remember that a Jiu-Jitsu sponsorship does not define you or your Jiu-Jitsu. Your focus shouldn’t be on the free stuff you feel like you are entitled to just because you may have won a few tournaments here and there. Focus on your Jiu-Jitsu, support the brands that you believe in and the rest will follow.