In the past 2 years, sports crowdfunding has been a rising phenomenon, with global champion MAKEACHAMP. For the first time, athletes can get funds directly from their their community, without having to sell chocolate door to door or organize time-consuming charity events. Instead, they can use their social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) as well as other tools, such as email, to get public attention on their objective.
As online platforms develop, in America, Europe, Asia, Brazil, this type of funding is poised for fast growth. Simply, it is a convenient platform that young promising athletes understand, and has the same interactions they find in popular online applications. It's also more efficient, as they are able to tap into a global audience (36 countries in the case of MAKEACHAMP!)
In the same time, sports agents, as well as federations, are asking if crowdfunding is the best for athletes. Is it good to announce that you don't have funds? Wouldn't it better to have closed-door meetings with big corporations to ask for sponsorships? At the opposite end, we have also seen athletes expecting to fund their whole athletic career, from $30 to $50,000 on platforms like MAKEACHAMP.
Below, we will explore what the role of crowdfunding is, both for athletes and sports organizations, and what role traditional sponsors can play. We will also see see how crowdfunding completes traditional sources of funding.
Investing Personal funds
Crowdfunding only works if you have an existing community that identifies with your dedication to the sport. They have seen you train, sweat, and sacrifice long hours to excel in your sport. They know how important your goal is to you. They follow your twitter and official Facebook fan page, and you can almost hear them cheer whenever you enter a fight or a race.
This means most athletes will only succeed in crowdfunding if they have invested their own personal funds in their sport. It is expected that in the first years, you pay most of the nutrition, training, coaching, equipment as well as competition fees, and establish this burgeoning community.
This is an aspect that is often overlooked in crowdfunding campaigns. Indeed, why would someone back you if you did not yourself pay most of the costs associated to the sport? If your fans read your budget, and discover that you bear most of the costs, they will be more understanding and more willing to contribute to your athletic dream. So make sure to write down the funds you have already invested.
This graphic created by runner, Ese Omene, showcases her expenses and reassures contributors that she is the first to sacrifice her time and funds:
As a note, this is true for most crowdfunding campaigns. In hardware, creative and other crowdfunding campaigns, the funds invested by team members are always explicitly written.
Crowdfunding To Boost your Athletic Career
Crowdfunding speed up your athletic career when you discover that personal funds will no longer cover all the costs. When you win your first title, be it local, provincial or national, you can use this winning medal as a springboard for your crowdfunding campaign.
With the new press coverage, social media attention, as well as kudos from your coach and community, you can transform this social capital into well-earned crowdfunding dollars for your next competition.
Supporters can contribute with the confidence that they are backing a new champion, and know that this contribution could transform an athlete into a national or world champion. Who knows, maybe even an Olympian!
A video of your recent victory, with you demonstrating your dedication and passion, can trigger emotions and get the whole community to share your campaign. Here's a good one:
If you have authority in your sport, you can also announce interesting rewards, such as private workshops or signed merchandise. This can be a difference between a "meeh" crowdfunding campaign and a massively successful campaign with contributors from all over the world.
All these ingredients make for an exciting sports crowdfunding campaign, that is easily communicated on social media, with a link on Facebook, a nice picture on Instagram, tagging influencers on Twitter, and sending emails to those who matter.
Athletes agree : the necessary outreach in crowdfunding is tiring and challenging. However the vast majority welcome the renewed and strong community of supporters they inherit from the campaign. There will be new names, contributors from the other side of the world, and blog and press coverage that bring eyes to your career. Lucky athletes can even find new businesses or patrons who can put in hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
It is difficult to ask for funds from the community several times a year. Rather, we recommend athletes to have a sponsorship plan to complement the funds from the crowd. MAKEACHAMP's David Ancor has written an extensive guide on how to find a sponsor. The guide is often referred to in the sports community as one of the best, and you can follow the steps established by David.
How does crowdfunding work with corporate sponsors? They react great! All companies might not know about sports crowdfunding, but they know about press, blog coverage, or social media buzz. They crave attention, and they are hungry to partner with an athlete who has a good image in the community.
Successful crowdfunders have all that : good press, facebook likes, retweets on Twitter, followers on MAKEACHAMP who read every update. Simply crowdfunding brings you the best social validation.
In the case of MAKEACHAMP, we also make room for sponsor visibility, an additional argument for your sponsorship pitch. See how they are displayed on Marie-Pier's campaign.
Getting National Funding
At this stage, you have been to several championships and won many medals, and national sports organizations could fund you.
Unfortunately, most athletes discover that even with funding from governments, they are unable to cover most fees. Skiers in Team Canada are asked, for example, to find upwards of $30,000 yearly. In this case, we believe crowdfunding has a crucial role to play for top level athletes.
Marie-Pier Préfontaine, who has just been selected by Team Canada to go to the 2015 FIS World Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado, raised $15,600 in her last crowdfunding campaign. She was able to fund her ski season and stay in the race.
This is the same for Mikaela Tommy, who has done 2 successful crowdfunding campaigns of $10k each for two consecutive years. Mikaela Tommy has also been selected to represent Canada at next week's World Championship. Go Mikaela!
In cycling, Marie-Claude Molnar won a silver medal at the London Olympics and is funded by national organizations. She was also able to get community support when she neede new racing bikes.
Looking into the future
In Sovakia for IBU Cup 6 in Oserblie! Super excited to be racing for Canada! Thanks to my #makeachamp supporters for getting me here!— Matthew Strum (@Matt_Strum) February 5, 2015
As we have seen, crowdfunding does not entirely replace existing sources of funding. With good outreach on social media and offline, you can mix and match crowdfunding with personal investment, corporate sponsorship and funding from national sports organizations. Crowdfunding also complements and accelerates an athlete's goal.
As such, we believe crowdfunding will be the reality for competitive athletes in the years to come. Athletes who have hundreds of thousands in their budget, or who are going to the Olympics, are no exception. Expect crowdfunding to be an essential part of the equation, one that brings the necessary funds as well the moral support for you in the next years to come.
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