Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sponsors--What It Means

I have been very lucky over the years to have scored some seriously incredible sponsors. And since that happened, I have had friends, family, and random strangers ask the same question, "How did you get sponsored"? I have also been asked how "they" can get sponsored as well. I always take the time to tell them how great my sponsors are. I also inform them on the products I promote, how I interact with other athlete-ambassadors, and so forth. I have always thought about questions like the ones I have been asked. But one stuck out when asked yesterday, one that made me really think.

Question: how would you define "brand ambassador"?

Before I answer that, let me rewind a few years. Back in early 2009 to mid 2009, I started interacting with Injinji Performace Toe-Socks. I started running in 2003 and suffered bad blisters when running long. They almost shut me down on a few 50 mile races. Then a online friend, who also became a really great friend, introduced me to Injinji. From the moment I slipped them on my feet I was a believer. I ran, walked, and worked in nothing but Injinji. I did this for almost a year and a half before ever contacting them about sponsorship. I learned all I could about their products (different types etc). I studied their brand, their beliefs, and how they interacted with people. I wanted to make sure this brand/company was a natural match for myself. And by corresponding with their Ambassador Lead, I wanted them to make sure I was also a right fit as well. At that moment in time they were still a rising company with a huge cult following on the ultra side. In the end, I was accepted to Team Injinji by their then president. As of June 2013, I am still with them and promoting the greatest sock/toe-sock period. I keep up with their new line and check the Injinji site almost daily for sales and promotions.

This year I have been honored and humbled to receive a few more sponsorship opportunities. ENERGYbits, which is 100% spirulina algae, sent me a sample of their product to test and review. As someone who cannot tolerate taking artificial gels, while also being a vegetarian, I was intrigued by this product. I tested the sample and loved it. I then used my own money and purchased more. I wanted to be a paying consumer before even thinking about becoming an ambassador. I also had them send me a bunch of information on the benefits of spirulina algae. I spent hours and hours reading to get an idea on how I could promote their product. And like Injinji, I interacted with their awesome CEO-Founder, Catharine Arnston and her dedicated team to make sure we would gel together.

My most recent sponsorship is with SKORA Running Company. They are a semi new running shoe company based out of Portland, Oregon. SKORA was founded by David Sypniewski, and his idea and company were born out of his discovery of natural running. I had heard so many great things about the SKORA brand that I had to reach out to them...BUT only after reading possibly every review posted on the internet about their shoes. I also watched literally all the videos posted on youtube as well. I then spoke with Tyler Hurst and hooked up a wear tester review for their signature shoe, Form. I wore it while running, and in the meantime, was lucky enough to get their second shoe, Base. If it is possible to be obsessed with a shoe, it happened. I felt compelled to be a part of SKORA Running Company. I now have all four models they have out. I posted daily photos on Twitter and Facebook. I told my friends about them. I promoted the shoe and company itself. All of this before being an ambassador.

Fast forward to where this all started. Question: how would you define "brand ambassador"?

Here are a few ways I would answer that. Someone that promotes the brand by being positive on social media, and in person. Someone who pushes the product to any and all who want to know. Always being there to answer questions. A fellow ambassador, Mike Wilkinson was spot on by saying. "Someone who is first a user of the brand and understands it. Someone who would use the brand regardless of being an ambassador or not (and I feel this is very important). Somebody who wants to help get the word out because they believe in the brand and what it does or is designed to do. They understand the brand, are knowledgeable and can help educate others who are interested. Have the means and / or desire to get the word out."

If you don't appreciate the product you endorse then you are harming it in the long run. I could sit around all day and fill out ambassador forms for companies, yet I don't, and I never will. I want to be true to myself and the companies I endorse. I am also very picky on who I promote because it could affect me in a negative way. The companies that back me fit my style. We gel and I have fun promoting their products. I am also very honored to say I am a part of their teams. I take the time to be knowledgeable on all the latest products, information, etc that each company puts out. When asked questions on social media, I always take the time to answer each question. And if I can't answer it the way it needs to be answered, I forward the question to someone higher in the company. From that point on I make sure to follow up with them to find out how it went.

I truly believe in my sponsors and would use their products regardless. Being a sponsored ambassador is just a great perk. It's an honor and I will always be positive and promote them as best as I can. They deserve it, and you the consumer deserve it too. I hope this answers your questions as to why I am with certain companies, and why I will continue to do my best to stay with them for years to come.

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