A big topic on social media lately involves the discussion of sponsorship/brand ambassadorship. It seems people have a lot of different ideas and/or misconceptions about the whole situation. Some people say that winning should matter more than anything. Others say that attitude and overall helpful nature should be the main reason for sponsorships.
I have my own ideas about what sponsorship means to me and the responsibilities that come with my job. I think my ways and approach work well.
To get the perspective of a business owner, I asked Scott Volquartsen of Volquartsen Firearms, what his thoughts were in regard to choosing people to sponsor, and we also discussed the process he went through before adding me to the Volquartsen team. Scott told me that he had watched me for at least a year and during that time, they checked out how I handled myself on social media, how I conducted myself at matches and how good or bad I dealt with a bad stage. Everyone is really happy after a fast run, but you’d be surprised how many people, including adults, have an absolute meltdown over a bad stage. It’s kind of sad, really. We’re at the range having fun and a bad stage is NOT the end of the world, I promise.
Scott said that personality and character are most important because “winning can come with practice, whereas character is something that takes much more time to develop and is harder to teach.”
Another thing that Scott looks for is unsolicited feedback from a shooter’s peers. He said that is a good sign of someone to watch. Lots of people can turn on the charm when a prospective sponsor is around, but it’s good to know how someone acts when no one is watching.
He went on to talk about ROI (return on investment), which is something that’s quite hard to gauge since Volquartsen doesn’t do discount codes for the individual shooters. He says that feedback from the general public about the shooters he sponsors has been great. These are the things that cannot be measured, but are very important with sponsorships.
Scott mentioned another important aspect of sponsorship – social media. He’s been sponsoring shooters for 5+ years and he’s noticed that some people are definitely better than others. When you work for a company, it’s a 2-way street. They give you “free stuff” and you do your best to sell as much product as possible.
Scott says being responsive to the companies’ needs and being available to help with events is very important.
Another thing he says matters to him is that a shooter focuses on something other than themselves on social media. A match pic or shoutout to another shooter or organization putting on a match is quite important, as well as thanking range officers, match directors and match sponsors, too. Answering people’s questions as best as you can on social media and putting out a generally happy demeanor is the best way to represent your sponsors.
The next person I wanted to ask about sponsorship is Reuben Aleckson from Vortex Optics. Reuben is well known in the industry for his understanding and knowledge of how sponsorships should work. I asked Reuben about the process that Vortex goes through to choose someone to help. He said they generally they seek out the people who already use Vortex products as well as have a good reputation within the industry. We then discussed if winning matters more than character and attitude; he said absolutely not; “Character and attitude is of the utmost importance when we select a brand ambassador. We treat our brand ambassadors as if they are an employee of Vortex and expect the same in return. Their behavior, on and off the course, is a direct reflection of Vortex, and that is why we place such an emphasis on character and attitude.”
I asked Reuben if it is better to let the sponsor come to the shooter or the shooter go to the sponsor. He said it’s a good idea to approach a sponsor, because the industry is so large that a sometimes a sponsor might not know who you are.
Next, we discussed the ROI aspect. Reuben stated that much of this evaluation is based on interactions with customers at matches, events, shows and especially on social media. If a shooter has an active account on Facebook and Instagram, and is known for having quality content and responses to fans/followers, that’s a pretty good indicator that they would do the same as an ambassador for us.
My last question for Reuben was if he had any general advice for prospective shooters, given the change in the shooting industry since the November presidential election. “In this current gun industry, many companies may decrease their marketing budgets and the amount of support that they give the shooting sports, but it is up to competitive shooters and brand ambassadors to continue to prove the value of dollars spent in support of the shooting sports. That way, companies will continue their support of valued shooters and ambassadors.”
Anyone that know me knows that I take my job as a sponsored shooter very seriously. I spend several hours weekly working on content for my main social media platforms. I was fortunate to have a couple of great mentors to get me headed in the right direction and for that, I am truly grateful. The jersey and the “free stuff” cost people quite a bit to provide to me. I am always looking to improve my craft and expand awareness of the products I use. In fact, it’s 11 p.m. and I’m writing this!
To sum it all up, I have spoken to all of the companies I work with and each and every one has told me the same thing as Scott and Reuben. Character, personality and hard work matter more than winning when it comes to sponsorships.
Cheyenne Dalton is an up-and-coming junior competition in 3-gun, USPSA, and Rimfire challenge. She writes a column about her shooting experiences, sponsored by Voquartsen Firearms. She's been competing for 4 years and has won state titles, along with the Limited Ladies Rimfire World championship 2 times (2014 & 2016). When she's not at the range, she is traveling with her Bluegrass band, "That Dalton Gang," where she plays mandolin and violin, along with singing lead vocals. Her future plans include lots of shooting and continuing her education with a focus on being a pharmacist. She lives on a family farm in Missouri. View all posts by Cheyenne Dalton