Amy Kilpin explains the importance of financial support, and why age-groupers are joining the professionals to be brand ambassadors.

I am often asked how to get sponsors. It’s one of those slightly controversial topics in the realm of age group triathlon, with opinion divided on whether it is worth sponsoring a non-professional in their sport, especially if they already work for a living.

Despite some negativity towards age-group sponsorship, it is happening more and more. There is a wealth of opportunity out there as triathlon gains greater distinction as a sport, and this is paving the way for brands and nonprofessional triathletes to join together.

When I am not pursuing triathlon, I am a freelance marketing consultant, therefore understanding what a brand requires to increase its profile is my speciality. As such, I have a large number of sponsors.

But my skills in marketing and my triathlon exploits are not mutually exclusive. Having worked with most of my sponsors for a number of years, I have gained a good insight into what they are looking for in an ambassador. It may surprise some people to know that they’re not looking for marketing skills, nor are they after a winner.

Ultimately, a brand is looking for visibility within their target markets. Age-group sponsorship is becoming quid pro quo for brands, and guess what?

We can all be great brand ambassadors if we want to. In fact, if you’re an age-grouper, you are exactly what many brands are looking for.

All too often, elite sporting professionals rely on their profile alone as justification for sponsorship.

However, a competitive market environment and an increasing number of people participating in triathlon, has meant there is more choice out there, and brands want more value for their money from the people who represent their business.

In the age of social media, having a few hundred or even a few thousand age-groupers talking about a particular product is of significant value to brands.

It’s the best kind of advertising. What’s more, this is precisely their target audience. The professionals most likely
don’t pay for a lot of their stuff – but age-groupers do. Oh how we like to buy kit. And age-groupers relate to other age-groupers.

It’s more difficult to identify with an elite athlete, as they are so high up in their game. Professional athletes, who stand on the podium for a photo with a logo on their tri-suit, may not generate the same kind of visibility as the age-grouper who is regularly using social media.

And this is why sponsoring an age-grouper works for businesses. I don’t want to take anything away from professional athletes. These guys are our sporting heroes, and they deserve every bit of sponsorship they get. But many brands are branching out to include age groupers in their sponsorship programs, alongside the professionals, and there’s a good reason why.

For weekend warriors who work full-time jobs while trying to balance training and family commitments, the costs of pursuing a triathlon habit are prolific. Therefore, if they can get their favourite kit or product for free, in
return for a bit of fan-posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, they are going to do it.

And we should welcome this, because ultimately anything that helps to raise the profile of triathlon, both professionally and non-professionally, is a great thing. At the end of the day, triathlon is business, and brands want their products or services to be known to people within the sport.

If we can help them do that, there is nothing wrong with it. It is a positive arrangement for both the brands and for age-groupers, and as long as triathlon is in the spotlight, all is good in the world.