My first sponsors were friends who liked racing and wanted to help out and get their name on a jersey. That was really helpful when I first started. Racing is expensive and every little bit helps. But my goal was to have a bigger team, make racing more accessible for those on my team, and grow an elite team (NRC maybe???). These goals all take time and money. To make these things happen I need partners.
The biggest thing that I have learned and something Ben talks about in his article is that it doesn't matter how fast you are, most partners want results for their money. Not necessarily race results, they want monetary results; sales, name recognition, traffic to their stores. Being fast can help that because the more you win, the more you get your name, and your partners' names in print. But if you don't sell for your partners, their wallet's can dry up fast.
I am still very new to finding new partners. The biggest thing I am learning to deal with is that being turned down is more the norm. It is hard for companies to part with their hard earned cash or product without almost guaranteed return on their investment. Since I am running a new team, and am new to the whole process I have yet to figure out all the kinks. But my successes have started to pile up. Partnering with Mesa Cycles was a huge deal for me. I even called my parents I was so excited. The crew at Mesa is so nice, if they had some comfy chairs I would probably hang out there for hours at a time. I just like being in bike shops. They help with so many aspects of our team I don't know what I would do without them.
I am the type of person that always has to make things right, pay back, be fair. A lot of my time working on the team is how to make sure our partners get out more than what they put in. Be that, setting up tents at races with sponsors names on them, blogging, doing functions, or anything they need. I feel, hope, that this is the best way to keep, and keep sponsors happy. It is a bit easier to do this for local partners, we are seen locally racing and riding around, and are known by others in the area. In order for us to grow it might take us learning how to cater to bigger regional, even national companies.
To do that I am going to need to keep reading all the sponsorship articles I can find. But there is always more time, and this is all pretty fun to figure out. So I will just see how things play out over the next few years.
But right now THANKS QUANTUM, MESA CYCLES, COMPUTER TRADE, GATEWAY GROUP MORGAN STANLEY SMITH BARNEY, SLGC, HAWTHORN BANK, SLOAN CLINIC, SPECIALIZED, and SRAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!