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Sponsorship 101 – England Box Lacrosse

As I was browsing the LaxAllStars website, looking for ideas on how to discuss our current sponsorship 101 and fundraising situation, I came across one of Denmark’s many excellent articles, “How Too Fundraise: Danish Lacrosse Case Study.” Let me just say that these guys are working their tails off to promote their game, and they deserve all the success coming to them.

That being said, I would like to extend off of their study to tell you what we’ve been doing, and not provide another study. They hit it all on the head so I would just be repeating, but I would like to add some more insight, if I may. This is our response to some of their helpful advice and an extension of our own. We also hope it helps others in their quest to support their own national programs.

A Royal Budget: The Pursuit of Sponsorship

First things first…

We are NOT our Field Program

sponsorshipThis year will essentially be the first year in which England Box Lacrosse has been a member of the English Lacrosse Association (ELA) and when we joined, we joined with optimism for the stability of our program being under their umbrella. There are still some kinks to work out with our relationship but the ELA runs a very successful organization and business for field lacrosse in the UK, and we look forward to working with them on the box program.

The ELA has a brand, they have an identity, and they have success.

They operate with the Association in mind and, by extension, their Men’s and Women’s club, school, and national field programs. A slew of corporate sponsorship mixed with a hard-working group of people at the head office has created a very strong organization over the years. So, what’s my point? We are not our field program. We don’t have all that great stuff in place… at least not yet.

To assist us in moving forward, the ELA has been extremely helpful, and although there were some heads clashing at the start, we are finally getting things figured out. Unfortunately for the box guys, we are not the household brand that they have spent decades creating. We know how busy the small staff at the ELA already is, so to avoid being the “new guys creating problems”, we have chosen to do the brunt of the work ourselves, in order to alleviate the added stress we’ve brought on, and prove to the ELA that we are committed to the success of our growing program within the structure of their association.

With the 2017 Women’s World Cup and the 2018 FIL Men’s world field championships coming up, these men and women at the ELA are busy enough, so we want to put in the work on our end, while we benefit from their guidance and support.

Tip-Toeing the Line

Being part of the ELA now, we have certain responsibilities we need to adhere to while pursuing our own funding and sponsorship. Having originally been independently run, and approaching whomever we wanted, this is very new to us. We don’t want to anger the wrong people or burn the bridges that helped in growing our program. What this means is that if we bring in an interested party to sponsor our team, the ELA can potentially say no if it is contradictory to their values or another partner’s.

So, we do research, we cross check, and we follow up to make sure everything is Kosher for everyone. For any international event our budget is lofty. Tens of thousands of dollars dedicated to making our appearance possible and just as the Danes said, personal out of pocket expenses reach around $3000 each. We, as management, do everything we can to limit that cost so that our players can wear their flag.

Now with access to the mailing list of the 30,000 members within the ELA, we can promise a level of promotion that not many teams are capable of. We greatly appreciate and are thankful for that advantage. It has opened a few doors and brought about email replies that you wouldn’t normally receive as an infant program. It is with this advantage that we took a page from Denmark’s playbook – we hunted and searched for companies that could benefit from our team and we simply sent an email. We had to start somewhere.

What’s the worst that can happen?

When trying to achieve funding, and getting where you want to be, you will likely learn what I did during my research, which is, “the budget isn’t just a collection of numbers, but an expression of your values and aspirations,” (Jacob Lew).

It’s the age-old advice that if you want something – ask for it; worst case scenario, they say no.

Realizing the bulk of the lacrosse market is North American based we decided that our strategy needed to revolve around trying to offer exposure in the European market and at very least, the UK. We searched out new and growing companies with aspirations like ours: a proven product with visions of making a bigger name for ourselves. We needed to find a way to strengthen our words, to back up the talk.

We send a lot of personalized emails almost shamelessly pursuing financial sponsorships knowing that although we receive a lot of ignored emails and plenty of NO’s, we just needed one YES to legitimize what we are doing. Being afraid of rejection will only keep you cemented in the ground, stagnant, and no closer to succeeding than when you started out. Follow up until they must answer just so you’ll leave them alone. Be persistent.

What’s in it for them?

I will reiterate that we are not our field program. We don’t have employees on payroll whose job is to pursue and represent the sponsorships they bring in. We still have a very working class mentality, spending our free time dedicated to the success of our program. As willing as the ELA are to help, we want to fund OUR team whereas they must operate in helping to fund everyone, and rightfully so!

So, when it comes to asking businesses both new and established, we chose not to ask for sponsorship, we asked for a partnership. One that helps us now but has potential to help everyone later. If we are asking companies to work for us than absolutely we will work for them. As a small and growing group, companies are often hesitant of providing financial support in fear of very little return. Who are we to them? Product is offered in place of financials, sometimes as a test run to see how much we can back up our words.

In our case, we became salesmen.

Watching this year’s NLL season, you’ll notice a new feature: player point of view cameras provided by the company, UHWK. They were the perfect brand to approach. Relatively new, growing success, and an established reputation in the North American lacrosse community. So, we did our homework and these guys are all about paying it forward. After huge success on Kickstarter they haven’t forgotten where they came from and are always available to help. We reached out to them and we found our first needle in an enormous haystack.

They didn’t ignore us, nor did they say no. Instead, Vice President Conor Stokes worked out a deal mutually beneficial to both of us and that will hopefully prove wildly successful to our goal. They offered us a VIP code that offered a discount, any camera we can sell through this code would see a cut of those profits sent back to us. It was the start we needed, they put in work for us and in return we do the same for them. These guys were the first to give us the chance we were looking for and they deserve anything we can do to help.

True to our strategy we continued to search for those in search of growth. As I looked at the list of vendors that attended LaxCon in Baltimore this past January, I came across a new mesh company who would repeatedly state, “We are not trying to replace mesh or traditional stringing, just provide another option. We love everything lacrosse!” Here was a company embracing change, providing choice, and, at it’s core principles, trying to grow the game. We found our next partner.

Expertly lurking around on social media, we found Channel Mesh CEO, John Valko. We introduced ourselves and before even being able to offer anything in return he was completely available and willing to help. This guy has been an absolute gem to us and for no other reason than he just wants to help. Surround yourselves with and approach those who want the same things, they are the people you want. As much merit as blasting anyone and everyone in hopes of a response carries, if you do the work, personalize your email and make it as much about them as it is about you, people will want to help. Let them know you care!

It’s Not All About Money

Everyone loves free stuff. As great as a financial contribution always is, sometimes it’s just not in the cards but they still want to help. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to a future financial relationship. Sometimes it’s just good to have friends. Don’t turn your nose up at anything from people just trying to help because you never know where that will lead. Sean and Ryan McAnuff from Elite Performance Training out of Canada spent their free time and made us a killer workout plan leading up to the Euros, completely free of charge. Cameras to bolster our social media game from UHWK at no cost to us. Free mesh provided by Channel Mesh for every player. We even have things in the works. Just ask and you’ll be surprised how helpful some people can be. We’re not important enough to be picky. We know where we came from and humility will garner success.

This is Not an Advertisement

I’m not trying to advertise our supporters. Well, I am and I’m not. As Denmark mentioned in their case study: always say thank you. The men mentioned in this article didn’t think twice in helping us and they deserve an early shout out. The amount of thank you emails I have sent out since January has been more than I’ve ever sent. These companies provided more than money or swag, they provide legitimacy.

These guys are friends to the program now and you should take care of your friends. Call it sentimental if you’d like but we want lasting friendships with everyone we can bring in. We’d love short term results with the European Championships right around the corner, but if we can establish long term relationships to rely on year in and year out, then that is what we will pursue. Companies from different areas of the world were willing to help a small, but growing, national team in the UK.

The brain trust at LaxAllStars are included in our list as this platform is used to tell you how we’re getting to Finland, but it is also the platform that really puts an image to our program. We’re young, we’re growing, and we want our own identity. Thanks to those mentioned above, and to those we haven’t found yet, we are on our way. Expect at least a couple emails!

If you’d like to join our growing family of supporters, you can always be proactive and shoot us an email: Englandboxlacrosse@gmail.com

or find us on our social media. Check us out on Twitter and Instagram: @englandboxlax

Find us on Instagram and receive our VIP Code for 20% off a sweet UHWK Camera, a portion of sales goes towards Team England Box Lacrosse. Check out their NLL footage on YouTube!

Get your workout fix from our Friends at Elite Performance Training: https://www.eliteperformancetraining.ca/

Lastly, head on over to our generosity page if you want to help on a more private scale: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/team-england-national-lacrosse-team

Thanks for reading, we’ll be back with more info on England Box Lacrosse in the coming weeks.