My first run as tournament director is coming up in about a month. If you want to read more about it please check out my last post on Dogleg. I am not collecting a tournament fee so my original plan was to just have players win a beer from other players. Then I got it in my head to see if I could get some prizes donated. This has proven to be a great learning experience and a very successful one too.
For what is basically a free tournament, we are going to have a huge set of prizes. There will be a free key-chain bottle opener (and hopefully a beer koozie) for every player that pre-registers. We have five disc golf bags to give away. We also have 11 discs from seven different manufacturers as prizes. There are also a bunch of great extra prizes including things from local breweries which works great with the single beer fee to play.
When I first decided to try to find sponsors, I looked up every brewery in Michigan and sent them an email or contacted them through their website. The email explained the premise of the tournament and asked for donations to give away as prizes. I was very lucky to have two Michigan breweries agree to donate. Looking back on those emails now, I am surprised that I even got anyone to respond. Thankfully, both breweries have people at the brewery that play disc golf.
After getting brewery stuff, I thought it would be a good idea to contact some disc golf companies. Again, I looked up everyone that I could think of (outside of “the big two”) and sent them an email. I would have continued with these lack luster results if I hadn’t gotten the most helpful response declining to donate. They actually gave me feedback on my donation request and after incorporating what they told me, my responses really started to turn around.
Here is the format that I found has really worked for me:
- Briefly introduce yourself and your tournament. There are hundreds of tournaments out there. Explain what makes yours different from the rest.
- Talk about the company that you are making the request from and how they line up with your tournament. This part is specific to the company that you are working with and it is important that it be personalized. This can’t be a form letter.
- A donation is a business decision. Explain the specific exposure that the company will get with their donation. How many players are expected? What level of players are you expecting? Where and how will the company be promoted by the tournament? Will there be sponsor logos on posters, web sites, t-shirts, etc?
- Try to be specific about what you are asking for as a donation. If you leave it wide open, the company will not have any expectation on the monetary commitment that you are asking for.
The last step that I have to do for collecting prizes is to go around to local businesses to ask for donations. At this point I am a little behind the gun on this one. I feel like I would have been more successful if I had started a couple of weeks ago but I just haven’t had the time. Real life keeps getting in the way. Businesses that I am thinking might be interested are local bars/restaurants, the local movie theater, and maybe the local bowling alley. Hopefully a walk through town shaking hands and talking to people about something that I really enjoy will result in a few more prizes to give away. This is a different approach from sending emails and it is a little intimidating.
Don’t let a lack of responses get you down. There was a stretch where I was really getting down on myself because I was sending out a lot of communications and I wasn’t hearing back. It was like high school all over again. But then, as I continued to work at it, I started getting more and more responses. Some of the older requests started coming in too. There were literally weeks where I was working with four different companies to see how they could work with my tournament.
One thing that I noticed about every single disc golf company that I worked with was that they are a part of the disc golf community. Whether or not a company donated, they all seem to be going out of their way to grow the sport. If you are organizing a disc golf tournament, focus on working with disc golf companies to help the sport together. Don’t burn bridges, and try to build a long lasting relationship with everyone that you deal with. Chances are, you will get the tournament director bug and your first will not be your last.