This is not the sexiest of blog topics but it goes to the heart of helping major shows to survive. Sponsors are needed when there is prize money or significant prizes involved. And sponsors are entitled to feel appreciated for their efforts.
I once was getting ready to leave after a successful weekend at a regional championships when my companion said she wanted to drop by the show office to get the address of the sponsor of the class she won. She wanted to send them a thank you note. I was chagrined that I’d never thought of it before. Ever since, when I win a sponsored prize, I now send a note, although sometimes it takes some effort to get that address from the show secretary. I’ll send that note even if the sponsor is representing some product or service I have no intention of using. I let them know that I am aware of their product/service and that I appreciate their support of dressage.
I know that riders often complain they are required to show up for the awards ceremonies at championships or forfeit not only the awards but also their placing in the class. However, the sponsor of the championships has made a major commitment to the sport. It just looks awful if they send a representative to the show to hand out awards and then no one shows up to shake their hand. Why would that sponsor want to help out again next year?
At Lendon Gray’s Youth Dressage Festival – which took place last week in Saugerties New York, with a record number of entries, over 300 riders! – the winners don’t get to accept their prizes until they have written a thank you note to a sponsor. This event has a great list of sponsors, and many of them have stayed with the show for 15 years. The kids win really great prizes – helmets, all kinds of gear, even saddles and trips. I really believe that the sponsors come back year after year because they know that the kids, and their parents, realize who they are and are grateful that they helped out.
Yes, the festival facilitates the process by having the notes right there by the awards table, already addressed, but a personal note not only strokes a sponsor in a lovely way, it also teaches the kids an important lesson in how to show appreciation.
Here are a few of the comments written to sponsors by riders at this year’s Festival:
– “Dear Sponsors, there is no other show like this. If you were here to see us have fun, you'd wish you were a kid too.”
– “This is my first year and I already know I want to come back.”
– “Thank you so much for all the support you give to youth dressage. It makes a difference in our lives. “
– “You help so many kids, including myself, follow their dreams. Thank you.”
-- “I am having a ton of fun and learning so much. Thank you.”
-- “My pony and I have worked so hard all year to come here. Thank you for making it possible!”
(No wonder those sponsors keep coming back!)