3 Steps to Score Community Partnerships with Professional Sports Teams and Athletes

Many organizations, in particular, non-profit organizations would like to secure the support of a professional sports team or athlete. Partnerships with professional athletes and teams can enable non-profits to gain visibility, solicit sponsorships, drive event traffic and increase donations. Teams and athletes welcome these partnerships because they provide opportunities to improve community relations, and achieve marketing and public relations objectives. However, competition for these limited partnerships is strong.  To gain support, do some research to understand the process and differentiate your request from other organizations.

All professional teams have a community relations and public relations mission.  The strategies to accomplish their goals often include partnerships with community-based organizations. Research these efforts to understand how teams currently work in the community; what issues are important to the organization and programs they have supported. Once you are knowledgeable about the teams’ efforts, you can better market your partnership goals by demonstrating how your event and organization will help them achieve their objectives.  For players research their interests and hobbies.  Do not target the most popular player.  Your goal is to find the player who has a genuine interests in your mission.  An authentic partnership resonates with audiences and yields greater results.  The same research should be done to prepare for soliciting sponsorship and support from individual players, many of whom have private foundations and charities.

The next part of your research should be the teams’ schedule, personnel and players. During the playing season, players are committed to practices, games and community programs organized by the team or that particular sports league. These programs include events such as reading to children, visiting hospitals and feeding the homeless. For this reason, most player appearances are conducted during the non-playing season.  Some players do not live in the community that they work in.  Be sure to find out if the athlete stays in the market when the team is not playing.  Familiarizing yourself with this information will allow you to position your request for an appropriate time, increasing your chances of success.


Marcus Trufant (Seattle Seahawks cornerback 2003 – 2012) volunteering to build a playground in Seattle, Washington.

Once you have an understanding of the teams, identify the ways that the company can benefit your program.  Many organizations limit their request to cash donations, player appearances and tickets to the games. Get creative and explore fundraising by working events, exposure during a game or in-kind donations such as paraphernalia, facility space or sports equipment.  If you are requesting a player, be flexible and do not limit yourself to the super star on the team.  Perhaps a reserve player is from the community that you work in and would be a better fit.  Also other professionals on the team such as a coach, trainer or scout are good options.

Consider your assets and think about opportunities to use your resources to benefit the team.  Do you have a newsletter that you can feature them in?  Can you assist with one their events?  Based on your research, be innovative and include components that will strategically support the team’s (or athlete’s) mission in your pitch.  This will certainly differentiate you from the competition.  To submit your request, be sure to visit the teams’ website, complete the correct form(s), and submit the form(s) with all of the requested information to the listed contact person.


Shavannia Williams serves as Mistress of Ceremonies at a fundraiser for San Francisco 49ers safety Antoine Bethea’s foundation, Safe Coverage Foundation.

Do not stop once your request is granted. (You scored!) After your successful event, leverage the experience and work to build a long-term relationship with the organization by following up.  Send a note to thank the player(s) or the organization for support.  Include a recapitulation report that highlights the event, explains how the partnership was beneficial and what was accomplished as a result of their participation. Remember that teams want to establish and maintain a positive rapport with the communities in which they operate. Ensuring visibility of the team and its players in the community protects the team’s interest in long term viability. When you follow up, you are providing details that demonstrate that they are accomplishing these goals through their partnership with your organization.


NFL partners with Heels & Helmets on women’s conference, “Ladies Training Camp.”

To earn the support of a team or athlete takes work, but with preparation, creativity and clear objectives you can “score” the support and develop an ongoing partnership that is a win-win for you and them.

Comment with your questions about working with a sports team.  Need assistance developing your game plan to partner with a professional athlete or team?  Send me an e-mail.

Get in the game!

Posted on March 11, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Written by

Shavannia Williams

Shavannia is the founder of Heels & Helmets and editor of its e-magazine, heelsandhelmets.com. She also writes the football column, Gridiron, for the e-magazine. A sports marketing professional with over 13 years of experience, Ms. Williams has worked with the NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, and WNBA. As the owner of a marketing firm, Shavannia’s client roster includes: DC Women’s Business Center, NFL Players and United Way NFL Partnership. Her love for football began at The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, where she worked for Michigan Football and received her B.A. in Sport Management and Communication. She is excited to bring talented women together to provide a resource to help other ladies “join the conversation at the office” and enhance their business relationships. Follow her on twitter @MzGridiron.
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