I was recently introduced to a newer Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brand called Enois. Founded by David Telfer who trains out of Robot Fight and Fitness in Santa Monica.
I already have a long running relationship with a well know brand but I was happy to promote some athletes that I knew would be great brand ambassadors.
Between contacting all the athletes, writing recommendation letters, and trying to gauge their interest in being sponsored.
I realized that there was a lot of confusion as far as what they would get, what all they had to do, etc.
Modern sponsorships in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a confusing topic.
Everyone wants to be sponsored.
But not a lot of people know how it works. Not many athletes have written about it for whatever reasons.
When most people think of sponsorships they often relate it to the huge endorsement deals that athletes in the popular sports get.
Sports such as football, baseball, and basketball here in the U.S. Soccer(football) for my international folks.
While Jiu Jitsu sponsorships are not quite as lucrative. I can assure you that the top guys in our sport are making bank.
There are a lot of different types of sponsorships. Many that I will talk about later in this post.
I just want you to remember that the guys/girls getting sponsored are not all athletes that compete every weekend or placed at the big tournaments.
Some own schools.
Some work full-time.
Some have a large social media following and are always posting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
I think I will write a post detailing what I’ve done to get sponsored and maintain my relationships with my sponsors over the years but for now let’s focus on the different types of sponsors.
Types of Sponsorships
Most sponsorships can be broken down into 2 or 3 different groups with lots of overlap. Within the different types there are also different tiers. These tiers are determined by the level of the athletes.
Lower tier athletes are generally lower belts (often blue belts and purple belts) competitors or non-competitors. Not well known or only known locally.
Middle tier athletes can be any level but are generally brown belts and black belts. More well known. Probably have a highlight video or two. Somewhat known throughout the Jiu Jitsu community.
Higher tier athletes are high level competitors. Often appearing on magazines and other branding. They need no introduction. They are widely known throughout the Jiu Jitsu community.
Lower Tier – Gear
Middle Tier – Gear, Tournament Entry
Higher Tier – Gear, Tournament Entry, Monetary Compensation
This is the first level of sponsorship that most competitors will receive.
In fact my very first sponsor was exactly like this. I won’t mention the name of the brand. But they managed to supply me with the defective gear that they probably weren’t able to sale.
I didn’t stay sponsored by them for long.
Gear sponsorships generally involve the exchange of clothing or training gear in return for advertisement at local events, tournaments and online.
The biggest brands have mastered this really well. All they have to do is release a few different items every year and people will proudly purchase without much selling.
The gear package can include everything from t-shirts, rash guards, kimonos,belts, hats, etc.
Usually there is no exchange of money, especially for lower belts and lesser known athletes.
Luckily many of the popular brands don’t have a stipulation on you selling your gear once you receive it.
I know a lot of competitors that never take their sponsored gear out of the plastic wrapping. Instead choosing to sell to the highest bidder. Usually for a large profit.
While others might only wear their sponsored items for tournaments and then sell their stuff later to pay their rent or for tickets to the next competition.
The more well known you become.
The more followers you have on social media.
The more success in tournaments that you achieve. The faster you will move up on the sponsorship ladder.
I’m sure you have seen a few lower tiered athletes on Facebook. While they are technically sponsored they also have to put in more work. Usually by posting on social media a few times a week. Plugging coupon codes and notifying all their followers and friends sales.
For example many sponsors will require that you post on social media with the sponsors hashtag at least once a week. Wear their gear at all competitions. Wear their gear for certain events. And even train in their gear.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
Entry Fee Sponsorship
As you move up in sponsorship level. The more you receive from sponsors. More perks, more gear, more connections.
Once you get to the point that your sponsor is covering or reimbursing you for tournament entry fees. Then you are are already near the top of most Jiu Jitsu athletes.
I have entry fee coverage listed as a middle tier level of sponsorship for very active and successful competitors.
But it’s still a large step in the right direction.
Think about it for a second.
You are getting paid to compete. Paid!
Most people fork over their hard earned money for tournaments without the hope of prizes or rewards.
Up and coming athletes on this level can have anywhere between one or two of their tournament registration fees covered.
Again the more well known. The more popular. The more marketable you are. The more tournaments you can possibly have covered.
This is big with sponsors because you will be able to compete more frequently. Promoting their brand to even more potential new customers.
This is true now with the different video streaming companies. They are able to reach tens of thousands of customers.
This is great for sales.
Especially when their athletes do well while wearing their gear.
Most sponsorships are the same when it comes to covering the entrance fee to tournaments.
This system generally works on a reimbursement scale. So the athlete might have to pay for the tournament(s) out of pocket initially. Then later be reimbursed either a few weeks after the tournament or towards the end of their competition season.
There might be some stipulations on what tournaments and the number of tournaments that the sponsor will cover.
For instance, most of the big companies will only cover the major tournaments. Such as IBJJF, Abu Dhabi Pro, etc.
While some of the smaller companies might cover only local tournaments.
You will know before hand what types of companies that your sponsor will cover. If you sign an agreement. It will be clearly outlined for you.
Monetary sponsorships are the highest tier level of sponsorships in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The athletes at this level are often full-time brown belts and black belts competitors that make their living through Jiu Jitsu.
Many of the top competitors for big name brands receive monetary sponsorships. Especially if you see them on magazine ads and other marketing items all the time.
This form of sponsorships can take on many different forms depending on the success of the athlete.
Their fan base.
Their ability to draw customers.
All of these determine how much a sponsor is willing to pay you.
This is why some sponsor brands might have one or two star athletes. They know these guys have huge followings. Which means more sales when they win.
Monetary sponsorships can include: monthly stipends, tournament fee coverage, win bonuses, kimonos, clothing, custom branding like an athlete specific design.
Monetary sponsorships can be further divided into two tiers. Higher and lower tiers.
On the lower tier of monetary sponsorships is the win bonus. At this level the athletes only receive compensation if they win or place at major tournaments like pans and worlds.
The amount of compensation is predetermined but can range anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousands dollars.
Outside of this, lower tiered athletes often will not receive any other form of direct compensation.
Higher tiered monetary sponsorships are a whole other level. This is where you will find many of the top guys. The multiple time world champions and the most marketable athletes in our sport.
At this level athletes are getting paid relatively large sums of money just for endorsing a particular company. Usually in the form of a monthly stipend. Sometimes including a generous win bonus option.
The monthly stipends amounts very largely.
I know of some guys that make a few hundred dollars a month from their sponsors.
I’ve heard of some top guys that make a few thousand dollars a month just from sponsors alone.
Enough to cover their living expenses so that they can dedicate themselves completely to their training.
A small part of difference could be a world title or absolute title. But I think a lot of athletes underestimate just how much their personality and their story affects how much sponsors will shell out for you.
I’ve covered a lot in this post. But this is really important stuff. Especially for newer athletes that want to make competitive Jiu Jitsu their career.
I mentioned a few times how a lot of what you get through your sponsor will be predetermined.
That’s because most serious sponsors will have you sign an agreement. As in legally binding agreement.
While there are ways around an agreement. If you do sign one you are committing your image. Your personal brand. To the use and benefit of the sponsoring company.
These agreements can often last from one year to multiple years.
If nothing else I hope this post helps inform and empower current and future athletes like you to understand what goes behind being sponsored.
Is it cool to be sponsored?
Yes. Depending on the brand.
If you like the sponsor company and everything check outs. Meaning you are happy with the terms. I say go for it!
But if you don’t believe in the brand or are just going along with them so that they will sponsor you. I say it’s better to turn down their offer. It will be in the best interest for both parties. You will leave yourself open for a company that is a better fit and you will be a lot happier.