Way back in the day, when roofs were still thatched and your car was fuelled by grass, because it was a horse, athletes used to work full-time jobs AND train. Crazy huh?! I think I may be one of the few athletes left competing in Britain who still refers to the British Trials as the “three aye’s”. The first of these A’s stands for amateur. You literally weren’t allowed to make money in athletics.
Nowadays we have an upper echelon of professional athletes, with far more sponsorship money being available, and even those who are deemed completely unmarketable but still of world class standards able to effectively earn a wage thanks to the Lottery funding and its distribution by British Athletics.
This professionalism seems to have created a generation of athletes who believe they can’t work and train successfully (or a generation of training programs which are completely unsustainable on top of a job?) The default position seemed to have become, find a part-time job and live on bread and water and protein supplements (because no self-respecting athlete can be without their whey) or exit the sport in a bitter and public way.
There are however an entrepreneurial bunch of athletes who have taken leads from the business world and we’ve seen some interesting ways of creating their own funding packets:
Private Funding – I personally have never worked out how to go about this, but find the right company willing to work with you for a certain exposure and association and you could be in
Selling yourself on eBay – I’m not sure if anyone has successfully managed to do this, but James Ellington paved the way several years ago, I think the initial deal ultimately fell through, but he may have gotten a sponsorship on the back of all the publicity. Good going.
Crowdfunding – this seems to be the new wave, sites like kickstarter have been running for years, sourcing investment from the “crowd” for various business based ventures, the success of this area lead to athlete specific crowd funding sites such as RallyMe, Sportfunder and MakeAChamp where you can find many athletes via for attention to fulfil their various dreams. I’m going to start a new paragraph but still keep talking about crowdfunding.
One of my favourite stories was when Daniel Awde (@GBDawde) managed to reach his funding target on Talentbacker. A super talented and lovely dude looking for a reasonable amount of money to cover additional training costs. Thats awesome, and he already has a Commonwealth Gold medal, so that always helps sell it a little, but even then he was left sweating till near the end.
With a lot of these campaigns, you only get the money if you reach the target. This is a bit of a hangover from the business ones where by if you asked for £100,000 and only received maybe £10,000, you wouldn’t be able to follow through on your plan fully, and a scaled back version is not what the people were investing in, so all the money got pulled and given back to the investors. Now if someone were to give me even just £10,000 that would be me living an athletic life of luxury all the way to Rio. If I didn’t make the Olympic Team I’d probably still have enough money for flights, accommodation and tickets to the pole vault final out of what was left.
With athletes, and I may be generalising, we’re definitely more of an “any little helps” bunch, than a “I need £10,000 this year to train or I’m quitting the sport”. I may be wrong, but I’ve definitely never heard those exact words coming out of anybodies mouth so I might be right.
There were a fair few success stories on these sites early on, but I feel like they may be drying up. As soon as these things catch on, its very difficult to differentiate yourself from the rest of the desperate athletes, and lets be fair, most sports have it far worse than athletics. You’ve got all sorts of international athletes in every imaginable sport, trying to get money for all sorts of endeavours. They’re all worthy, but how does anyone distinguish. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone would actually lie and make up achievements to get more noticed, but I assume embellishment is fairly commonplace, just like on your CV.
So, if the crowdfunding is looking less likely, what other options are we left with? Well I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try and borrow an idea that our American pals seem to use far better than we do and run a t-shirt campaign.
If anyone saw me during the indoor season, you will have seen some of the uber cool quantified athlete stash I had fashioned for myself. Well I’ve had enough of all this elitism/me looking like a loner and I want you guys to join in the fun. For a limited time only, 4 weeks to be precise, A limited run of quantified athlete t-shirts are available for anyone who wants them. Buy them now and we should have them in time for the Loughborough International. I openly admit that this blog post is less a view-point on life and more a sales pitch.
Maybe I only raise enough money to cover my petrol to the British League at Lee Valley, but maybe it takes off to the point where we have a feasible alternative clothing brand at the track to adidas and nike.
Who knows, its basically up to you guys now, check it out here:
They are a little more expensive than I would like, but thats only because they are super high quality AND eco-friendly as well, and still actually a bit of a bargain.
The way it works is that at least 20 need to be sold for the company to run the line, if we don’t reach 20 in the next four weeks, then everyone gets their money back. Anything beyond that is just a bonus. Personally I’’m buying two.
If you don’t feel the need for another t-shirt right now, feel free to still share the love.