Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sponsorship in the Fitness Industry

What does it mean to be a sponsored athlete? It is every competitors dream to be sponsored by a brand but what does this entail and what should you expect? There are many types of sponsorship but when it comes down to it comes down to two main types; 1. Paid contract The athlete is paid a wage to represent a brand, in return you might need attend photoshoots, events amongst other obligations. In mainstream sports or where the athlete is very well known, he or she has to to do very little in terms of work, instead they allow the brand to use their name. On the other end of the scale this type of contract is more like a part time job, the athlete is paid to attend events, store openings, use of images in return for cash and where applicable - product. This type of sponsorship is the least common in the UK fitness / supplement industry but is obviously the most desirable. 2. Non paid or Product only The athlete is given product in return for using images, appearing at events etc. Expenses are usually covered. Sometimes the brand will pay ad hoc for working on stands and other projects. Brand Ambassador is a term that can be used for either paid or product only depending on what is agreed. Product only sponsorship is perfectly acceptable if it is of mutual benefit, the competitor gets supplements or products that they would otherwise pay for and the brand gets a model and a marketing tool. However far too often supplement companies offer 'sponsorship' to competitors with a range of contractual obligations which far outweigh any benefit to the athlete. I have had personal experience a few years ago of being offered a product only sponsorship with a huge brand name, I was offered an allocation of product (at retail price not trade) and in return I would need to permit use of my image, attend up to eight events a year with expenses only covered, write monthly blogs, generate weekly social media interest and take part in other such marketing activities. For me this is unacceptable at any level. I would have been more than happy at the time to have permitted use of my images, written materials and promoted the products and if possibly work 1 trade show if travel and accommodation was covered. Over and above that I would expect to be paid for my time. If I offered you 'sponsorship' with Tesco but in actual fact the deal was to sit on the till a couple times a month to get an allocation of free food and a tesco t shirt... Would you call this sponsorship or a part time job? If it is a part time job then the competitor needs to decide whether the equivalent pay is acceptable. Do you get enough product for your time? Is it worth it? So let's look at the pros and cons of product only sponsorship Benefits - Free allocation of product - Promotion of the athlete which can then be used by the athlete to sell their own products and services - The feeling of being part of a team Drawbacks - Most competitors are self employed so if they are required to take time out of their paid jobs to work for the brand they are actually worse off financially The pro's for supplement company are great, they basically get access to a model, a promotions person and very cheap marketing in return for a very small price because the competitor is usually given products at retail value not trade. If a company were to hire a model or promotions staff they would need to pay the going rate, I have seen unpaid 'athletes' at fitness working alongside paid promotions staff... and guess who looks better? It is important to consider your situation before getting wrapped up in the term 'sponsorship'. Sponsorships with supplement company's do not help you win shows, at least not in this country. I for one am happy to endorse a product if I am sent free product. I can then help to promote that brand via social media, interviews, web links etc but to call myself a sponsored athlete just to have my supplements covered I do not think is justified. Other things that an competitor has to take care of apart from supplements: - food - travel - accommodation - personal presentation (tan make up hair) - suits and shoes - personal sacrifice - supplements not covered by their sponsor (vitamins etc) - gym memberships - coaching / posing fees Make sure you place some value on your time and don't get into a situation which is of no real benefit to you.

Monday, 21 October 2013

2013 Contest season

The contest season for me is over for 2013 so I decided to update my blog... This year I have competed in three IFBB Pro shows over a three month period. I placed 2nd at the Nordic Pro, I completed my dream of competing at the Olympia and placed 4th in EVLS Prague Pro at the weekend. The Prague show was quite small but the line up was made up of the top European girls, the titles between us included Amateur World & European Champions 2011 and 2012, Arnold Classic and European Champion 2011, Amateur Olympia winners 2011 and 2012, British Grand Prix Pro Bikini Champion and the Nordic Pro Champion. I competed 5lbs heavier than I did in 2012 and I am happy with the improvements I made to my upper body, glutes and hamstrings. I changed my training after my 9th place finish in Toronto on my 30th birthday in June 2012 and decided to focus a little more on improving these areas. Looking at the pictures I can always find something to improve and have to be very careful not to become obsessed and have to remember to view myself objectively and not home in on areas I dislike, we can all be too hard on ourselves if we allow ourselves to be. Competing is being judged on stage in very little clothing against other women (or men) so its very easy to get wrapped up in the quest for perfection and comparing yourself to others or the winner and thinking, ok maybe I need to look a little more like that... but in reality you really have no control over anyone but yourself, you can never control how others look and how the judges view the competitors, whether you think they look better or worse than you, it doesn't really matter. What matters is you and your own personal journey. What matters is you did your best and you improved upon last time or where you started from and if you didn't, take it as a learning experience. People compete for many different reasons and you have to remember those reasons because you will not always be the winner, if winning is your only goal you will be very disappointed very quickly. Don't get me wrong it feels great to win, best feeling ever but it wont happen each time, you got to have a few knock backs to realise that any day you place in a show is a good day. So I have finished the show and the first thought in my mind isn't 'what can I eat' as I thought it would be, it is 'What show can I do next so I can come in looking better than that' I am already looking at the calendar and checking flights but I have to stop myself as like I said, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the quest for perfection, if there is such a thing. At this point in time, what I really need to do is to take time to appreciate what I have done and what I have achieved, because if I don't then where is the joy in the already accomplished? If you never take the time to appreciate and be happy with what you have then you will never be happy. This doesn't mean to stay I don't strive for more but there is a difference. Don't get on the wild goose chase and lose yourself in the process. For me the things I need to spend time to appreciate include travelling to seven different countries this year and competing in my 14th show (half of those IFBB Pro league shows) and making history in being first person from UK to win an IFBB pro show and compete at the Olympia in the Bikini class. Five out of my seven Pro shows I have placed in the top five which is great. These are all things to be thankful and grateful for. I also run a coaching team called Showgirl Fitness (www.showgirlfitness) with over 50 girls Worldwide, training not just to compete but also to feel better about themselves and the way they look. This year five of my competitive girls qualified for the British Finals and one took 3rd place in a very tough line up with the top amateur competitors in UK. I have met so many women through coaching whose personal journeys inspire me and I have made some great friends. I feel happy to have built that network and hopefully I can offer support and inspiration to them. I am writing regularly for Muscle and Fitness magazine which I am really excited about, the opportunity to write about things relevant to me and what I do is something I am thankful for. I got married in June, I feel very lucky to have met someone who shares the same interests as me and we understand each other. For the rest of the year I have planned some non fitness activities to do with my husband, who also competes, we are going to Mexico in December for a holiday. We bought a camera so we are going to try out our own photography so that should also be fun. I am also looking forward to Christmas with my family. Contest diets do make you appreciate food more so I am looking forward to eating a wider variety of foods :) If you have just competed or have taken part in an event or just strive to be better in anything you do, at work or at home then make sure you take the time to appreciate your journey and what you have have achieved, in my opinion, the only way to move forward is to appreciate what you already have, then you are ready to receive more.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Right and wrongs of a Bikini Competitor

There seems to be so much talk on how Bikini competitors should train, how much to eat, how much cardio to do and what is right and wrong... usually by male coaches (no offence but seems to be the trend) I thought I should put my two pence in.... 
Firstly, there is no right way and no 'one' way of doing things, otherwise the stage would be a very empty place. There are many different body shapes successfully competing... Some are softer, harder, more muscular, a little more curvy etc that others, it is generally what suits the individual best. 
From my experience Bikini competitors are not big girls or overly muscular, average competition weight for a girl 5 foot 3 to 5 foot 6 ranges between approx 110lbs to 125lbs lean. Bikini competitors train hard with weights at 4-6 days a week and most I know do daily cardio anywhere from 30 mins to 120 mins a day, depending on the individual, again there is no right or wrong, different people need different things. Average calories in a contest diet, in my humble experience ranges from 1300- 2000 cals a day... 


During this contest prep I have done away with 'cheats' and replaced with low fat 'carb reloads', I feel way better and have less chocolate / cake cravings. I have an insatiable appetite for sweet things and when dieting I am lower carb than non diet as overall calories are lower, this makes sweet cravings really bad. By cutting out the chocolate / cakes completely I have less cravings. A carb reload ensure muscle glycogen stores are refuelled helping with carbohydrate / sugar cravings and helps me train harder and have more energy. If you are in constant glycogen depletion, it can be very difficult to train effectively.
I find this much more useful than a fat overload on cheat day which general makes you feel like crap... As my cheats are now not to 'keep me sane' or for social reasons as they were before I just have the reload when needed which might not be every week...