Canine Sponsorship. Uncharted Waters

Finn the border collie…coming to a TV set near you soon

I’ve often wondered how sponsorship deals were born. Maybe a little naively I believed that if you were good at something and in the public eye (e.g. an elite athlete), a mass of agents and/or company representatives would be stood outside your door each morning looking to sign you up to their respective brands. In my mind’s eye the entire scene is backdropped by the press, wielding a host of flashing cameras and microphones ready to capture the sponsorship scoop of the century. As their wanabee brand ambassador, it would then be at your discretion to select the best offer on the table. Is this how it is?  Maybe I’ve just watched too many movies.

When it comes to animal sponsorship however, the elite athlete movie playing in my head doesn’t match reality. It’s a completely different ball game (forgive the pun). Should you type ‘animal sponsorship’ into Google, you’ll get returns along the lines of; “have you thought about sponsoring a zoo animal?”, or “support your local SPCA”.  All good causes I’ll admit, but not quite what I was looking for.

So what exactly am I searching for? In a one-liner; overseas doggy competition funding.

One of our two dogs, Finn, a 3 year old white border collie performed at the World of Cats and Dogs (WODAC) 2012 and won the coveted South African World Champs award for Freestyle Dog Dancing (read on, or check out the YouTube links at the bottom). He notched up a ‘perfect 10’ from the panel of judges which is pretty decent (ok, flippin’ awesome!). Finn is a real natural when it comes to the sport and entertainment in general because of his large size, good looks, practiced tricks and lightning-fast dance moves. Audiences love him.  If this wasn’t enough to attract potential sponsorships from the big brand names of the animal/dog world, he then progressed through to the semi-finals of the SA’s Got Talent 2012 show. The audience’s and judges’ reaction to his audition must have been better than discovering that bread came sliced. He would surely have sponsors lined up ready to donate after the show. Not so. The episode airs on on the 30th August 2012; worth a watch if you want to see my boy in action.

WODAC 2012 Routine

Too fast for the camera

With his win at WODAC 2012, Finn was ‘invited’ to dance at Crufts 2013 (in the UK) which is a great honour. He will be only the second South African dog to have performed at the competition since the UK relaxed their quarantine laws for South African canines in 2011. The invitation and associated expenses however are completely for the owner’s account (and I mean completely). Pet flight tickets are enormously expensive and factoring in our own flight tickets, pet-friendly accommodation and travel provisions, the trip is going to cost a heck of a lot of moula. Father Christmas is definitely going to come up short this year if he doesn’t get some form of financial backing!

And so I set about writing some sponsorship letters to notable brands in South Africa, who might be interested in contributing some money/assistance in return for Finn doing a few autograph signings and brand promotion sessions. To make my letters slightly different to the more usual money requests, they were grammatically composed in the ‘Finn-person’; secondly I made them slightly (in my opinion) witty  and lastly, I including something personal to each brand/product so that they couldn’t be labelled as ‘generic drivel’:

  1. South African Airways (SAA). A play on the airline’s real-life slogan which Finn helpful suggested they could use in a marketing campaign. ‘Bringing the world to Finn and taking Finn to the world’.
  2. Rogz Pet Gear. Finn boasted a wardrobe full of their ‘funky and fashionable dog collars’ (it’s true!) and highlighted the connection between himself and the Rogz brand; both conceived in Cape Town
  3. Bob Martin Pet Products. “Both myself and my older brother Brett use your conditioning shampoo products during bath-times. I personally love the Citronella shampoo as it helps keep flies away from me during the hot summer months and smells great, whilst Brett says the Tea Tree Oil shampoo makes his coat feel really grrreat!”
  4. Nissan: “I could even be Nissan’s answer to Buddy the Boxer Dog from the Toyota Ads (border collies are a lot smarter than boxers by the way). My dad also drives a Navara, so the Nissan brand is very much in the family.”

You get the idea. Witty!

Brands who responded, cited recent budget cuts and limited funding and therefore couldn’t contribute to the worthy cause, whilst others had apparently already allocated successive decades of sponsorships monies. Some didn’t respond at all! As Finn’s parents, we’ve hit a bit of a brick wall when it comes to the whole sponsorship issue. All the brands that we’ve approached are personal to us in one way or another, but they just don’t seem to be interested. Even Finn’s recent success on TV and his handful of Youtube videos (see links below) didn’t help matters. It would be awesome if I could figure out a (nice) way to twist a marketing manager’s arm in the hope that some stray coins from between his tight butt cheeks would drop into our collection fund. If any readers have some helpful ideas, please leave me a comment. Assistance would be greatly appreciated!

YouTube Links

WODAC 2012:

SA Champs 2012:

WODAC 2011:

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