Talented young British triathlete Blythe Fourie has the Olympics in her sights. She is already a gold medal winner after competing in the ITU Age Group World Duathlon Championships at 16; and is looking set for that success to continue. Travelling the world competing in multisport clearly takes some serious investment, and sponsorship is important for the aspiring athlete to help cover essential costs such as kit, equipment and travel.
In 2016, Fourie managed to secure a sponsorship agreement with Canopies UK – a specialist designer, manufacturer and installer of outdoor canopies. The sponsorship has enabled her to participate in, and travel to, regular competitions as she continues to pursue her Olympic dream. With this in mind, she has shared her experiences securing a sponsorship and given some advice to other young athletes starting out in their career.
triathlonbusiness.com (TriBiz): What prompted you to start looking for a sponsor?
Blythe Fourie (BF): I started looking for a sponsor when I qualified for international races. This additional support, both emotional and financial, has enabled me to compete in countries such as Spain, Holland and Mexico, which have been exceptionally good experiences; and I would recommend to anyone who has the chance to race abroad. I would have felt very bad asking my parents to pay for flights to the other side of the world, so this sponsorship with Canopies UK was a timely intervention which allowed me to follow my passion.
TriBiz: How did the partnership with Canopies UK specifically come about?
BF: Canopies UK are a local family-run business [in Darwen, Lancashire] and I knew one of their employees who also competed in triathlons; so the link of the same sport was already there. After some exploratory discussions, the Canopies team were very keen to help me, knowing the financial, physical and time demands of the sport. I pass the company offices daily and it always reminds me of the investment they are making and how fortunate I am.
TriBiz: How have they helped you?
BF: Canopies UK have given me a lump sum of money to spend as necessary on competing, covering all aspects from training, competition entry fees and travel – domestically and abroad. What’s more, they are very understanding of my training and education. They haven’t put any pressure on me to involve social media or much advertising as part of the agreement with them. As I was only 16 when they first sponsored me, this has helped me avoid the pitfalls of social media whilst I am still under 18.
I’m very fortunate to have a sponsor that understands the challenges facing junior triathletes in particular.
TriBiz: How important do you feel it is to find a sponsor that understands your sport?
BF: I think it’s very important but not vital. In my case, for triathlon it’s been a great help for Canopies UK to be so understanding and interested in the sport. It allows it to be more than just a sponsorship as they understand what I do. I don’t have to explain everything – especially the training for three disciplines.
TriBiz: What advice would you give to a young athlete looking for sponsorship?
BF: Try and find somewhere local and a company that doesn’t require too much ‘red tape’. It’s very hard to keep tweeting and blogging, especially during the winter training months and with the added pressure of school work. Try and make a personal contact with the company and keep talking to the same person where possible to build a good relationship.