March, 2020

Text: Jonathan Davies


Over the years, corporate sponsorships have diminished and athletes struggle to fund their way to the top. But, funding doesn’t have to be all work, no play. Sometimes that extra spark of creativity or daring makes the whole process less of a bore, and gets you more attention than you ever thought possible. If you’re running out of ideas to take your funding headaches away, then have a look at the list below. They may all be examples from funding campaigns for the Olympics, but we’re pretty sure you can find enough inspiration here!

1. Sell yourself or your limbs on eBay

In 2012, 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds decided to auction off his shoulder on eBay. He said he did this “with the intention of raising awareness to the struggles athletes go through as they try to make ends meet and prepare for their Olympic dream.” Well Nick, well done, because a marketing agency from Wisconsin bought it for $11.100 – enough for Nick to train full-time in the race to the London games. Nick ended up being fifth in the London finals, so that funding helped! He already had a sponsorship with Nike at the time, though he left them in 2014 and signed with Brooks Running.

Nick wasn’t the only one who used eBay to gain necessary funds. In that same year, James Ellington went a step further and sold himself on eBay. James was hitting peak performance, but a series of injuries lost him a bunch of sponsorships that would have prevented his bold eBay move. The winning bid was £32,550, but sadly it was retracted. Luckily, all the publicity prompted King of Shaves to jump in and James landed his sponsorship after all. Sadly, he didn’t win any medals, but he inspired athletes worldwide.

James was involved in an almost career-ending motorcycle crash in 2017. He fought for his recovery, and is now fighting with the same vigor to get a shot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. James, good luck. You deserve it.

2. Change your name to a brand name

Tongan national Fuahea Semi changed his name to Bruno Banani – a German Underwear brand, and got to attend the luge event in the 2014 olympics with an unofficial sponsor backing him. I know, there are so many questions here, right?

First off, Tonga is a sun-soaked Polynesian island that isn’t exactly known for its harsh winters. 

Second, Bruno Banani was an unofficial sponsor, and the International Olympic Committee is notoriously hard on outside sponsors. Unfortunately for them, he eventually really changed his name to Bruno Banani. Because his passport said, you guessed it, Bruno Banani, they couldn’t do anything. He went on to finish six seconds behind the gold medalist of that year. Feel the Rhythm! Feel the Rhyme! Get on up, it’s luging time!

3. High-profile demonstrations or exhibitions

Tim Morehouse, a fender from the United states, gave a high-profile fencing demonstration to president Obama and then-just-a-celebrity, Donald Trump. He’s probably the only fencer to exhibit in front of two presidents, even if he didn’t know it at the time! To attract the attention of sponsors, the U.S. fencer gave high-profile demonstrations to President Obama and celebrities such as Donald Trump. It helped that Tim had taught Obama some fencing in 2009, in an effort to help Chicago win the bid for the 2016 olympics. 

It’s not the craziest or most creative way of getting funding, but the amount of media exposure Tim gained resulted in a lot of sponsorships. Of course, it helped that he already won a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing olympics.

4. Use your athletic talent to find a desk job 

To fund their way to Sochi, Canadian bobsleighers Jesse Lumsden and Justin Kripps started a hilarious series of sketches called “we push stuff” on YouTube, in a mock effort to land a job that could actually get them some funding. In an article by the Calgary Herald, the pair said ““It is our hope this video creates some additional excitement and interest in our unique sport among Canadians, while also capturing the attention of corporate executives that would be interested in joining us for this exciting ride in addition to gaining enormous exposure for their brand.”

Check out one of the videos here – they’re hilarious. P.S: Notice that they have high-profile brands such as Adidas spread all over their spandex? Even big names like that can’t pay solely for full-time training.

5. Find a rockstar friend

Okay, this one will be a bit hard to pull off. But who knows? Maybe your agent can drop Robbie Williams a line and get to auction off “something stupid” that will get you the funding you need?

To do his part for this year’s olympics, Bruce Springsteen offered to give, and give generously. He’s auctioning off a signed Harley Davidson motorcycle, as well as his Fender guitar, so the US equestrian teams can make it to the 2020 Tokyo and Paralympic games.

A lifelong fan of horse riding, Bruce and his family couldn’t resist the opportunity to see their team win big. It’s a case-in-point example of the common ground that makes this  situation possible. On one hand, Bruce gets his public image boosted by doing this entirely free of charge. On the other hand, the equestrian team gets their funding. The third win? The logical link between Springsteen and the equestrian team, stemming from their joint love for horse riding. It’s a match made in heaven.

Funding can be fun

The examples above show some fun, novel ways to get great exposure, and eventually, the funding you need. Our main tip though: whatever you do, make sure it feels “you”. If integrity is a core part of your identity, you may want to think twice before changing your name to Kate Spade or Calvin Klein. 

On the other hand, if you just want to focus on training and winning, you need to support Peakz. We’re leveling the playing field in sports and want everyone to have equal access to funding. We’re doing that by creating a hat-trick win: funding becomes fun for fans, easy for athletes and accessible for businesses to sponsor. Support the mission for easier sports funding here. You’ll be able to use the Peakz Scoutfunding platform around the summer of 2020. No need to sell yourself on eBay either.