As a league or club leader, you want to do all you can for your young athletes. But funds can be tight. The good news is that you don’t have to fund your organization with just player registration fees. With a little research, you can uncover companies that sponsor youth sports to support your teams.
Where should you begin? Companies of all sizes contribute money and time to youth sports. You should first look to local organizations as potential sponsors. Once you've built your local sponsorship program you can look to pro sports organizations and national brands for grant opportunities for your organization.
Get creative and set aggressive goals to get new sponsors each season! Although financial sponsorships should be your top priority, you can partner with businesses to reduce your costs in other ways through field enhancements and equipment donations.
Every dollar you save can help keep registration and equipment fees down, which can help more kids access sports programs, and improve the overall youth sports experience in your community.
Local sponsorship is a big funding opportunity for any youth sports organization. Visit any community sports complex on a busy Saturday and look around. You’re likely to see banners advertising local companies on playing fields. Check the back of the players’ team shirts. Once again, you’ll find names of local businesses on display.
When it comes to youth sports, local businesses are the most avid annual sponsors. Typically, local business owners have strong ties to the community where they do business. They may have even coached, volunteered, or have had their own kids play in local leagues or clubs. It’s natural for them to want to give back.
Approaching small businesses for donations is a must for a successful sponsorship program. Here are a few tips to build up your sponsorship program before your next season...
How do you reach out to local organizations for sponsorships? Again, a personal approach works best. Make a list of target donors and get the names of key people from their website. Ask around the league. Find out who knows people affiliated with potential donors and work through them for an introduction.
You can also send a donation letter to request sponsorships. Make sure your letter outlines the goals of your organization and the impact that sponsorships make on the community.
Need help writing a donation letter? Check out How to Write a Donation Letter for Youth Sports.
Also, make sure you explain the direct value your league can provide to the sponsor. Let prospective sponsors know if they’ll receive signage, advertising on your website, or other promos. Remind them of the goodwill and name recognition they can generate. And don’t forget the potential of a tax write-off for making a non-profit donation.
Recognizing your local sponsors on your website is a great way to generate value year round.
Does anyone from your league or club work for a company you want to seek as a sponsor? Find out if they can make donation requests to their employer. Also, companies often make matching contributions. With that approach, the employee makes a donation, and the company doubles it.
Every sponsorship helps keep costs low. In fact, this can be a powerful motivator for companies willing to sponsor youth sports. Let people know how their contribution directly impacts youth in the community. You can fund more scholarships and keep participation fees in check. And that can help make sports more accessible to kids and families.
Once you've started to build momentum with your local sponsorship program, you should identify if there are national sponsorship or grant opportunities for your organization.
Many nationally known brands have active charitable giving programs. Often, these companies offer funds to youth sports organizations. Through these contributions, companies gain brand awareness and build goodwill in local communities.
Which companies donate to youth sports programs? Here are just a few that have ongoing support or have sponsored youth sports in the past:
Nike offers grants and donations to youth sports organizations, schools, and community sports programs as part of the Nike Community Impact Fund.
The Nike Community Impact Fund focuses on communities that Nike has corporate offices - Portland, Brooklyn, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and several others in the US.
Nike also has a Mid-South Grants program that supports organizations in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. The Mid-South Grants are focused on organizations that give kids from underserved areas an opportunity to reach their potential through sports.
If you think your organization might be eligible for the Nike Community Impact Fund programs visit their website or apply online!
Chevy Youth Baseball and Softball is one of the most well-known youth sports sponsorship programs. Since its inception in 2006 the program has supported over 26,000 youth sports leagues in the US.
The program provides free clinics to players and also donates equipment. You can learn more or register a player for a clinic on www.chevrolet.com/youth-sports
Chevy Youth Baseball supported over 632,000 athletes in 2020.
DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation provides funding and grant opportunities for youth sports organizations in all 50 US States.
A few of the requirements include:
Must be a 501c3 organization
Must be in a community in which DICK'S has a store
Must have a team youth sports focus
To apply for support for your program visit https://www.sportsmatter.org/funding/
Xenith Supports youth football at all levels. If you've got a growing youth football program, or run a large post-season youth tournament you should complete Xenith's Sponsorship Application.
If you're an individual or a coach, you can also join the Xenith MVP Program and earn rewards by purchasing Xenith products and spreading the word.
Learn more about the Xenith MVP Program on their website.
Buffalo Wild Wings and The Boys & Girls Club of America partner to help grow flag football, basketball, soccer and volleyball at Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.
If your sports programs are affiliated with The Boys & Girls Club make sure you're taking advantage of funding opportunities for your sports programs!
In 2017 Target committed to supporting the growth of youth soccer in the US. The program includes grants for soccer programs and direct sponsorship of the US Soccer Foundation to build new facilities.
Target made a $14 million commitment to youth soccer through two new national initiatives—an $8 million local soccer grant program, and a $6 million partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Verizon gives grants to local organizations that have a charitable purpose. If you're running a large event or league that makes a impact on your community you should reach out to apply for support from Verizon.
You can contact a local Verizon rep on their Grant Application page.
In 2021 Scotts and MLB created the Scotts Field Refurbishment Program to help nonprofit youth baseball or softball programs that are in need of field renovations. Grants are awarded to sports programs to give kids a modern and safe field to play on. In 2021, Applications were accepted in the Spring.
Learn more or apply online on the Scotts Field Refurbishment Grant Application website.
Finish Line supports communities through it's Louder Than Words program. Organizations must be a 501c3 to qualify, and must have 51% of the participants in the sports organization must be people of color.
Approved applicants receive up to $10,000 in new sports equipment and apparel to support their organizations. Apply online on the Let's Play Application site.
Publix specifically focuses on event sponsorships for local sports organizations. If you have a large one-day tournament or end of season event, you should consider applying for a Publix sponsorship.
Gatorade provides opportunities to donate sports drinks to local events. They only accept applications from youth sports events, so be sure your event or program is focused on supporting kids in your community.
Head to the Gatorade Youth Partnerships Website to apply for your program!
Since 2007, the Road Runners Club of America and Kids Run the Nation have assisted running clubs, schools, and community non-profits in starting youth running programs. Funds can be used for a wide range of expenses including hydration supplies, snacks for athletes, park permits or facility rentals, and website hosting.
Grants from $500 to $1,000 are awarded to youth running programs in the U.S.
If you want to start a new running program, or need help funding your existing program, you should considering applying on the RRCA Website.
Once you've applied for sponsorships and grants from national businesses you should research professional leagues and local pro teams for support.
Many professional sports leagues want to share their love of the game with the next generation of athletes. Here are a few of the most active programs in the US.
On a national scale, the NFL Foundation provides funding for youth and high school programs. In addition, the foundation supports clubs, coaches, and players who share the sport with young people.
The MLB Play Ball Program helps provide resources to youth baseball and softball programs. Resources include sponsorship programs, free content for players and parents, and educational sources for coaches. Learn more about MLB Play Ball Partners at www.mlb.com/play-ball/partners.
The MLB Players Youth Development Foundation focuses on increasing participation in youth baseball and softball. Organizations in the US and Internationally are eligible to receive grants from the Foundation and new grants are approved throughout the year.
Learn more about the application process on www.mlbplayers.com/ydf
The Jr. NBA provides a wide variety of resources to help you build and grow a youth basketball program. Potential benefits of membership include:
Access to regional events
Discounts on uniforms and other league equipment
Free curriculum for players and coaches
Coach licensing and training
Access to Grant Funding
Discounts for players and parents in the NBA Store
Register as an organization or player on the Jr. NBA website.
The NHL Learn to Play Program provides opportunities for young players ages 4-9 to start their hockey journey. Learn to play programs provide equipment to athletes at events and focus on athletes that haven't participated in hockey before or are beginners.
Events are typically once per week and last for 4-8 weeks.
Most programs are located near NHL Franchises and you can learn more about opportunities on the NHL Learn to Play website.
Almost every professional team has some sort of program to support youth sports locally. Be sure to check out the professional teams in your town to see what type of current programs they have. In most cases you need to apply for grants and sponsorships at a specific time of year, so make sure you're researching well in advance of your season.
Learn more about a few pro teams that support youth sports below. Don't see your team? Try Googling the name of the team and "youth sports" to see if they have a history of supporting youth sports in your area.
Pittsburgh Pirates - The Pirates Charities Fields for Kids Program
Kansas City Royals - The Royalty Fields Program
Boston Red Sox - The Boston Red Sox Foundation
Cleveland Browns - The Jr. Browns NEXT Program
Los Angeles Chargers - Chargers USA Football Youth Football Grants
Baltimore Ravens - Ravens Play60 Grants
Chicago Blackhawks - CBC Community Fund Grants
Carolina Hurricanes - Hurricanes Foundation Grant Opportunities
New Jersey Devils - Devils Youth Foundation
Los Angeles Lakers - Lakers Youth Foundation
Portland Trail Blazers - The Trail Blazers Foundation PLAY Grant
Golden State Warriors - Warriors Jr. NBA Week
Philadelphia 76ers - Sixers Youth Foundation
FC Cincinnati - FCC Foundation Mini Pitches
You need to get a bit creative to get the most out of your sponsorship program. Make sure at least one person on your board is responsible for sponsorships and fundraising so they can dedicate their volunteer hours to building relationships with sponsors.
It's also critical to make it easy for people to become a sponsor. For example, asking parents if they would like to sponsor during registration is a great way to get a handful of new sponsors quickly. You can automatically add the appropriate amount to their fee so they can pay for their player registration and sponsorship fee all at once.
The last question in your registration form can be a friendly request for sponsorship!
And remember, organizations may not always be able to make a cash donation but may be able to help in different ways. Give businesses in your areas a variety of opportunities to contribute even if they can't make cash contributions.
Some impactful ideas to consider are:
Working with a business to host a spirit night fundraiser. Through this activity, organizations may offer a share of purchase on a specific date at to your league.
Asking local organizations to volunteer their employees for pre-season field clean-up days. Many companies find that volunteering together is an excellent morale-building activity and a fun way to make an impact on the community.
Requesting goods for league events. A grocery store may be willing to donate hot dogs or ice cream cups for league celebrations, for example.
Any of these ideas can help your league or club secure or save funds. And that empowers you to dedicate more money to serving your young athletes.
There’s no question that budgeting for youth sports teams is challenging. Registration fees may not be enough to fund your organization and you can feel pressed to evolve the program without increasing costs for youth participants.
Attracting sponsors is essential to your league’s success. Along with fundraising from grants, sponsors should be a critical part of your league budget.
At first, your sponsorship pool may be small–but it will inevitably grow through the years. Over time, you’ll likely find many sponsors returning. They’ll start to put your league or club in their annual charitable budgets and won’t hesitate to offer support.
Once you reach that stage, you can work on growing your relationship with existing sponsors while branching out to new ones. You’ll likely need a designated sponsorship manager on your board to oversee the process and manage relationships. A sponsorship program can require time and energy, but the rewards are worthwhile!