LESSON 3 – Sometimes We Sponsor People Who Aren’t Professionals
Afternoons with Dal: Lessons in Horse Comfort and Marketing
We may be called Professional’s Choice, but it’s true, we don’t always work with the pros. Sometimes we endorse people who aren’t professionals. In fact, if Dal happens to sit in on a sponsorship committee meeting he occasionally feels inclined to sponsor someone who is quite the opposite – a young child.
I learned this last week when I walked into Dal’s office to discuss an ad and he quickly changed topics.
“I need you to help me find a handwritten letter from Jimmie Smith” Dal said.
“Who is that?” I ask.
“She’s one of our endorsers” he replied matter-of-factly.
This surprised me as I have a list of our endorsers and had been in contact with them all and had never run across the name Jimmie Smith.
“She sent me a hand written letter as few years ago” he explained. “It was a very sweet letter and she addressed me as Mr. Dal. She was a ten year old rodeo rider and wanted some products for her horse.”
He continued, “I thought two things when I got this letter. One, that Jimmie Smith was a boy. And two, that this letter had actually been written by a ten year old without the help of parents. Let me tell you, we get plenty of letters that are obviously written by a parent trying to sound like a kid. You can’t make that stuff up. Adults don’t remember how to sound like they’re ten!”
At this point the third party of marketing meetings, Ziggy, got up and hopped over to my chair for a head scratch. I say hopped because he had clearly been gnawing on the top of his paw again and was limping as if it were sore. However, one thing made me wonder if Ziggy, like Jimmie, had learned that Dal was a empathetic individual and therefore very giving. I say this because as Ziggy rubbed up against me to ask for a scratch, he held his good paw carefully in the air, while putting the rest of his weight unconvincingly on his injured paw.
Dal went on to explain with much amusement that sponsoring Jimmie made life quite challenging for our general manager Monty. When news broke about Professional’s Choice sponsoring an amateur, and a ten year old one at that, Monty was flooded with requests from angry parents who wanted to know why we hadn’t chosen to sponsor their child.
“All he could say is that I had really liked her letter, which often riled them up more!” Dal chuckled.
It’s been five years since we started sponsoring Jimmie Smith and she’s gone from a cute little girl with a love for barrel racing to a serious contender for becoming a professional rider. Apparently Dal’s instincts are accurate; as Jimmie Smith has earned quite a name for herself in the industry. Give it a few more years and Dal may very well be able to say that he handpicked one of rodeo’s top stars as a ten year old without ever even having seen her ride.
I have a feeling though that Dal’s decision to sponsor Jimmie wasn’t as random as it seems. I think what Dal recognized and appreciated in Jimmie’s letter was a sense of dedication. A dedication to her sport and to her horse that was so strong that the little girl decided to write the founder of a company.
It’s the same dedication that Dal exercised when against the doubts of many he decided to start a company in the 80’s that sold orthopedic products for horses.
Then again it might just be the exceptionally long heart strings that Ziggy has learned to so deftly manipulate. The verdict is still out.
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