A few weeks ago I had a bit of a tiff with a longtime friend. Unbeknownst to me, he had thought enough of me and my minuscule contributions to the shooting world, that he decided to recommend me for sponsorship to one of the companies he associates with.
While I was incredibly touched by his generosity of spirit, and good intentions, I had to turn him down. I did it awkwardly, because in part I hadn't really clarified in my own mind the "whys", until we had an email exchange. But I do know my own mind now, and this post is based on the thoughts and explanations that gelled during that exchange.
When I was a new shooter, I was always impressed by logo hats and guys/gals wearing sponsor jerseys. In my mind, these were the "cool kids", and I wanted to be like them. As I went along and grew in the shooting sports, though, I realized that there are responsibilities and obligations that go along with accepting sponsorship. There is no such thing as a free lunch, as they say. So here are some of the main reasons that I've decided that I won't accept formal sponsorship.
Medicine and Ethics - All through my medical training it was drilled into me that accepting "perks" from drug reps was the path to perdition. Eventually, even accepting a sandwich or a lousy plastic pen made one suspect. That is the world I have come from. Even though the Outdoor Industry is a totally different animal, it is a tough habit to break. I still have to live in BOTH worlds though, so I have had to make compromises. I'm fine with swag bags at matches now, and freebies at SHOT - because those are provided to EVERYBODY. I'm not being singled out or "bought" for accepting those things. If I like them, I'll use them, and write about them. If not - oh well.
Also, as a blogger, I have written pieces that are critical of Organized Medicine's meddling in 2A politics. So far, I haven't gotten any formal push-back from that, but it could happen (the main reason I still use a pen name). In the event of push-back, I look more credible if am NOT sporting company logos all over my back. Medicine (at least superficially) is all about declaring conflict of interest, and I avoid the most glaring appearances of that, if I am NOT sponsored.
Forced Associations - I am an introvert, and a cranky one, by nature. I'm much more comfortable hiding behind a keyboard. Sponsored shooters should be "ambassadors" and a "public face" for the companies they represent. Those two realities simply don't mix for me. I don't hide my feelings well, and I might quickly become "That Cranky B in the So-and-So jersey". The same might apply when it comes to being forced to interact with, and be photographed as part of Team So-and-So. There are a couple individuals on the unnamed team that I have a very personal, and very poor opinion of. I wouldn't be able to hide that either. I'd rather avoid anything to do with that situation.
Identity - As an offshoot of the above, I have no desire to have my own identity and preferences be subsumed by that of the company whose logo I'm wearing. I know, I know -- I'm going to get arguments about that one. But it's a very personal and closely held thing for me. I spent the first half of my life having no identity of my own - I was my parents' daughter, my husband's wife, and my children's mother - there was no "me". It took a long and painful struggle to build my own "me" - a piece of which is Dr LateBloomer. Nowadays, I may be a nobody, but at least I'm my OWN nobody. And I LIKE it that way - LOL
Outsider/Observer Status - I still consider myself "new" in the shooting sports. Though I've now been at it for seven years, every time I learn something new I discover how much more I DON'T know. This is rather a blessing, in that new things always give me new insights to write about, and new material to bore you all with. Part of me thinks that wearing a sponsor jersey would make me one of the "other" - like I used to think when I was new. I'm afraid that this "other-ness" might put up a barrier between myself and Josie New Shooter in the trenches. I don't want that. I LIKE being a bit of an outsider - with one foot inside the spotlight of the Outdoor Industry, and the other foot still in the beginner trenches. I don't want to lose that perspective.
So you see, as many arguments as people might give me, I strongly feel that being formally sponsored is not for me. I have great respect and admiration for those of you who ARE sponsored (well, most of you anyhow - LOL), but I don't think that this is where my path lies. I think I have a different role to play.
I'll be happy to accept products for review (as long as I am under no obligation to be nice if I don't like it). I'll be happy to promote events that I am excited about, or the handful of operations (like Babes With Bullets) which are close to my heart. But I will NOT be wearing a sponsor jersey.
This probably means that I will be perpetually doomed to penniless obscurity in the Industry LOL. But at least I'll still be able to be cranky and tell you exactly what I think :-)
Thanks for Reading,