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In light of recent events I have been giving a lot of thought to the sponsored rider relationship. In my eyes sponsors provide products to upper level riders or insta-famous teens it seems because they feel that these individuals have an impact on the spending decisions of other riders.oe_logo

By nature people do seem drawn to things that other people like or what is perceived to be popular. Most of us seem to like a brand because it is widely used or the latest and greatest. Maybe it is the most affordable? For this conversation I am focused on brands that are widely used by sponsored riders. How does negative media affect your decision to purchase brands that a specific rider wears (sponsored or otherwise)? When I see brands continuing to support riders that appear to have questionable integrity it makes me question the integrity of the brand itself.

There are definitely specific tack/apparel brands that I love and have brand loyalty towards – CWD, Ogilvy, Parlanti, Samshield, RJ Classic, ROMFH, Lund… The list goes on. I am loyal to these brands because the products are well made, serve their purpose, and meet my requirements for performance/ safety. That said I would be lying if I said that seeing Samshield congratulate their sponsored rider ML for her performance at fair hill this weekend didn’t put a bad taste in my mouth. (The FB post was later removed from their page – I assume due to multiple customers commenting – myself included)

My question is where do you stand on the issue? Do you consider sponsored riders irrelevant? Do you lean towards my thought process? Please do share  your thoughts as I am very curious about how other people feel about this.

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  1. I think I’d be with you in commenting negatively on a brand who showed support of a rider who won in bad taste (to say the least). Continued use of the products wouldn’t bother me as far as opinion of the brand because I doubt that they can require said competitor to discontinue use of a half pad/saddle/etc. Even seeing them with newer models of the brand’s products doesn’t demonstrate sponsorship either since they could buy it themselves. So yes, public admiration of said person post incident would be alarming, but seeing them with the products wouldn’t because they’re commercially available to all with the funds. Does that make sense? lol

  2. I absolutely question the integrity of the brand if they sponsor riders who make questionable decisions. I understand that they’re trying to get the word out to as many people as possible, but if your name is associated with someone who is shown in a negative light due to their own actions, I say thats on you (the brand) if you still support them. I personally will not support the brands of those who support riders that make mistakes like that. Not saying I am going to throw their products out, but I will not be buying from them in the future if they continue to support people like ML. You see it ALL the time in national sports. Michael Phelps is a great example.

  3. I really don’t care about brand sponsorships, and sponsored riders have little to no bearing on how I spend my money. If I’m in the market for a new product of some sort, I’m going to do my research on what brand/style/design will best suit myself and my pony, and fit my budget, and sponsorships have pretty much zero influence on what I purchase. Sure, if I see a brand plastered all over social media I’ll probably take a few minutes to check it out, but when it comes down to dollars actually spent, sponsorships don’t have an effect on my choices.

    1. I’m not staying that it would make me buy something if x wears a brand but it does get the brand out there. But I think it does work in the opposite way for me atleast that if a brand sponsors someone shady I am probably going to think twice about buying from them in he future. thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  4. Agree with Monica above — in other sports, sponsors regularly pull sponsorships from athletes who end up in the news for their negative actions. Not to pick on swimming, but look at how many sponsors Ryan Lochte lost after Rio. I absolutely would love to see equestrian sponsors doing the same thing, and it definitely makes me question supporting the brand in the future if they sponsor riders with questionable ethics or actions. I forget which brand it was now, but someone I follow on Instagram had a ton of posts about ML and while I didn’t make any negative comments, I did unfollow them.

  5. Sponsored riders do have some influence over what I might buy for my horse or myself. The best example I can think of: I was on the fence about Back on Track products, especially because of the expense. However, coupled with a few recommendations from friends, I was struck by Beezie Madden’s testimonial. Having tried a few BoT things, I now want ALL of them–her experience lined up with my subsequent experience, which is pretty powerful to me.

    The flip-side is what we saw over the weekend–I do hope sponsors consider how a rider they sponsor reflects on their brand and act accordingly.

  6. I’m definitely brand-loyal once I find something I like. I generally don’t really care too much who brands sponsor, but I was disappointed enough in ML incident to comment on Samshield’s Facebook post.

  7. From a company perspective, I can tell you that if something of the nature of what happened with ML happened to a rider my employer sponsors, they would certainly revoke sponsorship of that rider. It’s not worth it to be associated with a public scandal.

  8. I definitely pay attention to what top pros are wearing and yeah, it impacts my shopping. I am very cognizant of my horse and his own needs and that is my #1 guide, but if there’s a neutral issue (like bonnets, saddle pads, bridle shapes, whatever), I’m aware of who wears what and why.

  9. I think it would influence me more in the negative than in the positive. I would not buy a product because so-and-so uses it, but if a brand actively supports a rider who treats her horses badly, then that will definitely impact my decision to look into a product. I’m not really a lifestyle buyer, though; I buy rarely and based on sales and quality, not trend.

  10. Sponsors continuing to sponsor bad people will definitely turn me off a brand and more so than a rider endorsing a brand. What would actually impress me would be a sponsor pulling sponsorship over something like ML’s actions. I would buy from that company.

  11. I actually did a brief case study on this for a class in college! For me personally, I do take sponsored riders and their experience into consideration form time to time, but it depends on the product. For something like a halfpad or type of tall boots, I’m definitely looking at the pros and who chooses to use what. That of course is not the only factor I consider, but it’s a factor nonetheless. I’m not sure I would distinctly not use a brand if I thought that functionally it was the best option, but if there was another option that did the job just as well, I would likely go with another brand.

    I do think who companies choose to sponsor matters for another reason though. Even though most teenagers will claim they aren’t impressionable and they can think for themselves, my experience is that they tend to look up to the riders who get the most acclaim. If a company is saying “this rider is worth sponsoring” they’re also saying “this rider is worth admiring and emulating” and with someone like ML, that may not be the case.

  12. I think it’s definitely in poor taste to continue sponsoring a rider that brings negative attention to themselves. That said however, if I really love the product, I probably wouldn’t stop buying it. Samshield specifically. That helmet fits me the best and is the most comfortable AND attractive of any other helmet. Therefore, I would not stop using it because I don’t like the actions of one of their sponsored riders. (That said, I save my Samshield for showing, and wear a Charles Owen everyday… so go figure my logic.)
    However, if it was one brand of many with a product I could be equally as happy with another brand, it might make me take my business elsewhere.
    If the brand itself was portraying questionable practices I would be quicker to pull my business.
    Last thoughts since I’ve now written a short story… It’s possible Samshield was unaware of all the controversy initially. They’re not an American brand and my not have enough of a presence here to realize this was going on. Or I’m wrong, and they just didn’t care, but since they pulled the post in question, I’m leaning toward them being ignorant on this one.