I just want to take this opportunity to underscore how great a role social media can play for amateur athletes looking for sponsorship dollars. I won't recap why branding is so important, or how to use social media here, for that I'd recommend you go back to my original posts. But I do want to point you to a really great case study for another athlete who has done awesome to build his brand even though he isn't winning gold medals (yet).
Kevin Jagger is a Canadian speedskater who recently gave up his job in Investment Banking to pursue some impressive goals in speedskating. He's done an excellent job of using social media to his advantage and built himself a great brand with many followers which in turn has benefited him by helping to attract sponsors. A couple months back on his blog he was gracious enough to write a fairly thorough account of how he's done all this and I'd highly recommend any and every amateur athlete looking for sponsorship to read through it.
I mentioned this in the slowtwitch forum that originally generated all this interest, but one of the biggest mistakes a lot of individuals looking for sponsorship make, is that they just go ask sponsors for sponsorship without really bringing anything to the table.
The key to being an attractive individual worth sponsoring is engaging the entire community of individuals who your potential sponsor needs to reach. In one way this means engaging your neighbourhood, your city, your university, to make yourself attractive to local businesses who are the most likely to first sponsor you as an amateur. The next step is to engage the online community of athletes within and beyond your geographic area. Sure this can mean tweeting at the champions, but more importantly it means talking to the masses of age group athletes that companies sell product to.
The best way to build those connections with other athletes both in the real world and online community is to place yourself in the conversation and develop a genuine interest in the training, and achievements of others. Ask others about their training, their goals, their next race. And likewise, feel free share your own experiences, good and bad. You'll be surprised at how many great connections you can make when you realize that the key to building a great brand isn't about talking about yourself, but building strong connections with others.