I am a member of two bbq sanctioning bodies -- the Kansas City Barbeque Society and Florida Barbecue Association. To get directly to the point...I believe both organizations need to focus more attention on helping cook teams find affordable ways to compete in their contests.
I've written about my own personal strategies to reduce costs and increase revenues from my contest efforts on this blog in the past, but it's not an isolated problem. Affordability issues affect all teams that compete.
To my knowledge neither sanctioning organization has ever held any training seminars that offered step-by-step guides to assist the individual cook teams in obtaining sponsorship for local, regional, or national contests. Doing so would have a three-fold benefit:
1) individual cook teams would have additional methods for offsetting competition expenses
2) sanctioning bodies would benefit by increased participation in bbq contests
3) contest organizers would receive more participation and increased revenues
I'd bet that I'm a pretty good cross-section of the barbecue population that competes in bbq contests on a semi-regular basis. I've competed in at least 25 sanctioned bbq contests during the past several years. I driven thousands of miles to get to them and spent more than $20,000 on bbq related events and equipment.
I've met some nice people. I've seen some nice areas of the country that I would have never visited if they hadn't sponsored a bbq contest. And, I've helped raise money for many, many charitable and municipal organizations. However, if something doesn't change, I'm going to have to stop doing it and I suspect that there are hundreds, if not thousands of teams like mine who have reached the same cross-roads.
The price of gasoline, meat, supplies, lodging, vehicles, contest entry fees, and cookers have continued to rise while the prize money awarded has remained stagnant on the whole. If you don't win first or second overall, you're in the hole at the end of the weekend.
I am not a professional marketer, but I am guessing that the membership of KCBS and FBA has many professional marketers in the ranks who would be willing to offer assistance. If not, I would think that a portion of the membership or sanctioning fees should be allocated to preparing downloadable materials that could be used by cook teams to solicit local and regional sponsorship. Who else other than the sanctioning bodies can provide the kind of economic data that would strengthen the sales pitch to potential sponsors?
If you agree that there is a disconnect, I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts and ideas. Or if you disagree with me and think that sponsorship for individual cook teams has nothing to do with the sanctioning body, I'd also enjoy hearing from you.
In the end, there is another alternative, although I know it's probably not practical or viable economically given the approach the contest organizers are currently taking -- reduce the entry fees to $0 and increase public participation in the contests to offset the lost revenue.
You'd be surprised how far that $250-$300 would go toward increasing cook team participation. In this manner even a top three or four in a category or two would have meaningful effects to help defray cook team expenses.