In 2009, Romain Mesnil ran naked through the streets of Paris carrying nothing but his vaulting pole. The renowned French athlete had just been dropped by all his sponsors and could no longer afford to get to the World Championships.

In a last-ditch effort, his friend, Loic Yviquel, captured Mesnil’s streak on video. The clip went viral, thanks in part to Mesnil’s fans who shared and commented on social media. He ended up placing second at the World Championships.

Three years later, Mesnil competed at the London 2012 Summer Olympics Games thanks to a crowdfunding effort spearheaded by Yviquel – and powered by his fans.

A year later, Yviquel founded the Sponsorise.me sports crowdfunding platform, which enables fans to supports athletes and teams in exchange for cool awards and experiences. Money raised through the platform helps athletes cover costs of training, coaching, equipment, travel and more. “Every day, millions of athletes and teams are looking for sponsors to finance their project. And every day, millions of fans are engaged with those teams and athletes on social networks,” he explains. “We find a way to make these fans engage with their project and transform a $10,000 sponsor into 1,000 fans contributing various amounts to raise $10,000.”

POWERADE, the official sports drink of the Olympic Games and a longtime supporter of athletes at all levels, is continuing the tradition of supporting athletes by teaming up with Sponsorise.Me to help fuel the dreams of Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.

“Many elite athletes face financial hardship to pursue their dreams, and very few receive endorsement deals,” explains Thierry Borra, director of Olympic Games management at The Coca-Cola Company. “This means athletes must rely heavily on community support and resources from their network of friends and family. We saw this as a perfect vehicle to help athletes raise funds to reach their dreams.” 

The #PowerMe campaign supported 100 athletes in six countries – Mexico, Germany, France, Great Britain, South Africa and Brazil – each of whom crowdfunding goals for their 45-day campaigns hosted on a custom Sponsorise.me URL. Funds were released only when an athlete achieved his or her funding goal. Otherwise, contributors were fully refunded.

POWERADE matched public donations (up to $400 per campaign) and rewarded each week’s most engaging projects with a financial booster and paid media support on Facebook and Twitter. The brand also is supplying product to fuel each athlete’s training, and using its network of influential athlete partners to help bring the hopefuls’ stories to a wider audience.

“We not only helped reach athletes and teams, but every athlete’s community of fans, as well,” said Bachir Zeroual, director of marketing ventures at Coke. “We look to partner with companies that have ideas that can be extended globally and also align with our company values. We believe in Sponsorise.me’s vision, business model, and most importantly, their people.”

A total of 76 athletes hit their goals, raising more than $235,000 in total (approx. $3,000 per athlete). Thirty-six qualified for Rio 2016.

Tutul Rahman, global director of sports drinks at Coca-Cola, hopes the crowdfunding effort will boost POWERADE’s cachet with current and future Olympians. “At the end of the day, we’re building visibility. By helping these elite athletes – many of whom have a great chance at winning medals in Rio – drives our credibility. We see each of these athletes, and everyone who donates and engages with this platform, as potentially loyal POWERADE drinkers if they’re not already.”

Rahman said research in France and Mexico showed that purchase intent increased among consumers who visited the POWERADE Sponsorise.me site thanks to the brand's association with professional athletes.

Yviquel added “It’s really a win-win-win model for the brand, the athlete, and the community. We add brand exposure to a targeted audience, in addition to a platform to create genuine content and storytelling and an opportunity to engage and expand community.”