I have no cycling competition skill, know nothing about sponsorship or the world of paid sports, have no social media presence to speak of and the last time I was ‘sponsored’ for something was in primary school.
So in the long-standing tradition of internet forums I feel well qualified to opine on this topic
Options aside from 1 & 2 already noted:
- You say you compete against these guys so that means (making a bit of an unjustified leap of logic here) that you are in the same ball park fitness (4+ W/Kg) - armed with this information approach a LBS that isn’t yet represented and explain to them they are missing out. Offer to rectify this oversight by taking up their name and services as part of your racing (how soever you may be allows to, for example decals on your bike / Instagram and other social media endorsement / Strava pics etc) - in turn for ‘sponsorship’.
Perhaps begin small - they give you some free tubes and tyres etc but have an agreement if the activity and promotion you do brings in business then the level of free stuff goes up - clearly you can scale it so a ‘win’ or podium or top 10 placement merits a reward - obviously it will help your argument if you have a big Strava and social media following and are capable of doing reasonably well at these races
Just go straight to the other guys who you have highlighted as examples and ask them how they did it - then shamelessly copy them
Team up with a couple of buddies who are fellow racers and seek to adopt option 3. As a ‘team’ - a slight twist in the advice in option 3 but because you’d be a ‘team’ then it’s a more attractive prospect for the LBS - get some jerseys made up - share the burden of social
Media and Strava promotion, maybe actually work hard as a team to put one of you on the podium - this has the added benefit of actually creating something fun and worthwhile for you and some other riders, as opposed to just being about you getting some free stuff. Also the LBS would have more to gain as there is a scalability to a team effort and the resulting marketing and exposure opportunities that will arise - plus how cool will it be to be part of a bike racing team
All the excellent comments by the previous poster about ‘relationships’ apply to all of this though - the quality and authenticity of your interactions with people are suuuuper important.
On reflection, option 5 would be my preference if it were me (it’s not so I’ll shut up now)
Finally - Good luck and if you actually do well and get some free stuff - then consider passing some of it on - maybe there’s a young kid in your bike club who’s got some talent so you could throw him or her a few spare tubes and stuff - create some good Karma along the journey