There are many forms of ‘sponsorship’ within action sports. Riders, however, still get confused with levels of support available. To be fully sponsored is to have your hobby or passion pay its way and give you a career. But there are other tiers that have varying degrees of perks – in exchange for a rider’s pound of flesh that is.
Always on show – brand logos should always be visible; whoever you are = Robby Naish
Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll come across. Who knows, if you’re talented, work hard for your brand(s) and achieve results then it could be you sitting pretty at the top of the pile.
Retail outlets will have allegiances with specific brands – some more than others. There will always be those one or two companies who are pushed harder for various reasons. You can sometimes tell where those loyalties lie just by hitting up your local spot – be that the beach, slope or skate park. If you’re fortunate to be picked as a shop rider you’ll no doubt be on the gear deemed favourite.
A shop rider will be expected to pimp at every given opportunity. You’ll have parted with some hard earned cash, although a discount will no doubt have been given, in return for your commitment. Your toys will most likely be used for one season after which you’ll be expected to sell them on to make way for new season bling.
Snowboarding logo reveal – pic Tez
Although competition results aren’t usually a driving force here, a shop supported rider will need a fairly high level of expertise within his/her discipline, be visible, noticeable and vocal. If there are local comps then you may be asked to step up and do battle.
If you possess the skills and are happy trekking around the country at every opportunity, to face off against the rest of your country’s rippers, then becoming a national level rider could be the next step.
You’ll most likely be in regular contact with the distributor/importer bringing your gear of choice into the country. Although you’ll still be parting with readies to obtain your toys, you’ll be benefitting from a healthier price point. If you’re extremely fortunate then you could be enjoying a deal where you’re loaned kit with the expectation of flogging it off at the end of the season. In effect you’ll be a sales agent but with added benefits.
Comp results will be more expected and media visibility par for the course. Too many people forget that essentially a sponsored rider, at any level, is just a marketing tool. In the age of social media there shouldn’t be any excuse for a supported rider to not deliver regular, engaging and visible content showing their brand in the best possible light. In many cases you’ll be expected to communicate with relevant media outlets and always be on show delivering the company message.
Moving up a notch; if you’re fully endorsed by a brand or a number of, then you’ll possibly be getting your kit for free. Company logos should be everywhere – on you or with you and visible at all times. If the name isn’t in people’s faces then you’re just not doing your job properly.
Check my logos! Paradise SUP promo – pic Fi
You might be expected to sell some kit but this isn’t set in stone. If you’re a fully endorsed rider you’ll have a higher (global) profile – you’ll be instantly recognisable within your peer groups and are therefore a suitable billboard for a company and its products. Again, be under no illusions, you’re a marketing tool who is being asked to do a specific job.
Paid up pro
For those fortunate few; paid professional contracts await – along with super stardom and all the trappings. It could be that a number of sponsors pay your way, give you gear, apparel and accessories – all in the name of marketing and advertising.
Your skill levels will no doubt be through the roof and you’ll most likely have a well-crafted public image that ties in with a company and its message. Staying on point will be expected and regular communication, through social, websites, mags and other forms of media will be the nuts and bolts of your daily routine. Actual riding plays a part but you’ll need to have marketing skills in your arsenal. You’re the billboard for your endorsees and it’s up to you to make sure their voice is heard.
Always on camera – photo shoots are standard for sponsored riders – pic Jules Toms
Many riders who attain fully professional levels will do so as competition athletes although there are a few who get the opportunity to become ‘soul riders’. If this is you then well done, you’ve reached that prestigious pinnacle and one that most can only dream of.
Even if you make it to the top of the pile it should never be forgotten that you’re just a cog within a well-oiled machine. The savvy will embrace this side of their ‘job’ and become fantastic ambassadors, communicators and go on to even better things.
Whatever level of support you manage to secure; nice one! Being involved with something you’re passionate about is great – just realise why you’ve been given the opportunity. Do what’s asked of you, do it well and enjoy your sport – curating a headful of happy memories along the way.