So You Wanna Be Sponsored?

Oct 21, 2013 at 20:00
Oct 21, 2013
by Lacy Kemp  
 
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Sponsorships. It's something that many riders want, but few will actually receive. Many of you reading this are probably incredibly talented and you know it. You probably would enjoy the benefits of a sponsorship or two. Who wouldn't? It's great getting inexpensive gear and even better if you can pull a paycheck out of it. But, it's not as simple as just being a very, very good rider. You have to have a brand to go along with all that skill. Being sponsored means you have another job besides riding your bike: you have to help sell your sponsor's product and that goes way beyond what happens on two wheels.

Gully Rampage
Gully is known for being a pretty fun dude on and off the bike. No matter what's going on, he's probably going to make you laugh.

As "corporate" as it may sound, branding is something that can be beneficial for not only companies, but athletes as well. As a former team manager for an action sports company, I used to receive emails and phone calls from athletes looking for sponsorship on a regular basis and my first question was always, "What are you doing to set yourself apart?" Often times I'd hear answers about filming, competition, and being a great ambassador. These answers aren't wrong by any means, but they're not unique enough for a lot of athlete managers to warrant a salary or sponsorship. Let's face it, if you're competing you need to be relevant at the highest level these days. Podium finishes are awesome. They bring a brand exposure and influence. While a 7th place finish out of a huge pile of competitors is undoubtedly a job well done, the impact of that placement falls off heavily after the podium steps end.

Photo P. Gore
Kelly's wild hair makes it easy to identify him from afar.

Being a brand ambassador is more than just riding a bike. Getting people stoked on the sport and your sponsors is key.

So, what can you, as an athlete, bring to the table that companies will want to associate themselves with? Having some kind of characteristic that is memorable, so people will instantly recognize you in photos and videos, or resonate with you in person, is key. As random as it seems, having a unique trait is something that people can remember and associate with.

Athletes who do this well: Kelly McGarry and his wild head of hair. Kelly's hair may seem like just an insignificant trait, but it's instantly recognizable, and therefore makes him a marketable athlete. You always know who's in that distant photo because you always see his hair. Kelly rides for Diamondback, so that's an instant win for them, even if the ad is for Adidas. Brett Tippie and...well just being Brett Tippie. There aren't many people that are better ambassadors for the sport than Tippie. Always smiling, coaching, or hosting, he's a genuinely great face for the sport and for his title sponsor, Rocky Mountain. Geoff Gulevich is well known as being a really likable guy. Gully gets more media hits than most other riders simply because he's willing to put himself out there, he's willing to be different and quirky, he's easy to work with and he injects humor into pretty much everything he does. KC Deane is a dual sport athlete (bike and ski) and has massive social media following that companies love. While KC is still fairly new to the bike industry, brands recognize his cross-sport popularity mixed with a massive audience following his skills online. This is a great way to bring new people from different sports to the companies he's representing. The Athertons are fortunate enough to be the first family in biking. Each are world-class talents in their own right, but the Athertons are often marketed as a package unit because three elite riders showing off how great a brand's products are is better than one. You get the point. While top-level talent is paramount, these athletes have other ways of being remembered.

Tippie interviewing.
Brett Tippie is a big mountain pioneer who has managed to leverage his wild and fun personality into a long-term career.


Rachel Atherton
Rachel is probably the most marketable female rider in the world. Being a part of the Atherton crew, arguably the fastest woman on a bike, and extremely handy with the media are all traits that companies love.

As an athlete, your number one job to your sponsors is to sell their product. Your second job is to be a mountain biking advocate to bring new people to the sport and keep motivating current riders. Different companies will prefer different styles of riding and personalities to represent their product, but exposure and marketability are two extremely important factors no matter who you represent. Your unique feature or trait is going to add to your marketability and desire for media to photograph you and include you in their videos because you're memorable and people recognize and remember you. This increases views on their videos and photos, making your exposure rise, and therefore pleasing your sponsors even more.

KC Deane testing out his new Scott fr10 voltage. Rainbows unicorns and backflips. Yea its all there.
KC's post of this shot and one similar to his Instagram account received over 4,000 likes. That's to an audience of skiers, mountain bikers, surfers and photographers - all potentially interested in learning more about the sport.


So, next time you're looking to pick up a new sponsor, think about what you can offer that is unique to you. Figure out how to turn this into something memorable and you'll already be ahead of the majority of athletes looking to get the attention of brands.
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120 Comments

  • + 97
 Don't forget to be a professional in every respect. Answer your emails. Deliver what you said you'd deliver in a timely fashion. Learn how to speak in public. Bonus if you can actually write a sentence or two and spell correctly. Unless of course you plan on a one year career in which case have at it duuuuddddeee!
  • + 35
 Totally valid points, Lee. Proper grammar is always a bonus. Punctuality is huge. Response time is huge. Showing that you WANT to be a part of that company is huge. Look at a guy like Darren Berrecloth. He's so well spoken and always reps his sponsors well in public. He's got a good, hardworking image that people respect, and I can promise you his sponsors appreciate that as well.
  • + 30
 When Cam Mcaul wears is Fox jersey he is instantly recognizable to me.
  • + 70
 Being sponsored is OK, but being sponsered is even better and being sponsured is the best.
  • + 6
 Yes, for god's sake, spell check your sponsorship application! I help a friend before every MX season comb through the apps his company gets, there's some seriously stupid people trying to get paid for riding a dirtbike. Once you get sponsored, learn who the people are that send you free stuff, when riders see us at races and come up to thank us, they're instantly at the front of the line for sponsorship next year. Don't forget your thank-you letters either, throw some pics or a DVD in there too, lets your sponsors know you appreciate their help, and keeps you fresh in their minds for next year's program.
  • + 42
 I do my best riding when no one is watching......sigh:-)
  • - 21
flag JejQ (Oct 22, 2013 at 2:59) (Below Threshold)
 You have to be rich to be sponsored, its a fact. If you cant affoard equipment, you cant ride, if you cant ride, you cant train. If you are poor, you most likely wont achieve anything.
  • + 12
 Does having a big ass Afro and basically having a good attitude towards everything count?
  • + 5
 I'd definitely agree with others who have said that poor spelling and grammar doesn't reflect very well on the individual and makes them seem professional, especially with how easy it is to spell and grammar check now. I know I feel like an idiot if I put something on Twitter, or in a race report that is misspelled or has a typing error.

I feel that I work quite hard for my sponsors but this article has highlighted some things that I could do better, so thanks. :-)
  • + 12
 JejQ- Love the logic Wink

Two of the best ways to get sponsored:

1. Win every race
2. Break the world record for biggest drop

It's so easy!
  • + 6
 JejQ - Thats just not true. I know riders on shonky old bikes that get way more people watching them when they ride than some guy on a ££££££££ bike who has no flair.
  • + 11
 steve smith. now that is a good example of a guy who gives back and reps his sponsors. The man shows 100% confidence in the devinci he kills so hard on, as well as his other amazing sponsors who provide smith with the ultimate support he needs to succeed. I find that when a rider is not fully sold on the product he rides, without him/her even speaking of the issue, it is clearly visible in their riding and interviews, etc. Take gwinn for example; wrong bike, wrong team, what went wrong in that year between trek n spec? no one truely knows, but personally, right off the bat, i just dont believe specialized is the right fit for him. gwinn was way more public on trek wether he was winning races or not. anyways, also having met smith, in return to his amazing sponsors he seems to be one of the nicest guys in mtb and it really shows. even people who havent met him get that vibe from the guy. No matter what, the guy is respectful and friendly towards his fans and the rest of the community, progressing the sport of mtb and growing our wether he is winning or not. Congratz on the amazing year stevie, you deserve it more than anyone.
  • + 4
 Wil Whit? He does Rampage? have you seen that guys bike? He gets it done on that thing.
  • + 2
 But, weirdly enough, he is not sponsored, yet...
  • + 5
 I actually miss the days when pros where anything but professional. Shaun Palmer and Shawn Farmer are two really great role models.
  • + 70
 I'm unique. I'm a 45 old short French Canadian with 29er wheels.

Oups! I guess it's not a dating site and I'm married with 2 kids anyway...

A PB T-Shirt maybe? Size Med. Please!

Merci
  • + 46
 I'm tall when lieing down flat. Just saying.
  • + 33
 First things first... you need a piss ton of talent, and that's not what everyone has.
  • - 12
flag Davidsym (Oct 21, 2013 at 20:45) (Below Threshold)
 everyone has a "piss ton" of talent. we just need to lear how to utilize it.
  • + 5
 having said ton of talent in one area is what not everyone has. you could argue that everyone is talented, but if you're lazy you'll still never know. so talent, hard work, and something unique.
  • + 8
 100%, some people might have a bigger tank of talent but if they don't work to fill it they go nowhere. Justin Leov openly says in one of Clay Porter's films his not the most flashy rider but he make up for it in determination and his hard work.

There are lots of sponsored riders who aren't always on the podium, look at wyn masters, ok in NZ and none WC races he still does pretty damn well but his got such a unique personality everyone wants to watch him anyway and his a great entertainer. Results obviously matter but as the article states marketability is number one for the sponsors.
  • + 5
 Wyn is a great example. You're right. He's entertaining and different. Plus he's fast as hell, so it's a great combo.
  • + 15
 We all have a 'piss ton' of talent, just not a 'piss ton' of balls Wink
  • + 8
 talent is no longer in effect after the first time you ride, everything else after that first time is skill and the amount of dedication one puts in, im 15 and even though im young i already learned that u cant be great in anything without practice
  • + 8
 if you're a junior with potential you could get a sponsorship, although my tips are to 1) not be a dick 2) always thank your sponsors, tag them in good photos of you as well 3) say exactly HOW you plan on helping the brand sell products 4) never diss sponsored products whether you're with them or your contract has ended 5) maintain your social media (my pb account does need work I admit) I'm a junior racing almost every discipline of cycling and my sponsor Fouriers realized I was dedicated so they decided to support me, huge thanks to them and I wish them a strong showing in Canada! oh and 6) sponsorship is a privilege not a right, you have to be more than a good rider
  • + 8
 "talent... in only goes so deep...you have to have a little bit of talent and a lot of détermination". Darren Berrecloth
  • + 2
 Yeah, Berrecloth is proof, He has talent, for sure, but he is not as well endowed as some other riders in that department. But he more than makes up for it in grit and determination. Heck, he's one of the most well known names in mountain biking, so he's surely doing a lot of things right.
  • + 4
 I think people say too much that someone is talented. When someone does something amazing, everyone just says: "Well, he's just talented!". They rarely think that it might be a result of hard work and dedication.
  • + 3
 Cedric Gracia is a perfect example of what most companies want in the riders they sponsor. He is a very fast and stylish rider, and has one of the best and most unique personalities in MTB.
  • + 2
 Even Michael Jordan hat a time, when he sucked at basketball. Talent can only take you so far. The rest is hard work. And the old saying is still true, repetitio est mater studiorum.
  • + 1
 No such thing as natural talent, it's all about putting in time of deliberate focus, look at seasons and Steve smith, his mother used to beat him down the mountain, then eventually he beat her, they probably averaged about 3-5 hours a day, focus on correcting every error.
When it actually comes to talking to people to sponsor you, make sure you offer ten times what your asking for, the treat yourself like a brand is exactly right study marketing, learn to talk to everyone, learn to be everywhere, "crush it" by Gary Vaynerchuk is a good start.
  • + 16
 I used to work in a large company (in a totally different field) who used to have a lot of sponsored personnel, I used to have to dedicate a lot of time and energy (and money!!) to keeping them in check and making the most out of them. It almost turned into a full time job in itself.

First thing to remember: THEY ARE DOING YOU A FAVOUR, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND! The quickest way off our team was to take advantage of the situation. Sponsorship was a give/take thing, we give you free stuff, you give us promotion. All take no give, you were off, it's really as simple as that.

My advise for anyone who wants to be sponsored:
1) Be an awesome guy/girl! Nobody likes an arsehole, so don't be one. Make yourself likeable and approachable, the brand is associated with you as a person, nobody is going to buy stuff if you're being a dick.
2) Promote yourself! This doesn't necessarily mean win everything. Make videos, pictures, write articles, get yourself out there, meet people, compete, race, shake hands, say hi, buy some beers to share with people etc etc. Social media is huge now too of course, use that to your advantage. That sticker on your bike or helmet is like a moving billboard that doesn't get taken down after a few weeks on the internet.
3) Promote the product! Don't thrust it down the necks of people, just explain it, how it works, how you feel it performs, promote the brand, the workers of the brand, the customer service you get.
4) NEVER put down another mans product. It just makes you look like a cock. Okay, don't go promoting it, but certainly don't put it down, explain why your product you feel is better, don't go saying "this fork is shit because it's flexy and it doesnt soak up bumps, my fork is way better", say "I believe that this fork has advantages over the other, it's small bump sensitivity is better and I feel there is less flex on the big hits, it just feels good!"
  • + 12
 5) Feedback. To us, sponsorship wasn't just about promotion, it was also a vital tool in development, you don't like something, tell us, we'll do our best to improve it. It's a great way to build Rider-Company relations, again it all comes down to give/take.
6) Presentation. NEVER turn up somewhere with a dirty bike, ripped clothes and smashed up components. Feel proud to promote a brand and people will warm to you. Would I be more impressed with a smashed to bits super-bike or a spotless cared for slightly lower end bike? Certainly the latter.

IMO, winning isn't the most important thing, though without a doubt it helps massively. It's better to come 5th and be the coolest guy on the circuit than 1st and be a douche.

To look at it another way, you aren't a rider, you are an AMBASSADOR, you are the front line for the brand, the person people see and get to meet. The give and take thing is so vitally important, the more give you give, the better it will be for you. People invest vast amounts of money in sponsorship, you have to make it worth while for them, because if you don't, then from a businesses point of you, you're not worth the revenue, and you're an easy buck to save on.

Best of luck to anyone who is after sponsorship, it's great when you've got it (and equally fun being the sponsor-er!)
  • + 4
 Sorry for double message, my droning on was too long for PB's messages!
  • + 4
 Great post Eyon,
I also have to do with sponsorship in another sport and you could not have described it better.

To your poinz that winning isn't the most important thing, I agree 100%. Look at Mr. Peaty, Mr.Ratboy or Mr.Gracia...3 out of the 4 top athletes at Santa Cruz are not winning (well 2 of them are legends! Razz ) but they are cool, they look cool, always open to chat to the public (consumers) and devoted to their brand.
  • + 1
 Indeed Skyale, I was going to mention Peaty as the model sponsored rider. Great presence at events and races, good online profile, has a video series, plus he seems to be a really great guy, or so it comes across (the important part!). No he doesn't win much, but you mention the name Steve Pete to anyone in this sport they know who he is, and a high percentage knows he rides a Santa Cruz!
  • + 3
 Eyon, great post. Be realistic about what sponsorship means. It usually doesn't mean you can make a living, but it can help subsidize your passion. Leverage local companies, affiliations, and exposure. While competitions are great impact, much more of your visibility is out-of-competition. Sometimes its as simple as being respectful on the trails. Nothing makes a shop owner happier than a new customer introduced through a positive experience, even if its only in the parking lot or on the bike path. You get out of it what you put into it. You don't need to be pro, a carcass hucker, or spandex-leg-shaver. You do have to be honest that being sponsored takes effort to obtain and keep. And its much easier to keep a sponsor happy than to cycle through new ones every year.
  • + 1
 Eyon has good suggestions. I also have dealt with some low level sponsorships for athletes. The bottom line is that if you weren't giving us the best possible return on our investment (making us as much money as you could for what we spent on you) the your days were numbered.

To all youth/up and comers: You must understand that a sponsorship is not a professional bike riding job. It's a professional SALES job. Learn how to be a good (professional) salesman and make your company money and they'll love you even if your results on the bike aren't as strong as others. Let me say that again: if you want a sponsorship, you need to show that you can make your sponsors money.
  • + 0
 Unfortunately, despite all the best intentions, the author of this article has set out on a mission impossible that is more misleading than helping. Your hints @eyon are much better because they adress details. What this article does is not telling you how to be successful but what made others stand out. Such analysis is completely futile as all it does it proves that you must stand out and nothing more. Then that finding alone is useless anyway because you can't do anything to stand out. you are standing out or you aren't. Kelly McGarry did not woke up one day and decided that he wants to get sponsored and considered growing long curly hair and becoming a good guy as his strategy to achieve that goal. He is shaped that way by whom he got born and by everything that happened in his life. The thing that made him stand out was his riding, period. Riding much better than that good guy you know.

You see, motivational speakers and all that philosophy of business mumbo jumbo does not tell you what will be a good thing to do in the future, it only tells you what worked in the past. The only thing we learn from history is that no one ever learns from history. Not everyone is unique, face it.

The best advice I ever heard, was from Steve Peat: Don't waste time for getting sponsors, get into riding, train hard, learn skills, come to races, when the results come, sponsors will come to you themselves.
  • + 14
 In today's world of the downhill clipless revolution I still ride flats, that's pretty unique now days.
I can keep flats in the game Wink haha.

This article is great though, Its a common question, I think the biggest misconception at least for young riders is they tend to think sponsors are there to serve you, like because they are fast the rider is doing the sponsor a favor and advertising the product, riders are there to serve the sponsor and sponsors give them the perks of cheap or free kit. Standing on the podium a few times a year with a monster can isn't enough, you need to be proactive about it.

I think its crucial to also seek out sponsors who you believe in, you want to honesty be able to say yes I recommend or yes I would use these even if I wasn't sponsored.

Now only if I can find myself a sponsor. :p
  • + 7
 You hit the nail on the head right there. I know a couple of local guys my age (16) who seem to think sponsorship is free stuff. I know to get my sponsorship took great results, being nice to everyone, doing volunteer work for the chain that sponsors me, running blogs and doing regular updates through email and facebook...

... and yet when we were all offered the opportunity to go on a recruitment training camp for a development race squad with pretty neat sponsors, one of them turns down the offer because of the NZD$120 (usd $100ish?) fee for three days accomodation and professional coaching on the grounds that "its stupid to pay for sponsorship. I mean, isn't that completely opposite of the point of getting sponsored?" Wonder why he isn't sponsored Razz So on behalf of the douchbaggy teenagers out there (because they wont say this themselves), sorry about the cockiness.
  • + 2
 120bucks for a 3 day development camp. They must be drunk to not take that haha. That's actually an amazing opportunity. There are people who would pay hundreds for that type of camp. Professional coaching runs like 100bucks plus an hour with some top riders.

Fairly sure the three day camps I have seen dh. Close if not into the thousands. I'd jump at the opportunity for a $120 fee.
  • + 4
 I'd honestly pay like #250 or $300 for something like that just for fun screw racing and going pro id just like to ride better
  • + 2
 yeah people thinking it's a free ride is annoying, you may not pay money but you more than make up for it in work
  • + 10
 Or you can do it the old fashion way like how Paul Bass and Anthony Messere did it. Do well at high level events!
  • + 9
 Not going to lie, but this post may have helped me. I've been trying but couldn't get it to ever work out. And for that, I thank you
  • + 9
 thanks pinkbike this was actually super helpful...
  • + 8
 Much of the time it is being a people person, not just a good athlete.
  • + 4
 Definitely takes being both talented and good with people.
  • + 3
 Lacy, as always, you are spot on in everything you say here. The one thing i will note from being around racing for years...you never know who is watching. We all get frustrated, especially when something goes wrong at a race, or a jump, or whatever. But doing things like throwing helmets, bikes, swearing, being super aggressive towards other riders... That can kill a sponsorship deal well before you even have one, and if yours is tentative, you are done. I worked for a team for a while where the owner said if he ever saw a helmet or bike thrown, or even had a report of it, the rider was off the team immediately. He didn't care who you were on the team, the top end world cup racer or the up and comer on the team. Your contract was void, your support stopped, and you could go home as of that moment, without any discussion. I fully respected him for this decision as there is nothing worse. So, no matter what, you always need to be on your best behavior, you never know who is watching.
  • + 3
 I would like to add that being a professional athlete is not the only type of sponsorship. You do not have to be the best in the world to be sponsored. A more realistic goal is local shop sponsorship which you can get by following the suggestions in the article and comments. Local sponsorship may be as good as free or 'on loan' bikes and race fees paid for, free race kit and consumables. Or it could be great discounts and freebies on smaller items.
  • + 1
 That's a good point. Starting small is a good step. Someone above mentioned how expensive it is to even get into the sport. By getting the help of a local shop or mentor, you can acquire needed parts to help build a bike and go from there. Just keep in mind, again, that by doing that you have to work for that shop/mentor. You have to be the best ambassador they could ask for. Something else to consider... even if you're not getting any kind of sponsorship, go ahead and really promote the brands you love anyways. Who knows, maybe if you've got the skill and they appreciate your marketing, they'll take notice and approach you. Crazier things have happened.
  • + 3
 I wish this could be translated into Japanese, there are a couple of interesting riders here, but 99% Slow Primma Donna's that can not qualify to enter a WC DH Japan was lowest national rank in 2013 but maybe highest in ego at home. Big fish in a small tank problem.
  • + 3
 Another overlooked thing... As far as a potential sponsor is concerned, it's not about what they can do for you. It's about what you as a sponsored rider can do for them. There are 100's of super talented riders out there right now, so what can you provide that they can't or won't?

Good article...
  • + 5
 I'm faster than you! My bike's clean, my kit is brand new! I have 1,745 sponsors on hookit!
  • + 3
 You win.
  • + 2
 I Think there's way too many kids now who see sponsorship as an image thing, they will wear a full tld kit to look sponsored because that's what brendog does and he's awesome right?
Personally with the cost of consumable parts like tyres, pads, rims and that sort of stuff racing would be so much easier with the help of a sponsor. Don't think these kids understand that
  • + 1
 Too many companies hop on this and "sponsor" groms with 40 or 50% off msrp...they still take in a decent profit and you have lots of little kids running around in full kit to do your advertising for you. There's a reason why I can get cheap kit, but any sort of "sponsorship" on parts amounts to nothing...and you're right, too many kids think that because they get "kit" from their "sponsors" that they're set for life and are going to become a pro racer. It's sad on both counts, both the companies and the kids who think they're going places.
  • + 3
 Can someone do an article on how to become a pro Filmer or Photographer? Or if anyone reading this needs a fresh new photographer, drop me a line. I feel like my problem getting in is that I don't know the right people.
  • + 4
 Try to team up with a well known rider, or a not known rider who kills it that gets attention. It's basically comparing some random person going down A-line for a picture, or if you took a picture of Ian Morrison, what the difference of attention would be
  • + 1
 Best thing you can do is like what Adamlaycock said, find a talented rider and ask him if you can film him doing his stuff and then post it on as many media sites as possible. Try sending it to some big corporations and get their honest opinion and work on their criticism.
  • + 1
 The quality of work you produce is equally as important as the level of rider you work with. The rider can have all the skill in the world, but if you don't know how to frame a shot or know the basics it's not going to help. The biggest advantage to any photographer/videographer in any niche is being familiar with the subject matter.

To make a career out of this takes time, me personally, I've only started to make money on my videos/photos that I have produced. Be patient and shoot everyday, sometimes doing things for free is the best way to start, sure it doesn't make you a ton of money in the beginning but you develop a personal relationship with the riders you work with. I started off shooting small local events and ended up meeting Brett Rheeder at one of them, I credit Brett with meeting all the other riders I work with and getting my foot into the door in this industry, but I also still have a long way to go to make it full time career.

Finally, be prepared to shoot other things outside of mountain biking, there are a select few that are able to shoot mountain biking full time and make money, these people aren't making millions either. Anthill films and Freeride entertainment both shoot lots outside of this industry. Be in touch with local photographers/cinematographers to get your name out there, who knows companies may want interns or assistants. It's like any other job, you don't come out of the gate making lots of money, but you benefit from being your own boss and having the opportunity to be creative everyday as well as being surrounded by subject matter that you love.

Cheers dudes
  • + 2
 Such a good article, so many kids say they want sponsors but have no idea, and so many slopestyle riders complain they don't get paid enough - being a sponsored rider you are an advert & ambassador for the brand, a brand doesn't want to be associated with you if you aren't courteous, if you dress shabbily, swear in public or are unkempt or lazy. Any kid should get a real physical job and learn to work hard before having a sponsor. On top of that you need to have a good media presence, upload photos to your pb account, use twitter and fb even if you aren't into that stuff; when you go to competitions don't just ride well, go and chat to the other riders, photographers & reps, get known so they are familiar with you - become a brand!

Even some of the top slopestyle riders are cutting below their paygrade, turning up at events and not riding because they don't like or agree with the course takes away publicity from their sponsors, always wearing a singlet and having half your teeth missing is also never going to get you sponsored by a big company no matter what your results - appearance and hard work is so important and definitely something the European contingent of slopestyle has yet to learn!
  • + 6
 Not sure if that last bit is kind of a dig at Sam Pilgrim, if it isn't ignore this comment Big Grin
  • + 1
 Sam Pilgrim?
yup, lost respect for him and his 'brand' after his whining about not having fun at x-games, and not having the proper bike at rampage.
  • + 0
 I've found in his interviews he can really enjoy some comps and be a good representative for NS Bikes but other times he seems like a grumpy little shit just whinging and whining
  • + 10
 I dont know. I saw Pilgrim walking around rampage on finals day amongst the crowd. He walked right past my buddy and I. I said "hi" to him and he stopped shook our hands smiled and we both went on our ways. Although he wasn't ridding he was still there amongst the crowd watching and supporting fellow competitors even though fmb was already over. Seemed like a real nice guy to me
  • + 7
 After riding with Sam 3 times at the airdome this year at crankworx, I can say with confidence Sam is one of the nicest people out there. And then I was even more impressed when he remembered me and a friend at bearclaw a few weeks later and stopped in between runs to talk to us. Amazing guy once you actually meet him.
  • + 5
 X Games had a lot of bad luck, lots of wind and the final jump sinking, many riders decided to opt out of it. My guess if they did not want to cut there season short breaking bones on a windy jump. Understandable. The comment "always wearing a singlet and having half your teeth missing" is branding in its self, Sam's missing tooth is on a keychain when you get a pair on Sam Pilgrim signature grips. His missing tooth is literally a logo. The other comment " On top of that you need to have a good media presence"
Sam Pilgrim has 53,900 likes, www.facebook.com/sampilgrimfanpage and links to his twitter and instagram right there at the top. He updates regularly and takes the time to comment back to fans. I spent a couple of days with Sam in Japan and he was a total pro with everyone and had no ego about him at all, none. I can't say that if I was 20 famous and flying around the world I would be anywhere near that level headed. Biggest thing I took away from hanging out with Sam for a couple of days was he said - I think you can make riding fun anywhere, its what you make of it. The next day I saw him pull a flip of a mound of dirt after putting a 20cm square piece of wood at the lip of the mound and securing it with twigs. You can see it here www.youtube.com/watch?v=81VwxG6HDuU I wish I could find a rider like Sam to sponsor locally but there is no hope of that.
  • + 2
 My dig was more at Andreu Lacondeguy, he frequently doesn't ride as he doesn't like the course or he partied too hard the night before, the latter part was aimed at Pilgrim though, they are both amazing athletes but poor reps for their sponsors IMO, they could easily be riding for Trek or Spesh and be getting paid more if they up'ed their image a bit.
  • + 3
 @dirtybikejapan you totally missed and misconstrued my point entirely, it was all aimed at the pros, just the end part, obviously Sam pilgrim is marketable to a certain audience... on a side note, I hate posting on this site as everyone entirely misses the point of what you write... I give up!
  • + 1
 ctd07 - I mean you no disrespect at all, just I know that Sam is a great guy truly and he is the 2013 World Freeride Games champion, a result any brand would be happy with.
It is an interesting question on weather riders should speak out about courses they don't like. It is easy for armchair heros like me to judge, but what kind of oversight is there?
A course like the Utah rampage, dangerous enough in perfect weather but if the wind is too much then who calls it off? The sponsors, riders or judges? I have no idea, but I have to say I can understand any rider looking at a windy 50ft drop and having second thoughts.
  • - 3
 I really lost respect for him after that to
  • + 6
 You go big you get sponsored.
  • + 1
 In any sport that you do if you aren't the best, then work at it. Putting the time in on the off season pays off in the long run. Trust me. Once you have some good results to show you can gain leverage in getting some sponsors!
  • + 1
 I have some friends who are pro athletes who I use to train with. It´s ridiculous how they go training wethever the forecast or if they have muscles aching... Then, when you´re not training, you´re socializing.... Not for me!!!
  • + 1
 The first paragraph clearly explains why there are so many shit riders sponsored. If you wanna be sponsored, & you don't have connections or some kind of stand out abilities on the bike, you need to be in the right places @ the right times & play a character that riders have some kind of affinity for. A common theme at contests is "we're all just out here hangin' with the bros, havin' a good time 'cuz we love ridin'" which is a huge load of bullshit. It's what the fans wanna hear so that's what they're told. A load of bullshit that the sheeple will feed on. The winners win because they worked their asses off for it (or at least exploited known weaknesses in amateur judge panels) & that's what they went there to do. They're there to do a job, they're nervous, scared, tense & pressured. You don't just "ride with the bros" with thousands of dollars on the line. You work for it.

As far as I've ever been able to tell, persistence looks like it's at the top of things you need. Keep your face in front of the camera somehow & get it out there for people to see. If there's something they see that they like and/or hear, then you'll have good staying power, even long after your riding hasn't really been cutting it for sometimes 10 years or more. Like WTF happed to Super T Klassen? Here & gone like a fart in the wind. My guess is that when the reality set in, that a sponsorship involves more than just the reasons everyone wants one, it just wasn't worth it to him. It may be a priviledge but you gotta have the right stuff & that stuff ain't just skills on a bike. Sometimes it doesn't look like it has anything to do with riding ability at all. :/
  • + 1
 This article may be really helpful to lots of up-and-comers.... Ultimately you have to be really good, set yourself apart, represent the brand image, and be marketable... Unless you're podium at world cups, it's less about results and more about how well you can represent the brand and gain the brand exposure. How large of an audience can you influence? You don't get sponsored because a brand thinks you deserve it, you get sponsored to sell product.
  • + 1
 I have been riding snowboards for 25 yrs and have seen the sponsored riders come and go.........what i did notice in all that time was that the ones that had the biggest mouth, not the best talent and lots of money at their disposal get the sponsors. The riders that were humble, poor, worked to ride every day and super talented get passed by.
  • + 1
 I see, getting sponsored is even harder than to get a job. Applying for a job, you can show your degrees and experiences and the company will know, what you bring to the team. Team working abilities and personality come only second after degrees and certificates (although, this is changing is some working areas). When it comes to sponsoring it is harder because there are no degrees and certificates when it comes to personality and likeability. Podiums and race results are second behind that so the focus is shifted.

(I know why I went to university and did some sciency stuff, this is all much too confusing for me.)
  • + 0
 once I buy my new ride and get all cozy on it, first thing I am doing is grabbing a friend and making an edit. film on the fastest and largest trails I've ridden and just do a little interview segment and then just burn a bunch of copies and mail them off to swack load of shops.
  • + 9
 But that's not different. That's what everyone already does. What else can you do to be different?
  • + 1
 my bud has a pretty large YouTube base, something like 10,000 subscribers, so having that to utilise is nice (I know it isn't much, but it would make for great advertising). he mainly does skate edits and he has a pretty funky way of doing things, I feel the way it would be laid out would be quite different then most and im sure he would think of some stuff to add to it to separate from other vids. that's from the filming perspective of things. on my behalf I would consider myself to be quite out there, the things I do and how I do them, I am quite modest and empathetic of others. when it comes to on the spot thinking and public speaking I am quite good at that (quite persuasive at times) . I think I would be a great ambassador for a company, on the trails I am really friendly and I would have no problem trying to try and sell product but without being like a door to door salesman and up in peoples faces. if there are some young bucks out there im always more than happy to give them a pointer. im no claw or zinc but I know a thing or two. sounds cliché but im always looking for new ways to ride old lines and looking to push my own boundaries with personal progression and I think with a company behind me it would help kick that drive up even more. with the power of said company, especially a shop around here (Richmond, van, north van, Burnaby etc.) other riders on their team would be able to show me new spots with larger, steeper and faster terrain and vise versa. im easy to get along with and pretty much always down for what ever is going on. haha sold on me yet? I can also cook, clean, speak a little Spanish and have a pretty wicked stamp collection.
  • + 3
 Get a simple blog page going and use it regularly, link it to you social media sites make as many youtube videos as you can, if there is a local shop or distributor of brand you like , add there logo to the end of each video with a simple respect to or fan of text message next to the logo. Add links to the hopeful to be sponsor on your youtube videos, blog facebook etc, Train and ride hard. repeat repeat repeat, Act like a pro think about what you would want if you were a brand sponsoring you and do it. Don't burn any bridges don't be a smart ass be polite, outgoing , confident and ride hard. If this is truly your dream and you think you have what it takes, do it do not give up. I met a guy who at 20 was filming a bike video in Japan for Teva, then was going to Costa Rica to ride after that back to England to be on a dating show with a bunch of pretty girls then of to Canada to ride Crankworks. He will have very few regrets at 80 if any. It is a goal worth pursuing.
  • + 1
 Cretin... Having been in the industry for along period of time myself dealing with top athletes, the first thing i see in your onger explanation to Lacy is "I, I, I". Part of what I believe Lacy was getting at, and what I agree with is it isn't about you, but about the company. Things like "we". Make the company feel like you are part of them and helping them. Wording can be key and incredibly unconscious in decision making. I have had people hate what I have written because of stylistic choices. The usage is correct, the info is correct, but because of my choice of words, they can't stand it. I know you are partly poking, but just as a heads up....
  • + 1
 So when it comes down to it and when I'm sending out a write up, instead of just talking about what I can bring to the company talk more about what we can do as a team? And what we together can acomplish and how they would gain from it?

Thanks by the way for all the advice, I'm really taking it to heart and I think it will help me out a lot in the long run
Sorry, accidentally neg propped you there when I meant to add another
  • + 1
 @dirtybikejapan I'm not even looking for sponsorship and I still think you're laying down some kickass advice in this thread. It not even just about athletic sponsorships, I know many people who have gotten all kinds of jobs doing exactly what you're talking about. Branding yourself is huge, whether it's a riding sponsorship or a job interview. Even if your field is completely unrelated to mtb, social media, or whatever, just being able to put something like that blog in your resumes or email signatures goes a long way for getting yourself and your brand out there. It's easy for people to find and share and available to everyone. Props for taking the time to write all that out.
  • + 1
 @cretin82 - Having documentation of what you've done is really important. When it comes to videos, anyone can make a video, and to be honest, a lot of them are pretty decent quality. We get flooded with "good quality" videos and it all becomes noise. What sponsors want to know is where will they get traction? Where will the video be seen? Having a lot of subscribers on a YouTube channel is good, but how do they know it's the right audience for their brand? Where would THEY want to be seen? How can you leverage other content sites or media outlets and get views from the right kind of people. It doesn't matter how many people watch your video if they're not the right audience. Write blog posts. Share them actively. Use other social channels like Instagram (my personal favorite), FB, Twitter, whatever you're comfortable with. Create content regularly and keep your sponsors updated with what you are doing. To reiterate, write well. Check your grammar. You've clearly got personality (and who doesn't love a good cook?) so let it shine through. Best of luck.
  • + 1
 Once again, huge thanks for all the pointers and advice. I don't have twitter, Instagram or tumblr but I'll make one and start hyping up products for companies I support and use and try and grow a bit of an audience.
  • + 1
 I remember right after Rampage, Gully was riding around on one of those electric electric DH bikes. He had a huge smile on his face and was having a blast, and was so excited to ride it UP the hill
  • + 1
 I still think that tool companies should sponsor individual mechanics at bike shops. If Park sponsored me I would only use Park tools and only recommend Park tools to all customers.
  • + 2
 If all else fails, learn how to bust out the nastiest moto-whips known to mankind.
  • + 2
 "Many of you reading this are probably very talented. "

Oh, well thank you.
  • + 1
 Lacy, great article, but you completely missed how crucial a killer HookIt.com profile is to getting a mega sponsorship Wink Really though, this is refreshing to see on PB.
  • + 3
 Make a bunch of videos with your friends and you're set
  • + 8
 Or just get really good at one thing.. Like manualing for days.
  • + 6
 Days.
  • + 1
 Hella days
  • + 3
 sshhhhh
  • + 1
 I know a french dick without skill who' sponsored only because it's the perfect corporate boy. He is a dick.
  • + 1
 Awesome!!! Now I just have to work on that bit where I ride really good... 13 years and I am still meh...
  • + 1
 Rob Warner eats corporate boy
  • + 1
 Great article, thanks for that! I will send it like a reply to riders Smile
  • + 1
 Best article on Pinkbike, bravo Lacy!
  • + 0
 And say fcuk a lot....;-)
  • + 4
 Fcuk that!
  • - 1
 I think semenuk is and exception this article. Seems like the dullest dude in mtb. This is all up to assumption.
  • + 4
 He is a pretty normal guy going by most interviews- Just doesn't seem warm towards a camera. likes to ride, works at it, and then has to face the crowd after what I'm sure he thinks was just a chill sesh.
  • + 7
 He I think he might have made it onto a podium once??
  • + 1
 Semenuk has been doing this a very long time and was discovered at a pretty young age. He's got a signature style that no one can emulate. He may not be the friendliest to the camera, but if he wasn't consistent and hardworking he wouldn't have the support that he does.
  • + 2
 Yea, he might not be a media person, but he sure as hell can ride!
  • + 3
 Reminds me of kimi Raikkonen. .."leave me alone, I know what I'm doing!"-love that
  • + 1
 LOL yeah, or the word you might've been looking for is "focused", or "dedicated", "skilled", "dialed", "locked". I wonder why all the "smiley" dude bro meisters pretty much can't topple the guy unless he lets them. Semenuk is more than just a foam pit junkie & it shows in his demeanor as well as his riding. He's the kind of guy with something valuable that's worth noticing, which is usually not what the masses are looking for. Dopey commoners like shiny objects. Form over function. It's why so many crap riders still have so much success riding in this industry. If you can't ride for shit, just act like you can & enough idiots will buy what you're selling anyway. Presentation makes or breaks impressions. Zink once pointed it out where in a Disorder video a big deal was made out of Carline Dunne crashing on a line that Bourdo nailed first try & they treated it like it ain't no thang with Bourdo. So then it looks like Carlin overcame these huge odds (Ooooooooh!) & you don't even notice that Bourdo nailed it first try. Funny thing, Zink pointing that out, since he's like the most guilty of exploiting the phenomenon out of any rider I've ever seen. Semenuk is just a genuine shredder. He's not out there pretending to be all chillin' & relaxed when he's not. He's probably more relaxed than most of the other riders that pretend to be because most of the other riders can't touch the guy.
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