Previous Next

Photo by Ryan Knight

Whitewater paddler Shon Bollock takes us through 6 important things to understand if you’re seeking sponsorship as a young athlete.

THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT ways to approach sponsorship. My first sponsor, Smith Optics, came along when I was 16 and was only a product-based endorsement. Still, this allowed me to reference that affiliation when approaching other companies for representation.

No matter what sport your trying to pursue sponsorship in it is important to understand a few key factors:

You’re a marketing asset.

When talking with a company, look at their sponsorship as a marketing investment and act accordingly. That means at all times you are to represent and support the company that is endorsing you in any way.

At the same time “marketing” is one of the first places to face budget cuts, which is why you must make yourself a valuable asset to the company to insure longevity.

How can I be considered valuable to a company?

Longevity within a company will come with dedication to the brand, a strong showing of involvement within one’s industry, and a consistent flow of action, whether it is video or photos. Companies that are endorsing athletes love to be in close contact, and it is important to keep them regularly updated with what projects your involved in.

If the brand you represent hosts events it is important to try and attend, but if not, at least help promote the event.

Photo by Ryan Knight

Being well rounded also helps, companies love to see your hands in a little bit of everything so don’t only be known in your sport, branch into other industries like music, other sports of interest, and most important the community you grew up in.

What’s in a Blog?

Blogging has blown up and is now considered a standard for any serious athletes. I started the Shasta Boyz Productions blog a few years ago and it has been a key factor for my successes in the boating industry.

It’s important to have a place to post your current adventures and show off your stuff. Pics, video, and product updates are common and sponsors love to see regular activity.

A great example of a blog well done is my good friend from World Class Kayak Academy, Evan Garcia. His blog has current updates and links to some of the better blogs in the boating community.

EG’s blog has been such a success because of his regular updates and consistently impressive content.

Understand the different levels of sponsorship.

There are many different types of sponsorship. In the beginning of your career the majority of sponsors will give discounted gear or if you’re real good, free gear.

This will change over time as your reputation grows and your value as an athlete increases. As you become better known, you will start to get free gear as a norm and move into the photo incentive zone.

When established at this level, you can expect to receive small payments for photos in magazines depending on the agreement with the endorser. Travel stipends come next and are related to as support while on a filming mission or travel money during competition season.

The final stage is when an athlete is fully endorsed with gear and is receiving a monthly or yearly salary from a company, which typically requires you to attend specific events and or competitions around the country if not the world.

Don’t underestimate word of mouth.

It is important to achieve success but not show it off. One major fault of many athletes is ‘knowing’ how good they are. Don’t worry about how good you are, just focus on where you want to see yourself with the path you are given.

People will hear about what you are doing simply through word of mouth or through interest in your character. Being a role model in one’s industry is key and never forgetting your roots will insure longevity and respect in your sport.

There is no need to tell people what you do, just let them find out on their own.

The bottom line. . .

It comes down to living without limitations while still knowing and respecting your abilities. If you want something there is no reason that you can’t achieve it, all it takes dedication and finding the right connections.

In any industry it’s who you know, not what you know, so it’s important to talk to the right people and be up front about who you are and what you want to do.

It’s hard to picture yourself where you want to be, but with consistent motivation and belief in yourself it can make anything possible. Free yourself from mental constriction and you can push you body further than you could ever imagine.

Community Connection

Check out Shon’s sponsors:

Photo by Erik Boomer

*Shasta Base Camp
*Sanuk Sandals
*Level Six
*Hippy Tree Clothing
*Electric Visual
*Helmet Camera Central
*Astral Buoyancy
*GoPro Cameras
*Snapdragon Sprayskirts
*Riot Kayaks
*Six Six One Protection

To learn more about Shon, check out his Athlete Profile, and read his recent review of the 3 top helmet cams on the market.

Beginner's Guides


About The Author

Shon Bollock

Shon Bollock is a Cali bred whitewater kayaker and filmmaker from Mt. Shasta. He has been on the water since he was 2 months old and is the owner of Shasta Boyz Productions, under which he has produced two feature films. This kid has been a GoPro athlete for 6+ years and was Matador's first sponsored athlete. A continuing influence within the paddling community, he represents companies such as Subaru, Sanuk, Five Ten, and Liquidlogic.

  • Tim Patterson

    Sweet shots of the waterfall drop.

  • Paul Sullivan

    Really Insightful piece, thanks Shon!

  • Carlo

    Great tips. I won’t pretend to be an athlete (although I’ve played my fair share of sports), but I would think that staying true to your sport, and continuing to do it for the LOVE of the sport, and not sponsorship/dollars, should always be the main motivating force for you. I can just see how this can get muddled in the race for money.

    • Hal

      Carlo, I was about to write this exact comment (pretty much). Beat me to it, man. :)

  • Alan

    Very interesting article. If I ever form any kind of athleticism (this is doubtful, haha) I’ll be sure to use some of this advice.

  • Pingback: Matador sponsors its first athlete, Shon Bollock

  • Joyce

    Shon, this is outstanding

  • Mlshuynh

    good info will pass on to my roommate who is into rugby and they are 3rd in the nation but no one knows about them.

  • Prince Yuunis

    I don’t understand this.

  • Martin Y. Welzl

    Have you guys heard of ( I think they’re trying to connect people with brands (sponsors). Let’s see what’s the deal when the beta period is over.

  • jason

    I have a 9 year old who is i believe a naturalist or whatever you called it in gymnastics. Before i signed her up for class she was already learning some of the moves. I put her in a few weeks of class but it gets too costly. Its about 160 a month. I cant really afford it since i only make about 4000 a month if i work my full shift but i have sone health problems which prevents me from making my full pay. I was wondering if there is some place i can ask for sone assistance. If you know any let me know. and i live around sacramento. My daughter wants to go back badly but i cant afford it.

Slippery When Wet introduces an amazing kayakers as they explore lines all over the globe.
If you're heavy, male, and comfortable in a loincloth, sumo may be the sport for you.
I'm not really into the whole extreme sports thing. So how did I end up strapped to a...
Mountaineering draws on the full range of outdoor skills, from hiking and camping to...
Lindi Horton offers up tips to help new mountain bikers choose their first ride.
Does your scalp crawl when you hear a nightbird call?
Robin Esrock jumps into the saddle at the Biggest Event at the Biggest Rodeo.
When it comes to clothing for hiking, “cotton is rotten.”
Your sailboat makes your heart flutter and sets you dreaming about escape. None of these...
Being a sports photographer takes practice. Here's a few ideas on how to get started.
Is the car still the best way to see the US?
Always dreamed about having your own sailboat and taking the ultimate trip?