Photo by Ryan Knight
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.
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 egcreekin.blogspot.com 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.
Check out Shon’s sponsors:
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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.