How to be a Sponsored Athlete

You have been working hard (maybe, hopefully) and you think your game is good enough to be a brand ambassador for a company.  What does being a sponsored athlete mean?  Is your game good enough to get contest fees and training costs covered by a company? What about taking home cash at the end of the day?  The real question is, why would someone give you product or fork out money for your skills?  Answering that question is the key to getting companies to support your game.

While this article may apply to many sports, the culture I am focusing on is action sports (BMX, snowboarding, freeski, skateboarding, etc.).  So many people, especially kids, are focused on getting sponsors and accumulating footage that they forget to focus on improving their skills and improving the content of their product (the athlete is the product).    They often see their heroes act a certain way so they copy those actions thinking that is all it takes, meanwhile they don’t know how to do a frontside spin.  What does it take to inspire others to follow you, to get company’s to support you, to become a brand ambassador?

It takes character.  Character is inspirational.  When people see someone loving what they do, they picture themselves doing the same thing.  They picture themselves pushing through obstacles and getting gratification from their accomplishments.  They picture themselves living the dream.  At some point we all loved our favorite activities unconditionally.  Snowboarding and Skateboarding was not always about getting free product and “insta-fame.”  It was about riding, learning tricks, doing things we didn’t think we could do, and just having fun.  Sure, knowing how to market yourself is important.  Marketing content is easy when the content is good.  To get your content to a professional level takes character.  How do we market our character so company’s can market our content.

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Start by learning lots of tricks and building lots of skills.  Get a coach, start small.  Work your way up to bigger tricks and bigger features, then start all over again with a new set of tricks.  It is easy to remember the first time you landed a 360 with some decent air time.  It is difficult to remember all the steps and work that went into getting that 360.  The process needs to be repeated over and over with every trick you are going to get.  A good bag of tricks leads to good content.  It takes time, years worth the effort, so have fun while your working on it.

Once you have the tricks, make a professional resume.  You don’t need past work history on your resume, but do include work outs that you do to increase performance and prevent injury.  Include contest results, your future goals, and most important include what you need from sponsors to achieve those goals.  Tell them what gear you need from them and that you would like help covering 3 contest fees at $$/contest.  Ask for what you want in your resume and demonstrate why you deserve it (keep your ask realistic.  Nobody is going to give you 10 grand to participate. Only winners at the highest level get that kind of contract).

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Instead of a cover letter make a sponsor me video.  Showcase your best tricks on the best days.  Show them what the product (your skills are the product) looks like.  Start a website (something like this one) where you can post videos, nutrition, and workouts.  Show that you are following through on your desire to reach your goals.  Link your website to an athlete page on Facebook and instagram so you can build followers on all 3 platforms (facebook, instagram, and your website/blog).  Building followers builds credibility (build followers in all platforms so they know you didn’t buy your audience.  Parents don’t buy your kids instagram followers, its lame).

Once you have tricks, a resume, a sponsor me video, and a solid online presence start contacting companies and local shops.  you will need to network and put yourself out there to be judged.  You will face more rejection than success.  This is where your character needs to shine.  Don’t be defensive and hate on the people who deny you.  You may need them some day.  Reps are low paid hard working people and they switch companies often.  Say thank you and get feedback.  You may learn things like budgeting patterns for the different company’s, or that they are not sponsoring your type of skills.  They may want you to have better results on different tours, or less competition results and more content.  There is always valuable information to gain from rejection.  Hard work and a good character will pay off.  Keep pushing your skills and networking.

When your hard work does pay off.  Be thankful to the people who are backing you.  So many athletes get with a company and then immediately start looking for the next best thing.  If the sponsor is not what you want don’t take it.  Future sponsors will judge you on your loyalty.  Your job as an ambassador is to create brand loyalty in others.  As a sponsored athlete you are a tool to sell gear.

As a coach it is my job to show athletes the pathway to their success.  It is a difficult pathway to follow if the athlete is not truly passionate about what they are doing.  Fall in love with the process, work hard, and you will be rewarded.  Don’t forget why you started your journey and stay passionate about your sport.


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