17th August 2006

Skateboarding Sponsorship FAQ

This information was originally blogged by Tony Gale in reply to a question I received from a reader. Since there are so many aspiring skateboarders out there who have questions about sponsorship, I've decided to keep the question/answer format of the original post. If you have any more questions about sponsorship that aren't answered here, contact me and I'll do my best to expand this article to cover your question as well.

How Do I Get Sponsored?

There is no one way to become a sponsored skateboarder. Contrary to popular belief, it is not all about "sponsor-me" tapes. You have to prove to the sponsor you are a good choice, and a tape will not cut it. Being visible as a driving or positive force in skating as a whole always works; whether it is by magazine coverage or by word getting back to them through their team, a sponsor will generally find out and approach you.

So, basically, don't bother thinking about it. If you are just looking to get sponsored, you won't. But if you have a good mental attitude and truly love and live skating, you might just get sponsored.

What Are The Different Levels Of Sponsorship?

There are four levels of sponsorship. The first, shop sponsorship, is basically when a shop sees a skateboarder with talent, and gives that skater products at a reduced price.

Next is flow sponsorship, from either a skate company or a distributor. The sponsored skater receives a small amount of products on a semi-regular basis.

After that, a promising skater might recieve amateur (Am) status, where they receive some promotion as a skater and some product to use. They often start to get incentives at this point, too; "Get a photo in a magazine and we will give you this", for example.

A really good Am who proves his or herself can then become a Pro, receiving a paycheck, a "pro model" with their name on, funds to get to contests, and royalties for anything that is sold with their name on.

How Do I Advance To Pro?

The pro skateboarder used to be the elite of the elite, someone who had moved up through the contest rankings, dominated the contest circuit, was generally a good guy overall and able to promote the company in a good way as much as possible.

Nowadays it takes less and less to become a pro skater; since street skating came in during the late 80's, for many companies it is now about who's image is easier to sell and will make the most money. While there are many companies out there who still give their pro sponsorship to truly deserving skaters, I know there are many who will take you pro just if you are "the next big thing", or fit in with the current trend. Those guys often become just another flash in the pan and disappear in time. It's up to you how you want to go.

What Obligations Does A Sponsored Skater Have To His/Her Sponsor?

Of course, no matter how you are sponsored, as a skater you are expected to promote the company. This may mean appearances in magazines, at competitions, on television, or just in the skating scene as a whole. During all this, the skater must use and wear products provided by the company that sponsors them. If you are not promoting the company, they have no reason to give you products or help your career.

What Type Of Things Do Sponsored Skaters Do? How Will It Change Me?

This is a wide and sweeping question. During a skating "career", you can do pretty much whatever you want to do. Enter competitions, do demos, tour, meet lots of cool people, and basically enjoy life. It is entirely down to how you want to live and how you act as a person. As such, it can change you or just let you do what you would have done anyways.

When describing his sponsorship, I think it was Tony Alva that said something like "We were on summer vacation for 10 years". However, this can be good or bad. Look at some of the old pros; Hosoi and Jay Adams both went to jail for drug offenses, and Gator ended up going to jail on a murder charge. Meanwhile, Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen both started companies and basically lead good lives.

I'm Still At School - What About My Education?

Some sponsors will allow time for your education, some won't. You get good sponsors and bad ones. The good ones will nurture you and support you as a person, and have a close-knit team that has good communication with the owners. In some cases, usually if you become a very successful pro, a personal tutor is a good idea. Again, good sponsors will help you sort this out.

Do I Have To Live Near My Sponsor?

No. My truck sponsor, Seismicexternal link, is based in Colorado, and I live in England.

Summary

Sponsorship can be summarised in one quick paragraph; it is not the be-all end-all, and it is not for everyone. Not everyone deserves it, and no one should feel they are owed it. Skating is a great thing, and if you approach it with a good attitude and are willing to put in the effort to advance your skating and the skating scene as a whole, you will reap the rewards. This won't always be sponsorship, and if it isn't, don't worry about it. Skating can give you a whole lot more than just free gear; it can make you a better person, show you all different walks of life, and give you endless nights of joy. Don't throw that away just because you're still paying for product; it's more than worth it.

Tony
Skater since 2000, sponsored since 2004, and still going, no matter what.