Getting a sponsorship deal is an athlete's dream. It’s not the free gear, or having your travel expenses covered as you fly around the world. It’s not even about the money that comes with sponsorship. It's the freedom to live the life you love for as long as you can. And at the end of it, you’re left with the memory. However, very few people get to live that dream. But if you follow some of the steps below, you might improve your chances of gaining a sponsorship deal as a skier or snowboarder.
Let’s face it not everyone has the same level of skill. Sponsors look for athletes that serve as examples to others, not only because they have technical mastery, but because they also have a certain flair and a way of making what they do their own.
You might be in it for the love of the sport, but your sponsor wants people to aspire to be like you, or, at least, to use their products the way that you do.
It's no good being the world's greatest skier if nobody knows who you are. You need to not only work at your sport, but also be present at events and be involved in the sport. Talk to people and create a network of followers.
There are those who have talent and those who have discipline. Preferably, you will have both. Being seen to work hard at what you do and take it seriously is very high on the list of what sponsors are looking for. If sponsors have seen evidence of your dedication and professionalism, they can trust you to carry on honing your skills and not bring their brand into disrepute, either on or off the slopes.
You need to get noticed. In some ways, that’s harder today than it was in the past. In other ways, it’s easier. In the nineties, you would have had to make a “sponsor me” tape, send it to companies, and pray! Today, with YouTube and social media, it’s much easier to show off your skills. You run into more competition, however, because everyone is doing the same thing. You need to be different and original to claim the limelight. But more than anything, you need to be consistent. Torstein Horgmo, the celebrated Norwegian snowboarder, is a good example. He continually updates his website, and fans eagerly anticipate his next adventure. This keeps both fans and sponsors happy.
Contests are an important part of the sponsoring process and great fun for you. You need to polish your resume and prove what you can do on the slopes. This will add to your value when being considered by sponsors. It can also help pay the bills and get you started on creating a following. Start at small, regional contests and work your way up. Your progress will build up your self-confidence and impress the sponsors with how many wins you've already collected.
You need to love the sport. Getting sponsored means that someone thinks you’re a good investment for their company because you already have a following. And to get a following you need to inspire your peers. Coldly going for the money just won’t cut it. People will notice if you're not invested 100%. You need to go to the slopes, have fun, and give it everything you’ve got.
Hang out with like-minded people that have the same goals. Test yourself against them and learn from them. Keep at it, and you will get into the inner core of your sport. Eventually, you'll get to meet some sponsors face to face.
There are so many athletes trying to get sponsored that just being a great skier or snowboarder isn’t enough to get you a deal. You also need to be unique. There can only be one Tom Wallisch or one Shaun White. If they can do it so can you. Focus on yourself, find your style, and own it. Remember, the one thing all pro athletes have is a positive attitude, so be your own first fan.
You need to get as many videos and pictures of you being awesome out there as you can. Ideally, you should make sure that you're a constant fixture in your sport. People need to get used to your face and style, and if you’re lucky someone will make a sick edit with you in it. Then you’re set. Make this more likely by networking the relevant media as well as other sporting professionals
It's a job
If you want to make the sport better, or more accessible to everyone, or you have an ideal you wish to share, then you need to be clear that this does not interfere with the brand values of your sponsor.
As far as your sponsors are concerned, you’re an employee. You might be pretty famous, but it’s still your job to sell their products. Doing your job well translates into more products sold by your sponsor. Better sales will open doors, leading to more opportunities and greater pull with your sponsors. Best of luck to you. Most of all, find your own style, and enjoy the slopes this winter!
The most important thing of all is to to have fun practising the sport you love. This has to to me the #1 reason you do what you do. Skate, ski or ride for that main reason and who knows, maybe one day your local boardshop or brand will seek you out for a sponsorship deal.