SPONSOR ME! A Parent's Guide to the Inevitable | Part 2 of 2

[This is part 2 of 2, refer to part 1 before reading this article, it will give you the background on sponsorships and why they are important for the industry, and why they matter to your riders].

In part one we suggested that riders should understand that being a sponsored rider is not all fun and games, that it is actually a job and riders should think long and hard about this. That said, if your rider really wants that “job” here are some other things to young riders should think about BEFORE seeking out a sponsor:

1.       Sponsorships are WORK! Don’t be so quick to give up riding for the fun of it to ride for free parts, bragging rights or even money. You will have responsibilities to post that may overwhelm you, or an expectation to behave in a certain way, including not posting clips or music you may find cool but your sponsor finds disrespectful. Your social media channels will become your sponsor’s way of watching how you represent them.  You will have to think twice about what & how often you post. Which can definitely put some pressure on you and take away some fun.

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2.       Know your brands. Before you even think about sponsorship, know what you like to ride, wear or protect yourself with. The general length/weight of a deck that fits your style, the type of bars, or compression you prefer, and what a brand stands for. It is no good accepting a sponsorship to represent a company, if you don’t believe in or like what they sell. Find a company you can proudly support. And, never accept a sponsorship simply to say you are sponsored. It is your reputation on the line too.

3.       Understand how sponsorships work. The bigger, more established brands/shops will approach you if they are interested. And they will offer you a spot based on their assessment of your riding skill level. Usually brands have a “flow” team (beginners/intermediate riders), an “Am” team for advanced riders, and a “Pro” team for open/pro level riders. Some have “International Pro” for the big names on the scene. The perks you get will depend on these levels, with more perks as you progress and they see you are a good representative for them. In most cases, this is all clearly outlined in a contract you will agree to and sign. Smaller or newer brands might not have a contract, but they will still talk to you about what they expect from you as a representative, and what you can expect from them in return. They may have just one ride team, or they may have levels as well. It is up to you to be sure you understand what you are being offered and agree to it or not. In all cases do your job as best you can, you are building a reputation for yourself. Being a jerk to other riders, throwing temper tantrums if you lose a comp or being disrespectful to others can get you booted off a team and get you a bad name. Above all remember, when you are wearing a brand name on your shirt, you are a representative of that brand’s values. Brands do not like it when you make them look bad.

4.       There are two main types of sponsors, brand & shop. Brand sponsors are the ultimate goal of most young riders but they typically require you to ride their parts and wear their apparel when posting. So if you jump at accepting a sponsor you know nothing about, or just think you want to be on that team because they’re well known, you might get stuck riding parts you just don’t feel good about riding (break easily, bulky or awkward to ride). Chris Farris once told us he, “Thinks very carefully about whose name goes across his chest.” You should too. Your name is your brand. And there is nothing cheesier than seeing a sponsored rider riding another brand’s parts. Bad for the sponsor, bad for the rider’s reputation. Shop sponsors are, in our opinion, a better goal for younger riders just learning what they like to ride, or those riders who don’t want to be tied to just one brand. Riding for a shop means you can usually ride whatever they stock, try a variety of brands, and are not forced to ride a “complete” setup (all parts from one brand). This is a good way to learn more about each brand and even how to build and care for your scooters. Of course, most shops [typically] have less budget for their teams than the big brands, and will usually give you a discount on parts vs. 100% free parts to begin with. But, it is worth keeping in mind, a good shop will also help educate, promote and guide you as you gain experience. And once you move up to their Am or Pro team the support increases accordingly. It's worth noting, there are also apparel, park & unique equipment sponsors that sell just one thing (helmets, pads, etc.). These sponsors are usually non-conflicting with the larger sponsors, but before you accept multiple sponsorships you should always check in with your main sponsor to get their ok. Typically a rider can have a brand, a shop and an apparel or equipment sponsor at the same time. More than that and it gets really hard to keep everyone happy. Especially when trying to figure out what shirt to wear.

5.       New brands vs. established brands? Some riders get made fun of for joining a ride team of a newer, less known brand. But here’s the thing, depending on how many riders a brand sponsors, especially the older, larger brands, joining them means you could be stuck on their “flow” team (intro team) for years and barely get any real support or promotion from them unless you are a rock star from day one! On the other hand, some newer brands are anxious to help their rider’s progress and offer a ton of support and promotion right from the start. These “new” brands may be a better fit for younger riders looking to grow their own name. Where more established riders might do better on a bigger brand where they could possibly get input on developing their own signature parts.

6.       Don’t expect to get free stuff all the time for doing nothing. Remember this is technically a job (see #1). You do your part, your sponsor will do theirs. Most big sponsors will spell out what is expected from you and what you can expect in return, in the form of a written contract. Smaller sponsors may do this verbally, but it should still be agreed upon and clear. If you are in doubt, ask, or risk being dumped. Also remember it is a two-way street. If your sponsor fails to keep up with promises made, and you find yourself (after doing what was expected of you) constantly begging for a t-shirt to wear on their behalf with no response or a ton of excuses. It may be time to find a new sponsor. But if you leave a sponsor, do it with class, and no social drama. Future sponsors may be watching how you handle it. Keep it positive.

So now here’s the ultimate question… How do I get sponsored?

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The easy answer is, “Work hard, put yourself out there, post only positive things, and don’t be a jerk.” But in reality there seems to be no real rhyme or reason anymore as to why one kid gets put on a team over another, it may just be down to being in the right place at the right time. With so many riders now in the sport, team managers are overwhelmed with “sponsor me” requests. In this new era, it’s inevitable that talented riders will sometimes get overlooked, while mediocre riders get put on the biggest brands. Stuff happens. Don’t take it personally. But we can tell you this much, based on everything we’ve seen, heard and experienced, there are still a lot of great brands and shops out there who are simply looking for good riders with good attitudes who can represent them well and be mentored in return. They just need to know you are out there! So if you are really ready to be part of a good team, here are our best tips to getting sponsored:

1.       BE OUT THERE! Attend as many industry events as you can (competitions, day camps, ride days). Check our event calendar to stay on top of events: www.unitedscoot.com

2.       RIDE as much as possible. Daily if you can, even if just in your driveway. A work ethic and progress is important.

3.       DO: Post at least once daily on Instagram. (Stack clips to post when you can’t ride).

4.       DON’T: Post, or respond to, negative comments. Just delete & block haters.

5.       Find your OWN STYLE, the thing that makes you stand out. (Worked for Claudius Vertesi)!

6.       WATCH & LEARN! Follow your favorite riders (pro & am), brands & shops on social media, engage with them (like, comment, but again, don’t stalk! Once or twice a week is good).

7.       Visit as many skateparks as you can, ride with the locals, get to know them & the park managers. Never be afraid to talk to pros or advanced riders you meet. Most are 100% chill.

8.       Be humble. Don’t be cocky when you post or meet new people. Instead, ask for advice or help.

9.       Repost your favorite shop/brand’s posts & tag them with positive comments (and photo credit).

10.   Buy your favorite brands & shops apparel and gear. Post clips & tag them (again, not too often).

11.   Once you have enough good clips make a short edit of your best tricks. Hang on to it.

12.   Decide which brand and/or shop you want to support, send them your edit with a respectful note giving your experience, tricks landed and why you feel you would be a good representative for them. Include a couple photos and how to contact you back. Try to use email not social.

13.   Try to meet these same people in person. After you attend enough events, you will start to know who manages which teams, etc. Say hello! Ask them to watch your run (if you are competing) or just express how much you admire their products. DON’T ask them to sponsor you right there, it’s just awkward for everyone.

14.   If you have or know a team manager, rider or industry person, ask them for recommendations, or to help you make connections to a good team (not of the same type). You can always ask us!

15.   Enjoy your sport. Support it & be proud of it. Keep it positive. Get known as a Scooter Ambassador.

At the end of the day, the sport is here for the riders in large part due to the businesses that support it (the brands, the shops the parks, the event organizers and the media). It is growing because more businesses are becoming involved. Sponsorships/ride teams help businesses drive that growth and in return give the riders experiences and opportunities that they may not otherwise get. So whether you agree with them or not, “being sponsored” by a good company works for all parties involved, if done right.

The overarching takeaway from all this is in working together to keep the integrity of being part of a ride team intact and meaningful, and teaching young riders how to be a loyal and good representative for a sponsor who treats you with respect and helps guide and mentor you in return. But, it also is to instill in our young riders, that being sponsored (or not) is never a reason to feel better than others or less than others. It is a privilege and something they earned through their hard work, dedication and character. We urge the industry as a whole to share this message and work together to ensure that being a sponsored rider still stands for something more than “Getting free stuff.”

– Peace out. USA!

Samantha Deeder