How to Become a Sponsored Skateboarder

The ways in which skaters become a sponsored skateboarder have drastically changed in today’s day and age. With the advent of social media and YouTube and the sheer amount of skateboard competitions, skateboard companies and local skate shops have changed the ways they approach sponsorship. 

That being said, skaters have also evolved in how they approach getting sponsored. While the days of sending VHS tapes through the postal service are over, there are still a number of ways in which brands discover good skaters worthy of sponsorship.

In this guide, GOSKATE will go over ‘How To Become a Sponsored Skateboarder’ so you or your loved one can land your first sponsor and start receiving free gear. 

In this article, we’ll also go over: 

  1. What does it mean to be a sponsored skateboarder?
  2. How did skaters get sponsored in the past?
  3. What are the different kinds of sponsorships?
  4. How to become a sponsored skateboarder
  5. What are sponsors looking for in a skater?

What does it mean to be a sponsored skateboarder?

There are several factors when asking what it means to be a sponsored skateboarder? 

Especially when ‘being sponsored’ in today’s age has become an ambiguous term compared to past years.

Here are some cornerstones to what it means to be a sponsored skateboarder:

Endorsement

In its simplest definition, being a sponsored skater is when a company or brand is sending you a free product to endorse. Meaning, you become affiliated with said company as an ambassador of sorts. 

Think of it this way: While you’re skating, you’re wearing their clothes, using their product or endorsing them as a mobile skate-billboard. That way, when a sponsored skater shows up to contests at skateparks or to film at skate spots, onlookers witness the caliber skateboarder of their sponsor’s skate team and product. 

Usually, skaters often take on the personality of their sponsor’s skate team, adding to the marketing niche or overall branding of the company. Tony Hawk created Birdhouse, Paul Rodriguez created Primitive Skateboarders, and both took careful care in who they chose to be their team riders.

Free Product

But what of the product? 

Usually, products come in the form of boxes of products showing up to your door and these products support the skater’s skateboarding. Traditionally, skate products like free boards, free wheels, free trucks and free bearings are sent to the skater’s door along with clothes to wear when filming and to compete in

Good skaters are motivated to get sponsored because as your skill increases, so does the rate in which you go through the product. The life of a pro skater’s skateboard deck is only a few days. At $60 a skateboard deck, that’s a hefty price to support yourself for years on end.

However, as we see in our next section, skaters in today’s day are sponsored by a myriad of companies – from energy drinks to energy bars to really any brand with an investment in skate marketing. 

Coupled with social media, this has created a drastic change from how skaters used to get sponsored.

How Did Skaters Get Sponsored in the Past?

Simply put, it used to be a lot harder for a skateboarder to get sponsored back in the day. While there was also less competition and saturation without the internet or social media; in the past, skaters relied a lot more on word-of-mouth and team managers witnessing a good skater in person. 

Imagine your local skate shop holding a skate contest as their local skate park. Local kids show up and win the contest and the shop’s team manager tells them to send them a sponsor me tape. You can see why it would be harder for someone who lives in a small town. But nonetheless, that is why the sponsor me video has always been a staple in how to become a sponsored skateboarder.

Sponsor Me Video

The sponsor me video is the most significant enduring element of becoming a sponsored skateboarder and understanding its origins is paramount to creating a successful one today.

The sponsor me video is a 2-3 minute video reel of the skateboarder’s skill. The “sponsor me” is an audition tape, proving the skateboarder’s ability to create content and skate the streets. 

While contest skateboarding is a larger focal point in skateboarding than it was in the past, even today street footage and photos are next to gold for the sponsored skateboarder.

Here are the requirements for a ‘sponsor me video’ that still endure to this day: 

  1. 2-3 minutes of street footage spliced together in one video. And yes, that means no skate park footage.
  2. No music to the part – the raw skill of the skater is the emphasis not the videography. 
  3. No slow motion – this again takes away from the skill of the skater and takes away from the 2-3 minute count. 
  4. Send it to team managers or brand ambassadors or preferably hand it to them as a hard copy VHS or DVD (Mp4 or .Mov) in today’s age. 

Back in the day, once a skateboarder had a “sponsor me tape” which usually was made by a Frankenstein splicing of VHS tapes, skaters would send them in the mail to team managers – often with zero idea if they ever received them. 

We hear stories from pro skaters of how when they were young hopefuls sending out their sponsor me tapes to a number of brands through the local skate shop. How then a pro skater would end up calling their house phone days, weeks or even months later. 

Obviously, in today’s age, people are not cold-sending VHS tapes, and sadly, fewer and fewer local skate shops are around to help connect skaters to brands. However, there are new ways skaters connect to brands in today’s skate world.

But first, let’s go over the different kinds of skateboarding sponsorships so you know exactly who and where to send your sponsor me video.

What are the different kinds of sponsorships?

Local Skate Shop: Usually your first sponsor will be from a local skate shop. Team managers will see you at a local contest and ask for your sponsor me video or you send it to them by dropping it off at the skate counter. Most skate shops have their own boards and t-shirts. This will be the first free product you will receive and endorse as your shop sponsorship. 

First Board Sponsor: Your first board sponsor is arguably the “you made it point” especially if it’s a name brand company. While shop boards are typically $35 dollars, brand name skate decks are $50-$60 and have the greatest potential in making you a flow or amateur rider.

Social Media Endorsements: Social media endorsements are a novel aspect in skateboarder sponsorship. While many of skateboarding’s core skaters look down upon social media endorsements as ‘selling out’ (as they are usually non-skate brands) they do potentially offer streams of revenue for a skater. If you don’t mind being labeled a ‘social media skater’ by all means, endorse these brands and build your social media following in the process. 

Flow Sponsorship: Flow sponsorship is one of the most exciting times for a talented skater. It means the company or brand is committing to you possibly becoming a real asset to their skate team. Every pro today was flow for a company at some point, which basically means you are getting boxes of free goods and are being invited on filming missions and skate trips. However, you are not getting a paycheck yet from skate companies.

Amateur Sponsorship: Amateur sponsorship might seem like a confusing title since it generally means you are getting your first paychecks from a sponsor. However, what it really means is you are now a focal point of the skate team and have potential of joining the pro ranks. 

You are also skating full-time qualifying for amateur skate contests like Damn Am or Tampa Am, who’s winners are almost guaranteed to go pro. It is also the hardest sponsorship to navigate, as some brands will be more forthcoming than others on their plans to turn you pro and beyond. 

Pro Skater: This is every skateboarder’s dream. To one day have your name on the bottom of a board or side of a shoe. This means you have now contributed a signature series of products to a company and are qualified to compete in Pro contests. Turning Pro is a testament to your skill on a skateboard but also your marketability and personhood. 

Becoming a pro skater takes more than just skill; it takes a profound navigation of the skate industry as a whole. While in nearly all cases going pro is endowed by your board sponsor, you can also go pro for footwear in skateboarding. You also must be a professional skateboarder to compete in The Olympics.

How to become a sponsored skateboarder

We wish we could say getting sponsored is easy, but it’s not. In actuality, it’s even harder to keep your sponsor once you get one and choosing one can make or break your skate career. Navigating how to become a sponsored skater is the real journey to becoming a pro skateboarder. 

Hone your skills: Skate, skate, skate! Honing your skills is the first and foremost step in becoming a sponsored skateboarder. Just because you picked up a skateboard at a young age or just landed your first kickflip doesn’t mean you have the skills of a sponsored skateboarder. Skate as many different skate parks as you can to skate all the different obstacles you would find in the streets or into a skate contest. 

Enter Contests: At every contest you participate in, more skate companies will get eyes on you and your skill. There are always skate brands and team managers at skate contests. Just like skate parks, enroll in as many skate contests as possible. If you don’t like skate contests? Go hit the streets and stack as much footage as possible. 

Footage: Footage is the currency of the sponsored skateboarder and pro skateboarder alike. It’s what your sponsor uses to promote you on social media or in their full-length videos. Think of it this way as well: when a skater is announced to a skate team or a new sponsor, they do so with an accompanying video part. The same is true when a skater goes pro, amateur or even flow. When a sponsored or pro skater says they’re out working – they’re out filming in the streets.

Sponsor Me Video: [See Above] Your Sponsor Me video is the most important asset of becoming a sponsored skater. This is why we gave it it’s own section above.

Send to Prospecting Sponsors: No one is going to work harder for you than yourself. Once you have your sponsor me video, start connecting to your dream sponsors. In the past, skaters would have to send a literal VHS tape to a brand or company. With LinkedIn, email, and social media there are more ways than ever to connect to a skate brands team manager. Go for it! You never know who’s eye you might catch. 

Just make sure you’re following our sponsor me video guidelines above. 

Social Media: “Just go hard on social media ” is what Shane O’Neill, one of the world’s most talented pro skateboarders famously said during an interview. Social media allows you to upload bite size content and prove to prospective sponsors how you’re not only a talented skater but a valuable asset to their marketing strategy. You have to be careful however. Depending on how you market yourself on social media can either pigeon hole you into a ‘ ‘social media skater” and turn you off to core skate brands. You also need to be image conscious and understand how to be a healthy member of the online skate community. In essence, don’t talk badly about anyone.

Start your own company: If all else fails, why wait to become sponsored? So many amazing skateboarders from Tony Hawk to Rodney Mullen have created their own companies. It’s a great way to support other skaters as well and have an infinite outlet for creative expression. Even if it’s just for fun, we encourage all young skaters to start their own company with friends. You’d be following the footsteps of some of the greatest skaters ever.

What are Sponsors Looking for in a skater?

Skill: Obviously, the first and foremost reason sponsors notice a skater is their skill (and style). Usually a talented skater will impress a rep or a team manager at a skate contest or at a local skate park. This is why it is imperative to hone your skills and learn the best tricks and hardest tricks possible. 

Competition Skater: Skateboarding competitions have always helped skaters get noticed. But now with The Olympics, competition skating has taken on a whole new meaning of marketing. If you’re looking to get sponsored, compete in as many skate contests as you can. You’ll have sponsors knocking on your skateboard overnight. 

Street Skater: While you might think contest skating is the most important marketing for a skater, street skateboarding endures as the most important aspect to being a sponsored skater. The reason? Because real skateboarders and skate companies judge a skater by their street video parts. Which leads to them becoming their favorite professional skaters and thus, parents, grandparents and kid’s piggy banks being spent on those signature model shoes and boards of those kid’s favorite skaters. 

Think of competition skating being like a musical artist’s live concert, while the street video parts are the albums.

Marketability: While skill and video parts are going to get you noticed and put onto a skate team, arguably the single most reason a talented skater goes pro or stays sponsored for a long time, is their marketability. Unfortunately, the skate industry is still governed by business decisions, and we’ve heard countless stories of pros who left teams after 8 years of amateur or flow skater purgatory. Sponsors want someone with great marketability, just like any sport or industry. That is why you should never be afraid to be yourself or mute your uniqueness. Be yourself! However, you also must be able to fit in with the team and branding of the company. 

Fit in with the Team: There has always been a right of passage when becoming a member of a skate team. Usually this comes in the form of the team manager first meeting the skater at a skateboard shop or skate park. Then they are flow, being ‘flowed’ product before eventually being invited onto a skate trip with the team – where they travel to a few cities and film skate clips. While you’re in the van and staying in the hotels, everyone will gauge how well you fit in with the team. We’ve heard the stories of people just not being able to mesh or gel with their teammates and ultimately losing out on an opportunity. Be humble, be yourself and try your best to remember who came before you.

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Zane Foley

Zane Foley has been writing professionally since 2014, since obtaining his BA in Philosophy from the California State University, Fullerton. Zane is an avid skateboarder and Los Angeles native. Follow him on Instagram for links to his other published works. @zaneyorkfly

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