How to get sponsored as a professional skier: Ski team managers explain the do’s and don’ts
“I’m going to be a pro skier.” I wonder how many people say that to themselves. How to make that dream a reality? That is the ultimate challenge.
Sponsorships begin in myriad ways. Some come about easily, your natural talent capturing the attention of a team manager. Most professional skier success comes with your hard work and dedication… and end with you being noticed by a team manager. No matter how you go from local superstar to sponsored pro, there are certain general tips of the trade that will help you get there.
Below, you’ll hear straight from the TMs themselves about some of the do’s and don’ts in regards to seeking a sponsorship. Read every word and you should have a pretty good understanding of how to take your first step. Good luck!
Just another day at the office for Davey Smidt
If the route you’re going is the edit route, then don’t put out crap just to have it out there. Have a good filmer/editor, or as good as you can find. Have the edit show who you are—your personality, your home mountain, your style. Basically after you watch this video, you want an idea of who this person is both on and off their skis. If comps are your thing, go to every single comp you can. And I mean every.
The Scott Illest Edit is a great idea. We don’t have time watch every video that comes our way so having someone/thing filter these to a top ten is great. We may not have time but we will definitely check out the winner and/or top three.
Keep your parents out of this. They can come in after there is a deal (money/contract) in place. TM’s know who they want to hook up anyway, so be patient.
Try to meet TM’s in person. Don’t be shy. If a TM likes you and the two of you have good rapport, it will only help your cause. Certain athletes fit certain programs, so ask yourself, “do I fit this brand?” before you submit anything.
If a TM doesnt get back to you, don’t re-email, it seems like a nag, this is where meeting people in person helps.
Jonny Atencio. Man, myth, manager of Backcountry.com athletes.
For the most part, there aren’t too many athletes whom I’ve sponsored from video submissions. I typically seek out the athletes that we want to sponsor—granted that might be from what I have seen of them on the internet, in person, films or at comps. I typically like to see how potential athletes act in public before getting to know them.
I know it sounds a bit stalkerish, but the reality is if I want someone to represent our company, I want to make sure that they are a good person. I don’t care how good of an athlete you are, if you are a jerk, I have no interest in you representing us. I pride myself on the fact that the athletes that I work with are all very personable, and give people that feeling that they just met someone that actually cared about them.
- Do use spell check.
- Do take a shower before approaching me.
- If you see that I am in a meeting or talking to someone else, be patient.
- If I ski better than you, you should take up another sport.
- I can be persuaded by platters of burritos, and pallets of PBR.
- If you become sponsored, don’t be a pain in the ass, be mellow.
- Let your actions speak for you, don’t be that guy that is always talking about how rad they are.
- Don’t name drop.
- Stay off the weed.
- Be aware of your surroundings, both on an off the hill.
Matt Rihm, all-star.
So, Jimmy the Jibber wants to get sponsored? Well, first things first. Why? Every kid who wants to get sponsored has different reasons. Some understand sponsorship to its core. To promote a brand, help sell their products, and be a representative for brand X. With sponsorship comes great things, free equipment out the waazoo, travel budget to go to crazy places, and in some cases, a nice paycheck that helps keep you, Jimmy the Jibber focused on skiing and only skiing all year round. If you have the right reasons for being sponsored, a sponsorship will be much easier to obtain.
What are the wrong reasons to get sponsored? As Team Manger of Rossignol and Dynastar, you would not believe the amount of emails that I get that say “I’m super good at freestyle skiing, you should sponsor me, I cant afford your skis, but your skis are sick.” That email right there is going straight to the trash. Seriously. If you cant take the time to write a decent email, don’t. Just don’t. Every TM in the business is busier than a one-toothed man in a corn-on-the-cob eating contest, and if you can not take the time to plead your case, then I can’t take time to respond.
Take the time to write an individual letter. Managing both the Rossi/Dyna teams I get an obscene amount of emails that say “Hey Rossignol, I love your skis, blah blah blah.” Then two minutes later, I get the same email from the same guy, that says, “Hey Dynastar, I love your skis, blah blah blah.” Really? If you think that’s bad, you should see the emails I get that say, “Hey Rossi, I love your skis…” then halfway through the email: “The Hellbent is the best ski I have ever been on.” That right there tells me you’re just being a sponsorship whore, seeking out every company in the industry, and not really putting any thought into a real relationship with a brand.
Don’t email telling me it’s been your life long dream to be sponsored. No it hasn’t. That’s just a lie. You didn’t hop on skis at 5 years old and say, “Damn, I’m gonna get sponsored.” What really happened is you read a thread last week on newschoolers.com about some idiot getting sponsored and you, “Jimmy the Jibber” also wants to be cool, so now you want to be sponsored. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Don’t list of a bunch of results from comps I have never heard of. Be honest, and let me know how you stack up against the big boys. I don’t care if you won the “Pickle Squizzle Rail Jam” at Flat Mountain in Florida. I want to know how you did at the Dew Tour Qualifier, or at a USSA event. In my opinion, 25th at the Dew Tour Qualifier is better then winning some comp I have never heard of. It means you’re passionate about this sport enough to travel the the big events, and still be proud of placing 25th at a somewhat major comp.
And lastly, don’t tell me how you “one time landed a cork 7,” and that you can do all four 270’s onto a rail. If you don’t have an edit put together… Well, get an edit put together.
Now that we have some of the don’ts out of the way, here are a couple do’s for your sponsorship request.
Write a good sized email (mail is so old school, email is 10x better). Just put together a couple of bullet points on why you would be a great addition to the team. Include a list of comp results, and a well done edit. Comp results and edits are key. I can’t stress that enough. If you do well at a comp, people notice. Let your skiing speak for itself. A well done edit shows me that not only is your skiing on point, but your editing skills are too. Also, don’t be afraid to put that edit up on the web. I want see what the people say about it. If you’re cranking 20,000 views on your edits, chances are a sponsorship will come easy. If 56 people on the net viewed it, sounds like there is some work to do…
Keep your email and edit to the point, but don’t half ass it. Not 20 words, and not a 3000 word essay. Edit should be around two minutes, any more and I’m bored.
I just received a sponsorship request the other day that totally blew me out of the water. This person knew exactly where he stood. A new guy to the scene, but with editing skills that rival some of the major movie houses. He also knew what he was good at, and where he could benefit the company. Knowing where you stand is key. Don’t go in as a new guy asking for everything, take a look at the big picture, and realize exactly where you stand in the big world of skiing. There is nothing wrong with being the little guy, just show me what you can accomplish, and how its going to help me, Brand X, and you will be cooking with Crisco.
Treat a sponsorship application exactly like a job application. You’re not going to walk into a shop and say, “Yo, I’m good at tuning skis, hire me.” Be polite, ask what might be available, and have some references that I can speak to. Part of a ski club or program? Have your coach call me. Chances are your coach and I have had drinks over the years, and if a notable coach calls me, it’s going to bump you to the front of the line.
Start smaller than you think. Everyone has a local shop, and a lot of those said shops have local teams. Joining a shop team is a great way to get your foot in the door. I have three kids on the Rossi team right now that took that direction. They got smoking deals from shops as young guns, then, when the time came, the shop owner (who has a great relationship with our brand), spoke to me about you, Jimmy the Jibber, and how you would be great for us. Boom, you’re on the team and you didn’t even know it.
Caveman, Gabe Schroder.
Nowadays, the level of skiing is out of hand. Kids that only receive pro forms or a bit of free product now would have been well paid pros just 10 years ago. With the number of insanely good skiers absolutely killing it, you have to have something to set you apart from the crowd. 10 years ago, dying your hair purple was good enough, but now you have to consider yourself a marketing agent of the brands you want to represent and have communication skills, editing skills and the ability to promote yourself and your sponsors via the social media and general public alike. Just throwing down on the mountain is not good enough anymore.
Before you contact a company in search of a sponsorship, you need to be able to answer yes to a few questions first. These include but are not limited to:
- Are you the best skier out of all of your friends and peers?
- Is skiing the most fun thing you have ever done?
- Are you an approachable and outgoing skier that can represent yourself well on and off the hill?
- Do you film and compete?
- Are you affiliated with a shop that you can direct your fans, friends and family to so they can purchase the products you receive for free?
If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then you may be worthy of a sponsorship. Now that you are armed with confidence and have the skills to back it up, you need to contact the company you want to represent. This has to be done in a professional manner, and this is where your English class pays off. If you can’t construct a well written cover letter and resume, then you need to try harder. That being said, we are looking for athletes not writers, so if writing is really not your thing, at least use spell check or ask a teacher, parent, or friend to proofread your proposal.
Whatever you do, make sure your letter is tailored to the company you are applying to. This means making sure you don’t have another brand’s name in there as that shows you are looking for sponsorship from whatever company is out there and you don’t take the time to proofread your material before you send it out. There is no excuse for a sloppy sponsorship submission as that reflects negatively on you and could ruin your chances before the TM ever gets to see how rad you are.
After you have a solid sponsorship proposal put together that states what you will be able to do for the company, you need to add in your edit and contest results. Chances are, if you are legit we have already heard of you, and if you are a true unknown then you need to realize that you will be lucky to get free product. Don’t ask for a travel budget or even incentives until you have proven to me that you can get it done on the highest level.
If you hear back from a company and all they can offer you is pro form, then you should take into consideration how much you like that company’s product and image, and view this as a starting point that could lead to much more support as your skills and exposure grow. You really want to make an effort to contact only the brands you believe in and want to represent, otherwise your heart will not be into promoting the brand and we are all wasting our time.
Lastly, don’t forget to include your contact info. You would be surprised at how many kids submit a pretty decent video and cover letter, but fail to include any contact info whatsoever. Sure, maybe I could dig through my trash can, find your torn up envelope and try to decipher the return address, but I don’t.
Best of luck on your quest to be a pro skier, and never let sponsorship or lack thereof get in the way of you having a good time in the mountains.
Thumbs up from OC at Great Canadian Heli
- Go to summer camp; if you are really good you probably will get spotted by a pro and that’s the best way to do it in our program.
- Don’t email back again and again, email Josh Bishop, our Team Manager once.
- Make sure you have a video and make sure it’s posted to YouTube or Vimeo, and you aren’t trying to email a 30MB file of high res photos and video, that’s douche style.
- Do not use hip hop in your video, it’s tired and everyone does it, so be different.
- Photos are funny, but that’s all I do is look at photos every day for the past 17 years so don’t send them.
- We’ve picked maybe 3 athletes in 10 years from a “sponsor me” package or a video, it’s almost always word of mouth. So if you aren’t Travis Steeger, you probably won’t make the cut by sending in a video, so get to know an Armada Rep or Regional, Am or Pro Athlete first (see step 1).
- Do not submit promos via Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets. That’s a sure way not to get recognized.