Sponsorship - How to become a team rider!

Take A Reality Check

Author : Best Kiteboarding USA

Dear Best - ive only been kiting 4 mos and everyone sez im gonna be pro soon but im only 16 and cant afford kites. you really shud make me a team rider becuase i really luuuuuuuuv kiting and know i can make it big with your help email me back asap and tell me how many kites i can have!!!!!'

I see a hundred variations on this theme every week, and am constantly amazed that the perception is still out there that kiting companies have a huge amount of dollars to spend on sponsoring riders, or even what "sponsoring" means, from our perspective. So I'm just going to put it out there right now ... the hard cold facts ... and then give you some tips on how to work your way towards a sponsorship.

Fact #1: Paid sponsorships are extremely rare; think of how many actor wannabes are hanging around in Hollywood, compared to how many actually make it to the big time.

Same thing with kiting. Forget about getting free kites ... if you get a deal where you can pay team prices, you're extremely lucky!

Fact #2: Unless you've got some "star" quality ... an "it" factor ... no company is going to invest in you before you make a name for yourself. Unfortunately, making a name for yourself takes money ... buying the gear, travelling to contests and events, working with a good photographer so you can get some pictures in the magazines ... and the money is going to have to come from you. We understand the whole Catch 22 aspect of it: kids don't have money, a lot of people don't have money, so how are you supposed to make a name for yourself in kiting if you don't have money? Well, we don't know, but if you want to make it in kiteboarding, you're going to have to figure out a way to make it happen.

Fact #3: 99.999% of the time, unless you're at the very top of the heap, you are not going to be able to make a living on your kite sponsorhip alone. You're going to need other out-of-the-industry sponsors, a real job, a trust fund, or rich parents. The industry just isn't that big, and kite companies' marketing budgets simply can't afford it.

Fact #4: Team rider budgets are tied to marketing budgets, and they're set and

distributed months in advance (and seem to have a way of decreasing each year). If you're looking for sponsorship in the middle of 08, or for travel money, as much as we'd love to be able to help you, our money is already spent. As harsh as this sounds, we've got 6 International riders on our team, and unless one of them vacates their spot, there are no openings.

Fact #5: The days are over where you can just get paid for being a "name." You actually have to work, as a team rider, and do something. You need to be available for the company for travel, often at the spur of the moment; you need to be easily accessible to the company (which often means in close proximity to the people who are making the decisions about who needs to be where), and you have to deliver what you promised in your contract. It's a whole "ask not what your country can do for you" kind of thing. It's more like: "ask what you can do for your country."

Fact #6: When asked what contribution you're making to the company, and what makes you think you should get free kites, the following is not the answer we're looking for: "Hundreds of people see me at my local break riding your kites every day. How's that for publicity?" Because how is that different from the publicity generated by all of the people who actually pay for their kites and are seen at their local break riding our kites every day?

It's not.

Fact #7: Education is important. You need a backup plan. Even if you make it to the top, it's not going to last forever, and you're eventually going to have to make yourself a living either in the industry, or in the real world. Learn to write, and to spell, and to punctuate properly. Go to school, get a degree, the smartest degree you can think of ... a degree that teaches you a real skill, like accounting, medicine, or law. Avoid generic majors like "International Business" and "Communications." If you have no idea what you want to do, drive around the neighborhood and pick out the house you want to live in. Knock on the door, find out what the owners do for a living, and as long as it's not "international drug dealer," go to school for that. But that's just a general life tip.

So. If I haven't dashed your hopes altogether (and I hope I haven't), and you still have

dreams of becoming a team rider (and you should, if you really think you have what it takes), here are some practical do's and don'ts for how to get there.

Find a brand you love, and make it yours. It's easier to promote and sell a brand that you believe in and would ride, even if no one was paying you. Remember: the #1 job of a team rider is to sell kites.Be a sellout, blanketing every brand with sponsorship requests. There should be a reason you want to ride one particular brand, and ultimately, it shouldn't be because they're giving you the kites for free.
Find out how the local team rider program works, possibly through a shop where you get a discount on gear for driving sales to the store. Start there, and use it as a platform to build a name for yourself and become noticed by corporate.Contact a potential sponsor asking what they can give you. Instead, show what you can do for the sponsor, by having unique value, being a great ambassador for the sport, by getting coverage, by being available for travel, events, demos, etc.
Or if you don't like that route, move to wherever the company's headquarters are, and make yourself available for whatever they need done. But if you do this, make sure you can really ride and can impress the heck out them with your natural charm, great attitude, and riding skills.Expect to be paid, not at first, not while you're still an unknown. For the amount of publicity and opportunities you will get if you can impress the people who can get you coverage, you should be paying the company.
Learn how to ride for a camera and be very photogenic. You don't have to be the best rider out there if you can get amazing shots that show a sponsor's products to the fullest advantageBreak local beach rules and practice unsafe riding behavior. When you ride in contests, fight with judges over decisions and be a bad sport.
Make a name for yourself before contacting a potential sponsor. Compete in contests, go to events, get your pictures or stories in the magazines, etc. Work the media and stay in the spotlight. Be unique, but not in a silly gimmicky way ... find a niche that the company needs filled, and fill that niche.Think your name should be enough to earn you a paycheck, and that you shouldn't have to work or fulfill contractual obligations to get paid.
Be a role model and someone that people on the beach respect and trust. Even if you're having a bad day, don't let it show. You need to be "on" all the time. Be professional and make a brand want to sponsor and promote you. If people buy a kite
because it's the one you ride, you're off to a good start.
Be cocky, arrogant and unhelpful. Nobody wants to hear you talk about how great you are, or how easy you think tricks are €€œ you just make the people who can't do the tricks feel bad. And pull up your shorts, dammit! No one wants to see your boxers! (Although I've been told I'm wrong on this one. Apparently, every girl in the universe wants to see Joe Ruscito's boxers

It's not as easy as it looks, being a team rider. It's a lot of work, and if you don't work and cooperate with the people paying the bills, you're eventually going to lose your sponorship. But for the guys who are out there, making it work and living the dream, they probably wouldn't want to be doing anything else. So good luck, and get to work!

With love, Stacey~ The "Team Manager"

ANABATIC is the brand - See our Hell Kite model @ wwwHellBoardriders.com