A Career in Bodyboarding!
Written by Alistair Taylor
Sponsorship is a much-misunderstood element of sport. In most cases, guys looking for sponsorship aren't really aware of how to present themselves, what to ask for, or what the sponsor is looking for in a team rider. This article will hopefully help you whether you are already sponsored, or looking to become sponsored later.
Asking for a sponsorship is a little like applying for a job. You are offering your service in return for some kind of remuneration – either money and/or products. It's also important to know that companies usually set their promotional, or sponsorship budgets, the year before they are spent – which sometimes means that applying for a sponsorship at the wrong time might only get you on the team the following year.
With regards to what the sponsor is typically looking for: a company will view a team rider as another type of advertising vehicle, like an ad in a magazine or TV or whatever. All these things cost them money, and they want maximum exposure for the money spent. If you are a team rider, they hope that you will bring them exposure by wearing or using their brand and being in the public eye in a positive way. A team rider does this by doing things like winning contests that receive good attention from the media, or getting lots of photos in the mags, or appearing on TV and so on. Sometimes, you need to achieve these things before you get sponsored, as proof that you can do it. Just saying that you are a rising talent is not always enough, as many talented athletes have gone out in flames at an early age.
How you present yourself is also important to the sponsor. If you dress like you don't care, and always look like you haven't had enough sleep, had too much beer, not been exercising and so on, your chances of getting sponsored, or at least well sponsored, are slim. There are probably a few companies that might like that kind of sloppy image, but not many, and you need to think about how far that kind of image will take you later on.
You also need to watch your conduct in the water. Being the kind of guy that drops in on everyone, snakes everyone, and cusses like a truck driver if he blows a wave, or someone cuts him off, is not a good idea. Word gets around, and if you have an image as a spoiled brat, you might not get sponsored either.
As a team rider, you also shouldn't have the attitude that all you have to do is go for a surf now and then, and everyone will be watching you and love you and buy the stuff you endorse. There is much more to it than that. Really, you should try to link up with photographers and videographers to get footage as much as possible. If you are a contest guy, you should be doing well, making lots of finals, or at least doing some mind-blowing stuff that gets people talking about you. You have to work to stand out from the crowd and bring attention to the brands you represent.
It's also good if you look after and appreciate the products you are given – having that kind of attitude will get you more free stuff. Trashing and abusing your sponsor's stuff will get you cut from the team. And ESPECIALLY you should never bad-mouth your sponsor's products – even if they are bad, take it up with them directly, suggest solutions to make things better and see what you can do to help. These are ways of actually growing into the company, setting yourself up for better sponsorship and possibly even a good job with them after you're done as an athlete.
Now, on the issue of what you should get from them – that depends a lot on what you are worth. Some guys think they deserve the world, and are really bitter when they don't get 10000 dollars a month – other guys deserve the world, but get nothing, which is also not good. Usually, you know you are worth a lot when companies are competing to get you on their team. And on the other hand, if you are sending out applications left and right and no-one is interested, something may be wrong with you.
Typically, at amateur level, you may expect to get varying levels of product, and maybe some assistance with travel to contests, entry fees and so on. At pro level, you should be getting some kind of salary, as well as the above. But again this depends on how good you are, and how much exposure you bring to the company. Negotiation on what you get is always an option, so you might set your proposal a bit above what you expect, and then find a middle ground with the company.
Unfortunately in South Africa, many top guys are sponsored at amateur level (meaning that though they are top pros, they only get product). This is something that I generally disagree with – being pro means to do something at career level, and free t-shirts won't put food on your table, or pay your rent. It also sets a precedent with riders at a lower level, who by default will receive less than the pros – so it can be a bit of a mess if everyone has their standards set too low – everyone gets the least that the sponsor can get away with giving. Of course some companies are too small to pay salaries and so on, but there are some who most certainly have the money, they just don't want to pay a bodyboarder real money – which is pretty sad, considering the types of waves some bodyboarders will surf, and that so many well-paid surfers won't touch with a 50ft pole.
Also note that if you are entering into a contractual agreement with a sponsor where money is involved, it'd be a good idea to have a lawyer check out the contract first – or at the very least your parents or someone experienced in business. Contracts can be pretty dangerous, with all the legal jargon, and you can end up signing your life away if you aren't careful.
At the end of the day, you just have to do your part, present yourself in a very professional manner, and stand up for what you believe you are worth – but show that you are worth that, don't just say it. If you go about it the right way, you may actually be able to make a career out of bodyboarding. I did it for a while, and got to see most of the world and surf unbelievable waves on someone else's money. But there is a lot of hard work too – it is not an easy-way-out-vacation. If you don't work hard at it, and treat it like a job, you won't get far with it. It may also take a lot of sacrifice on your part, with considerable risk, but that is the case with many business ventures – and pro bodyboarding is a business venture too. The more and better you prepare for it, and the harder you work at it, and persevere through defeat and obstacles in your path, the better your chances of success. Whatever you do, give it your best – you definitely won't be able to come back at age 85 and try again!
Samm wrote:Hey dudes, i'm pretty new to surfing and so stoked. Im being taught by former 2 times british champion cliff cox and he says im a natural and has advised me to start of on a shortboard because of being a natural, i was wondering would any shops be interested in sponsoring me, im just speaking a few stickers and a t shirt or hoodie maybe, and ill get your shop as much business as i can, hope to hear from some people soon, ta[/b]
Samm, you need to find the soul in surfing, it is not in sponsorships.
If you are a natural, the fame will come if you want it.
billie_morini wrote:I'm very approachable and can also approach nearly anyone else. I'm also capable of determining someone's interest level pretty quickly and could bring them to discussion involving the less outgoing designer.
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