So around the same time that Ryan Fudger from Ride BMX was contacting industry people in regards to the same topic, so was I. Just to set the record straight, it was purely coincidental that I was working on the same subject. To read Ride's article, click here. To see what some of the big guys in the industry had to say about this topic, continue below.
|Magnolia BMX rider Peta Shepherd|
"The most important thing in our book is that someone in our inner circle knows the rider and likes them as a person. That inner circle includes our shops, team riders, distributors, friends, etc. Of course you've got to have skills on the bike too, but being friends with someone we know and trust is key. Then once we're involved that way we'll start to connect the dots and eventually if things go well we be teamed up forever hopefully."
Gaz Sanders from Mutiny Bikes
"We've never gone out looking for riders. It's always been about the right piece for the puzzle and those pieces normally comes from ideas from the guys on the pro team and people they are stoked on who are coming up. This just works for us, we've never set out looking for a certain guys that rides a certain way to suit market needs. It's rad when a teams works together. It's not something you can try create, I think the mixes of so many different characters can create a good vibe on the road and some good times. Also anyone that's looking to make it or step up their game by getting sponsored is normally to likely here a no from us. Enjoy your riding and don't worry about putting the pressure of sponsorship on top of it. If it's going to happen, it will. Just let is come organically and it will be a better experience for both parties."
"There's really many questions a sponsor will ask themselves when looking for a potential team rider. Are they good on a bike? Are there personable? Are they good on camera? Do they look good on and off their bike? Are they confident in themselves? Will people like them? Are they progressive? Are they a self-starter? It could seriously go on and on, nitpicking all the little details.
I'm lucky to have hindsight plus a seat in the industry so, here is what I would do to be a "pro" in today's BMX world. First, I would get really good on a bike by learning what tricks are popular today, but I would add my own twist to it. Nearly every rider emulated someone else's style at the beginning, but they go off in their own direction later on. You will never make it far if you're completely copying what the others are doing. You have to put your own spin, personality and creativity into your riding, so you stand out amongst everyone else doing smith to nose wheelie to barspin. People gravitate to what's new and different not the same tricks they saw in the last 4 web videos they just watched. This doesn't mean you should learn the popular stuff, but don't stop there.
Next thing, I would do is make the most epic and banging web video possible. It really needs to stand out, so spend a lot of time working on it and perfecting it. Remember you only get once chance to make a first impression. For this video, think Danny MacAskill's Inspired video. I know it's MTB, but it's the perfect example of what I'm saying. When that came out, he immediately vaulted ahead of so many other riders who had more sponsors, put in more time and did the "traditional" sponsored route. To borrow a line from Steve Martin, make your video so good that it can't be ignored. By putting out an epic video, you will be on the radar of all the companies in a single day.
At the same time as you are making your video, make sure you are on top of your social media platform. Don't be one of those guys that says "Oh, I don't do this so and so media platform." That doesn't help you one bit and it doesn't make you look good to potential sponsors. Remember this is a new age where you have to be good on and off the bike. In the hardcore BMX world, it's sort of frond upon to promote yourself, but it's becoming less and less of an issue. The big thing is you must be genuine, the world can see through someone who is fake.
|Sunday Bikes Rider Jake Seeley|
The next thing I would do is to plan and start the next project. Actually, I would be doing this even before the first video drops. Actually, before you do any of it, make sure you monetize your YouTube account, so you can make money off your "epic" videos because in this modern age monetization of videos will be one way for you to get paid as a "pro". By being a self-starter and having your next video idea, you immediately stand out. Companies want to support successful, unique and cleaver ideas. If you have an "epic" video already then you would be able to approach any company about sponsoring your next video project. Maybe not BMX companies, but companies outside of BMX. How cool would it be to get someone else to fund your next video of you riding the Trans-Siberian Express across Russia, driving the circumference of Australia or riding igloos near the Arctic Circle? I keep saying this, but it's a new age, if you can think of it then you can probably do it.
The biggest misconception is that the top of the sponsor chain is the bike companies. This couldn't be further from the truth. In my day, you needed to have atleast 4 sponsors (frame, parts, shoes and clothing) to actually make you enough money to scrape by on otherwise you had to get a job. Today it's really no different, which is why most people have gone outside of the bike companies for sponsors. Energy drink companies like Red Bull are the perfect example of this. The reality is that most BMX companies don't make enough money on their parts to really pay well, so riders have to look beyond BMX to pay for it all. You can definitely be a "pro" rider with "core" sponsors, but in time you will grow weary of barely scraping by. So, look beyond the bike companies to make you a "pro" rider.
Beyond these few things, I would just reinvent my riding every so often and just keep putting out video projects. Once people see you are successful, they will immediately copy what you are doing, so always be on the move otherwise you run the risk of looking like everyone else once you've been completely copied. I hate to say it, but my "plan" is highly influenced by Danny MacAskill, so emulate him, but put you own twist on it."
|Sunday Bikes Rider Chris Childs|
"You are correct in thinking that we receive many proposals from Canadians to rep the Bulls & Sun.
Our Red Bull Athlete Managers are always on the lookout for the top up-and-coming talent across the country as they hand-pick all of the athletes that might become sponsored by Red Bull. For that reason there's no way to apply for sponsorship. The way to get noticed is to keep competing and make a name for yourself that way. Nationally, we sponsor some remarkable athletes. You may have heard about some of our newer additions - Marie-France Roy or Brandon Semenuk?! We aren't adding to our line-up, but you can always keep up to date on the select few who've made the cut at www.redbull.ca."
Fat Tony from Freegun Underwear
"As the BMX team manager for Freegun, when I’m looking at riders to represent the brand a lot of factors come into play. Obviously they have to be a talented rider, but as I’m sure you’ve all heard before, that’s only a small part of the big picture. First of all, when building up the team it was important to us to have diversity. We have two pro flatland riders, two pro ramp/dirt riders, and one pro street rider. Originally the idea was to have two street riders as well, but we hit a wall with our budget before we could fill that slot. Also, we wanted to support amateur riders, so we picked a flow team with one park/dirt rider, one flatland rider, one female rider, and one street rider. Unfortunately our street rider ended up stepping down from the team, but that was the original idea…be diversified with a six person pro team and four person flow team. Also, we wanted to make sure to support young riders and make them feel like they are part of our team and family, so we picked up three groms under the age of 13 that could grow with the brand. With that said, besides the two “open” spots for street riders (that are temporarily on hold due to the budget), the team is pretty stacked and set for the year. When people write in with sponsorship requests, we are never in a place to just randomly add someone. Our team riders are a compliment to the overall marketing plan for the company we came up with last year, so throwing in extra riders don’t fit into that plan (or our budget) right now.
Each of our riders offers something different, and that’s something we are very conscious of. It’s great when a rider is a total package, but some riders put out more web videos, and some riders go to more contests. It’s just the nature of the game, and we want to support riders in all of those realms. We expect each of our riders to put out a Freegun-specific video throughout the year, and we need photos of each of our riders for various applications as well, so when looking for potential team riders, we keep those things in mind.
|Freegun Rider Nina Buitrago|
The easier a rider is to work with, the better. Nobody likes to work with people who make things difficult. That can come down to how they handle emails and phone calls, how they deal with photo or video shoots, or anything else we have to work with them on. Similarly, even though we haven’t done any team trips yet, we’d never want to have a team rider who we’d feel would be a downer on the road, so personality and attitude definitely factor into who we put on the team.
Again, from a corporate perspective, a team rider is a marketing tool, so we look for how well a rider can help promote the brand and get other people stoked on Freegun. This can be done through their personal appearances at demos or contests, how much they travel and interact with people on trips, TV time, their social network following and engagement, and of course online videos and DVD parts. At Freegun we don’t particularly think one thing is more important than another. We realize they are all important aspects, so we have riders that deliver in each of those areas. For us it’s not a black and white thing where if a rider doesn’t enter contests then he can’t be on the team because we have a diverse enough team that we have that base covered.
To break this down to someone who would be looking at companies as potential sponsors…don’t look at what the company already has, look at what they are lacking. Think about what you can offer them that they aren’t getting with their current team members. How can you help that company out? If you can demonstrate how you’d be valuable to a company, you’ll have a much better shot at getting them to look at you."
Renny Husada from Yess BMX
"I first and foremost look at image. (Clean image, not the bad boy/ bad girl image) I want these athletes to be looked upon in a positive way. Second goes hand in hand with the first where their dedication to the sport is more important than "looking cool" or being with the "in crowd". Their skill is definitely important but not as much as the first two points. Obviously if they have the dedication to the sport, they will have the determination themselves to train for the events that are needed for travel. Right now, I'm very happy with all my riders as I believe that they all reflect what I would like our Team's image to be."
|Yess Girls at the BMX Worlds in New Zealand|