So You’re Sponsored Now?

BeatriceSeptember 23, 2013

I’m assuming you’ve all read my article on how to get sponsored and either got sponsored from it or gave up entirely. In case you were wondering what being sponsored means (from the perspective of the rider), I’ve got some great people below and different levels of sponsorship for you to live through. So go make yourself some popcorn and glue your eyes to the screen because there’s a lot of reading for you to go through before next week’s test. (There’s no test..)

Peta Shepherd (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)
Current Sponsors: Colony BMX, Primary Threads, Magnolia BMX.

Tell us about the first time you were sponsored: 
Colony was the first company to help/support me. I’ve been riding for them since 2005 (or 2006, can’t quite remember). Clint Miller and I were just out riding a skatepark one afternoon, right before the first Colony frame prototypes were due. He just asked if I would want to run one, I was beyond stoked. Of course I said yes, and then later when other products started coming out, Clint just kept helping me out and I’m still riding for them today.

What are your responsibilities being a sponsored rider?
I’m only on the flow team with Colony, which just means no contact. They help me out with my bike, trips and other things that they can. In return, I just get to have fun on my bike, rep Colony at comps and other events, web edits, photos and web site updates. The same goes for my other sponsors.

Camila Harambour (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Current Sponsors: Novik Gloves (USA), MegaRamp (USA), Bodaciuos Clothing (Arg) and GoPro Argentina.

Photo by Andres Harambour

Tell us about the first time you were sponsored: 
Well, the first sponsor I had was an Argentinian brand called Eighties Bike Co in 2008, if I’m not wrong. Then I started riding for the Czech brand 34R from 2010 till this year in June. Now I’m not riding for any bike company, but got hooked up by Total BMX with the bike I’m riding today.

What are your responsibilities being a sponsored rider?
I really appreciate the support I’ve been giving not only from my sponsors today but from all of them that have helped me throughout these years. Although its something great, it comes with a big responsibility as well. You are not only supported by them, but you are also representing them. Nothing is free, even if they only give you products you still have to give something in return and that’s where comes all the media stuff and participating in contest or just being everywhere u can.

I’ve had some misunderstandings with companies in the past where it was not clear what was that they wanted from me and what I was suppose to get, and that just make things hard. I’m learning from that and therefore trying to have a good communication with the team manager or whoever is in charge.
To be honest, I don’t live from riding. I don’t get paid to ride my bike and I’m studying in university as well, so is hard to get a job at the same time. I do get financial help some times though or I just try to figure out a way to travel and survive haha. Anyways, I try to be grateful with the support I get from my sponsors and therefore represent them the best way I can.

Drew Bezanson (Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Current Sponsors: Red Bull, Toyota, Fox, GoPro, DK Bicycles, The Shadow Conspiracy, Skullcandy, POC Helmets, Ethika and Ryder distribution.

Photo from

Tell us about the first time you were sponsored: 
My first sponsors were Seshin BMX and Unified clothing. Just two small companies out of the east coast of Canada. At that point I just got a few bike parts and a few T-shirts, nothing changed I just continued riding my bike everyday. I just got to tell people I got helped out by both companies. I ended up moving on from both companies a few years later when I got the opportunity to ride for United flow and Ryder distribution. They were bigger and more established companies that had more opportunity. Both my sponsors prior understood, at first it was just friends helping friends not really sponsorship.

When was your big break and how did it happen?
I think my big break was when I got the opportunity to ride for DK bicycles. I had meet ”Catfish” Zack Yankush which was the DK TM at the time, he announced contests as well. After meeting him and riding a few more contests he called me up with an offer to ride for DK. With that came a little bit of a travel budget and a huge weight off my shoulders. I didn’t have to worry so much on how I was going to get to the next contest or afford it. I was able to focus more on just riding my bike.

What are your responsibilities/ expectations being a sponsored rider?
Expectations from my biggest sponsors aren’t overly demanding but I want to do my best to represent them for allowing me to live my dream. Each one has different expectations, whether it be from appearances, autograph signings, road trips, social media, filming projects, etc, there is definitely more to it then just riding a bike now.

How has this changed your life from the little kid who had a sponsor to who you are now?
It has changed my life completely, It went from just a childhood hobby to a job but that was my dream. I had to make a lot of sacrifices to do so. It keeps me busy 365 days a year now whether I’m on my bike, in an airport or on social media. I live in Southern California now but am usually in an airport going some where. It’s definitely been a wild ride so far, I’ve missed out on some stuff with friends and family but I also gained a lot from it. Life experience, learning who I am, learning about different cultures, different parts of the world, experiences that money can’t buy. I owe it all to a BMX bike and a passion.

Morgan Wade (Tyler, Texas, United States)
Current Sponsors: Hoffman Bikes, HeadRush Clothing, Empire BMX, Maxxis Tires, Ethika, FiveTen Shoes, MegaRamp, Elite Bike Shop, S-1 Helmets and Atomic High Performance. I also get a pretty sweet hookup from United, Profile, GoPro, and Shadow so I like to show them some love every chance I get too.

Tell us about the first time you were sponsored: 
My first actual sponsor was Mutiny Bikes. Steev Inge is the guy that started Mutiny back in the day. He’s from the DFW area so it’s only natural that we ended up bumping into each other. I say bumping. He saw me ride at an ASA demo back in 2000 and asked one of the other riders who I was. The guy he asked happened to be one of my buddies so Steev asked him to put us in touch. I agreed to ride for him and in return Steev sent me a frame and a few other things like bars, shirts, and stickers. That was about it at the time. All that was expected of me was that I ride his frame, run some stickers, and wear a shirt if I could. He actually almost dropped me within the first month of hooking me up. I broke the first frame he sent me in about two days I think. Then I broke the second and third ones shortly after! His wife actually told him to stop giving me frames because I was too hard on them. Needless to say Steev decided to stay with me anyway. Things got a lot better after that. I stayed with Mutiny for about eight years. Steev was no longer involved with the company. When I left, Mutiny Bike didn’t represent who I was and I didn’t represent the image they wanted for the company anymore. People change and companies change. Sometimes a sponsor that used to be a good fit doesn’t fit anymore and it’s time to move on.

What was your transition like becoming a paid professional? When was your big break and how did it happen?
I think my “big break” so to speak was actually the 2003 UGP Roots Jam. That was the first major contest that I did really well in and actually stood out. I ended up getting second place, and no one had seen anyone do Superman Tailwhips quite the way I did them at the time. The rest of that year just kind of fell into place. I got second place at the CFB that year too, which qualified me into the X-Games. I got the cover of RideBMX Magazine that year, and I went on to Finish 3rd at the ASA Action sports Championships. It was a good year for me. All the exposure I was getting made me prime sponsorship material. I started picking up sponsors that paid a few hundred here, a few hundred there, and started to realize that I could actually do this for a living. The next year I won the Roots Jam, the CFB, the Gravity Games, and did well at just about everything else I entered. The rest is history so to speak.

What are your responsibilities/ expectations being a sponsored rider?
Big deal sponsors like Levi’s, Etnies, and Amp Energy definitely expect a bit more than the smaller industry sponsors, but it has still always been really laid back. The main thing is when someone is paying you a lot of money to represent their company they expect you to do just that. It’s always been no brainer type stuff for me, but I know a lot of guys that have lost support because they couldn’t be bothered to wear the correct clothes, shoes, or hat when they were riding or doing interviews. The bottom line is this, if someone or some company is willing to support me to do this for a living, then I’m going to do whatever I can, within reason, to keep them happy, even if that means wearing wacky colored jeans at every contest! I mean hey – everyone is wearing those colored jeans now so you’re welcome! Haha!

Caroline Buchanan (Canberra, Australia)
Current Sponsors: DK Bicycles, Oakley, Musashi, Stromlo, Subaru Motors, Box, Tioga, Champion System, Unit Clothing

Tell us about the first time you were sponsored:
I started racing BMX at the age of 5years old on a beat up 10 sizes to big neon yellow Walmart bike. My first race bike at the age of 7 was a Mongoose Superegoose pro. At the time BMX for me was all about fun and I never even knew I could one day be sponsored. The first race team I was selected on was in 2004 when I was 14 years old along with two other London Olympians Brian Kirkham and Sam Willoughby. The team was team O’Neal race clothing and that launched me into the world of sponsorship. From there I got my first free bike at the age of 15 when I signed to race for the Freeagent BMX Team.

Where you are now, do you have to work a 9-5 still?
The past 6 years of working really hard on my profile, image, brand and sponsorships has progressed to where I am at now with bout 24 sponsors in total. The level of sponsorships have progressed over the years from free bikes, to product deals, signature clothing line with UNIT clothing & selling the range at events, bonuses, endorsements right up to now signing contracts with major corporate companies like Subaru Motors.

My 9-5 job is being a full time professional athlete. There is a lot that goes into pedaling a bike very fast around the world and the behind the scenes is not all as glossy and fair tale as the outside world sees.
The growth of support from sponsorships over the years has changed my life and helped in so many ways without this support I would not be able to do what I am currently doing.
Its very important at a young age before you have any sponsors and relying on support from parents or a job to work on your brand and your profile which is key in setting up a solid base to grow sponsors from. This can be anything from local media, social media, personal image, setting up a website or setting up a mailing list of sponsors media and support to send updates to.
The biggest key I have found with sponsorships and media etc in the bike world is you only get out what you put in and you have to work 10times harder for years to snowball the effect of sponsorships and support in the future.

What does it mean to be sponsored by huge companies like DK?
I signed early this year with DK Bicycles and was the first race girl in about 20 years that they had signed with their brand so it was a huge honor for me and exciting times for the future.
The best thing about a brand like DK is they have a solid base, name and history in the sport. DK is a brand that I would love to ride for life with as they are a close knit family brand with a great image that suits me. Being sponsored comes with huge responsibilities its not just what sponsors can do you for you but more so what you can do in return to service your sponsors correctly and give back to them for the support they are giving you.
When you have sponsors its important to remember to you are representing their brand and their image and anything that you do or say can affect their brand and your future with that brand.

I have been lucky to have a Dad in marketing to teach me from a young age some key tips. I started my own website and writing race reports after each major event at the age of 15, creating a mailing list and sending them out to all of my support network, media, friends, family and sponsors. Over the years this mailing list has grown along with sponsorships and the design element has progressed into a photoshop layout. Sponsors love getting kept informed how your sport is going results, media and what your up to. They also love getting the logo recognition on these reports/website/social media, media stories and any time you can remember to thank who makes it possible for you to be doing what your doing.

I think a lot of riders don’t realize that it’s a job…
Sponsorship is definitely a job and something to be treated seriously and its never just handed to you on a plate. There are multiple levels of sponsorship from local bike shop support, discounts, freebies and product deals, bonuses, endorsements right up to corporate sponsorships.

One thing I have found is it definitely a full lifestyle package especially when signing corporate sponsorships like my Subaru deal. Having a high profile and constantly being in the spot light everything you say, do, post on social media, party you attend is watched by the world and influences past, present and future sponsorship opportunities. A clean image and name is key for helping raise the opportunity of sponsorships and giving a brand every reason to support you and no reason not to support you.

Along with sponsorships comes scarifies, media responsibilities and everything from media crew taking over your house and having mum worried about the nice wood flooring with cameras and people everywhere to attending media campaigns, award nights, charity events, running coaching clinics, attending trade shows, annual sales meetings, guest speaking, team events, signing sessions as well as endless amounts of amazing opportunities and support.

What are the ups and downs of sponsorship?
Sponsorship can be very overwhelming if you look at the big picture. One thing that has helped me is to just tick away and every little stone turned equates to rolling a boulder at the end of the day.
You are capable of more that you know and one thing or commitment now that may stress you out will not in the future as you adapt to the work load and progression.
Sponsorship especially for females in male dominated sports is a constant uphill battle but don’t let that set you back. It is also so rewarding and so important to your future and career results.

Some key things to remember:
– Research your favorite celebrities or sporting heroesโ€ฆlook what they are doing and learn from others success.
– Where do people put logo placement to be most seen by people and media.
– Work harder than sponsors and people expect so the chance of the sponsorship deal having more product, more media involved or more salary or bonuses is greater.
– Think out side the box and be different.
– Ask for help I have been very lucky to have a Dad in marketing but also have never been afraid to ask for help and advice.
– Find a mentor someone that you can trust. I have had the help and support from a mentor for 6 years now Tim Chadd who has been the instigator of so many things I have done. As well as 7 time World Surfing Champion Layne Beachley and Olympic Marathon runner Robert De Castella.
– Most important regular communication with sponsors past and present so every year you can continue the relationship and resign with them.
– Never give up and keep pushing!

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