How to get sponsored in BMX

10 years ago, I published an article called How to get sponsored in BMX … and a lot has changed since then; more women in BMX, the Olympics, social media, and the list goes on. More than ever, it’s not enough to be a great rider, so what else do you need to do to get sponsored? Today we find out from some of the biggest brands in BMX. A sincere thanks to the owners and team managers from Vans, Mongoose, Cult, S&M, Fitbikeco, GT Bicycles, Odyssey, Sunday and Haro for making the time to contribute. Enjoy.

Colin Mackay by Naoki Gaman

Colin Mackay – Vans

For me, at a starting point I really only try to flow riders who I would think have a good shot at becoming pro some day. I see DM’s (on @vansbmx66) daily of people WANTING to be sponsored, it’s easy to want something. You have to earn it. 

Colin Mackay Photographing Teresa FernĂĄndez-Miranda, photographed by Naoki Gaman

How do you earn it? You have to get on the radar. You have to be decent at riding, (by our judgment, not yours 😎) you have to bring something different to the table. Don’t ride like everyone else. Stand out – grind further, go higher, click that turndown! 

When it comes time for financial support, I look for a role model. Someone that up-and-comers or even other established pros can look to for inspiration. Financial support comes to riders who have put in the hard years and are right at the top of the game. They are the leaders.

It takes a while for some people to get paid, you might have the best year ever on flow, but working with budgets and a current roster, you may get pencilled in for going pro in the following year or so if it works out. It doesn’t happen too quickly, but if you hang in there and keep representing, your time will come. 

Then once you get paid you should know, that you likely signed a 1yr contract. 2yr deals are pretty rare. It’s your job in that year to keep busy and continue to be a role model and get signed again! 

It doesn’t happen too quickly, but if you hang in there and keep representing, your time will come. 

Being a pro rider can be wonderful, every day’s a Saturday! But I’ve seen riders fall off too, with the popularity of social media and not being able to stay busy. Events come and go, these days you really have to stay in the spotlight one way or another. 

Vans rider Angie Marino

Leigh Ramsdell – Mongoose Bicycles

I have always said that being a great rider is important but maybe more important is being a good person. Not that riding comes easy. We know it takes a lot of hard work and that is what it takes to win a contest. But it’s all about how you connect with the fans of BMX! I really feel like the Mongoose team is a down-to-earth bunch of riders that are super approachable and great role models! Good contest results are a bonus but that is not the first thing we look at.

Nikita Worlds BMX
Mongoose Rider Nikita Ducarroz

To get noticed I think it’s good to post riding clips on social and some lifestyle posts to give people a feel of who you are off your bike. Also, go to as many events as you can! They don’t have to be big contests or jams. If you make a great impression with people at any event word of mouth will spread on how awesome you are. When we started sponsoring Nikita Ducarroz the Olympics were not even on the radar. She was just a rad person that was also great at riding BMX!

There is no real 100% guide on how to get sponsored but if you truly love riding your bike then someone will notice. The only 100% thing I know about getting sponsored is that a DM to a company saying “Yo! Sponsor me!” will definitely NOT get you sponsored. Do the work, have fun and you never know where your bike can take you!

Payton Ridenour at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon, Portugal.

Robbie Morales – Cult

What qualities do you look for when it comes to who you hook up, or financially support? First and foremost a good attitude and passion for BMX is a must. Also being able to hang with the crew, show support for the brand, have their own style, and generally just be a cool person haha. The Women we sponsor like Angie and Francina embody all of this and more. Women’s BMX looks better than ever.

Newest Cult rider Francina Fernandez

Melissa Buckley – S&M / FitBike Co

Fit and S&M are established, long-running brands with more sponsored/flow riders than we realistically should be working with… and that’s because sponsorship with us is a very organic process. We aren’t “looking” for new riders, so when we add someone to the squad, it’s either because we see something we like and genuinely feel implored to support their future in BMX or because an existing rider, shop or distributor comes to us with a compelling case as to why we should sponsor someone.

Mia Custer by Murphy Moschetta
Photo by Murphy Moschetta

In either scenario, the qualities that move the needle for us are…

  1. Positivity. A positive mindset/attitude yes… but this is multilateral too. If watching a rider do their thing invokes feelings of happiness, hopefulness, excitement, growth and gratitude… that’s a universal feeling and it’s contagious. The same thing that makes us want to support a rider who makes us smile, is the same “je ne sais quois” that will make them a good ambassador for our brands and inspire others to explore what our companies are all about.
  2. Work Ethic/Drive. We certainly don’t expect anyone to ride BMX 24/7… but riders who clearly devote time to their craft… and better yet, devote time to auxiliary activities that help them become more well-rounded riders/humans are going to stand out and be more sought after. You can be naturally talented, but if you’re lackadaisical about it and it shows, eventually your lack of dedication and drive to accomplish what you’re pursuing, is going to infiltrate those around you and breed animosity and resentment.
  3. Reach. This is a multifaceted one too. Reach is basically a rider’s ability to “reach” audiences and potential customers. More established riders might have already-established social network reach they can help us share our products with. A local bike shop telling us they want to hook up a local shredder means they think that rider has reach or influence in the community to inspire other participants to get involved with our brands. And finally… and maybe most importantly, our impression of what a rider’s potential reach could be based on the unique qualities that make them who they are is our preferred kind of reach. When we see someone who we feel like we could get behind to help them “reach” their full potential and simultaneously grow their profile in conjunction with our brands… that’s a best-case scenario. We have riders on our teams who we’ve been supporting for 30+ years whose names are synonymous with Fit and S&M. 

work hard, play hard, be kind and have fun

We are a rider-owned, family-run brand, and our riders are an extension of that. At the end of the day, we want to work with and surround ourselves with people who have the same goals we do… to work hard, play hard, be kind and have fun!  

Ben Ward GT Marketing Manager

Ben Ward – GT Bicycles

For the rider, a few notes: Love BMX. Do it for the experiences, the community, the comradery, and the challenge. If you put those before becoming the best rider ever, I think you will have a great start. The love for BMX will push you to challenge yourself. As you grow as a rider the comradery you have with your community will give you the support you need on the difficult days. That same community will also be there to celebrate your accomplishments. But it isn’t a one-way street. You also have to be willing to lend the same support to others. If you aren’t surrounded by a scene, find community in your family and friends. Support them in their interests as they will support you in yours. You can also take time to figure out where the nearest BMX scene is and make an effort to show up to events in that nearby scene. You show up enough, they become your BMX family and your love for BMX can grow even further.

Bethany Hedrick Photographed by Jeff Zielinski

For myself, I am always looking for riders. Socials are a great way, but I get more from attending events. Not big TV events, local scene events. If someone stands out to me, I will always ask about them and say hi. Maybe I will then find their social and give them a follow. What I am looking for isn’t who is the best necessarily, but who catches my attention. It could be your energy, your stoke. How other riders around you react to you and how you treat them. Anyone can be or get good on a bike and while that is a factor, that is not THE factor for me. I am also looking for someone who is kind, genuine and original. Being able to shut down a session is great, but being humble about it is greatness. These are the kinds of riders I know I can trust to represent the brand.

Sure, you want to be a part of the Pro Team and know it isn’t something you ask for. It is something you earn.

Once you’ve been recognized by a company you will likely be asked to join the flow team. For us, this is some product support, either at cost or free when possible. If you continue to make a great impression, maybe you will be invited along on a trip. On the road is when we really get to know you as a person. No better way to get to know someone. You could be on the trip with members, other flow riders well on their way to joining the pro team or actual members of the pro team. At this beginning stage, you should understand there are always different levels of support for riders. Sure, you want to be a part of the Pro Team and know it isn’t something you ask for. It is something you earn. It is earned by taking advantage of every opportunity given to you by the brand. Making your own opportunities, i.e. getting yourself to events to represent the company. Linking up with filmers and photographers to have assets to give to the brand. This isn’t a handout to the brand, it is an exchange for their support.

Chelsea Wolfe by Jeff Z
Chelsea Wolfe Photographed by Jeff Zielinski

Make your efforts so obvious that you are the first person that comes to mind when something is being planned for the team.

That love for BMX I mentioned earlier will be a factor here. Once you get some company support, it doesn’t mean you stop riding and start waiting for the company to send you somewhere. It means you keep riding like you did before you were discovered. Only now you aren’t having to pay full price for product anymore. *The more you do for the brand, the more they will do for you. There is an asterisk (*) for that last sentence. Factors like business performance, size of the team, company initiatives for the year, etc. will affect how the team is utilized. If times are tough, the Pro Team will likely be utilized more. If the company initiative is to raise awareness to the up-and-coming riders, there might be more opportunities for a flow rider. No matter what the situation is, stay proactive. Stay in contact with the Team Manager. Send through clips and images without being asked. Make your efforts so obvious that you are the first person that comes to mind when something is being planned for the team.

Eduarda Bordignon Photographed by Jeff Zielinski

Finally, when someone is being considered for the pro team there are a few factors that are considered.

  • Contribution. How has the rider contributed to the company? How have other members of the BMX community experiences with the rider been? Is the rider someone they are eager to have show up to an event? If the company worked on any projects, how did they participate? How did the rider collaborate on ideas? Were they productive in their participation?
  • Support. Are we the riders only support? Have they gotten shoes, parts, or any other support? Have other brands seen the value of getting behind the rider? When companies have a rider in common, it is smart for us to work together for the rider. It also shows that other companies see the same value in the rider as you do. Some may want to dislike these comments, but it costs real money to support riders. Knowing that other brands are also helping the rider is a hard factor to ignore.
  • Rider. Is this something they want? I have seen riders be great up till the point they are put on the Pro Team at which time they disappear. Even without the brand putting any pressure on them, the pressure they put on themselves is too much and they react by stepping away from the opportunity instead of into it. When someone is put on the Pro Team, there are extra expectations, but nothing we don’t think the rider is capable of. That is why we spent time with them, helping them grow from Flow to Pro. If you feel like you are on the edge of taking that next step, I hope there are conversations had between the company and the rider. Also remember, just because you are pro doesn’t mean the hard work stops, it has just begun.
Jesse Gregory Photographed by Jeff Zielinski
Zach-Krejams

Zach Krejmas – Odyssey / Sunday Bikes

Many considerations come into play when deciding if we want to support a rider. Skill level and style/personality are some of the first things that we look at naturally, but beyond that, we highly value a person’s attitude, level of activity, and involvement in the scene. Maintaining a consistent online presence is good too. You don’t have to overdo it with multiple posts every day, but you also can’t go dormant for too long either. A healthy balance is good.

Ideally, a rider will be extremely skilled and pleasant to watch on the bike but also bring a bit of their own flavor to what they do. There are a ton of skilled riders out there, so bringing something new to the table can really put he/she ahead of the curve.

Linda Grabner by Naoki Gaman

We also rarely hook someone up before having met them, or at least having asked a trusted source about them. We lean on our team riders heavily, as well as shops and other affiliates who can vouch for the shredder in question. Having a good team dynamic is important to us so we rarely make an addition before consulting with the rest of the crew. Everyone on our teams gets along quite well and we’re looking to keep the good vibes rolling on trips.

In a general sense, we’re looking for riders who simply love to ride (whether they are sponsored or not), participate in the scene, and make BMX look good. As a brand, you’re always wanting to support riders who are proactive, inspire others, and help to market the brand/sponsor by getting more eyeballs on them.

Vans & Sunday rider Macarena PĂŠrez at the Vans x Bloom Jam in Huntington Beach. Photo by Naoki Gaman
Joey Cobbs Haro Team Manager

Joey Cobbs – Haro Bikes

I debated if I should start my response with the actual qualities that I look for when considering a rider for sponsorship. But I think it would be more helpful to first talk about why sponsorships exist in the first place. Brands don’t give away parts for free, and that’s not a sponsorship. If riders are able to understand a bit more about why brands offer sponsorships, then I think it will be much easier for riders to position themselves to get sponsored in the future.

Haro rider Keir Sirlin

Brands don’t give away parts for free, and that’s not a sponsorship.

Simply put, a sponsorship is a balanced agreement between a brand and a rider in which both sides are providing some form of value, and in return, both sides receive something they need.

As a brand, we need to authentically and effectively reach the community that we produce products for. And so there is a genuine interest to find and support riders who are thriving in the sport, their local scenes, and the riding communities.

On the flip side, riders need to find sponsors to help with financial, travel and product support so that they can spend more time riding and perusing their goals in BMX.

And so that is the balance. If both sides do their part, the rider gives the brand the reach and exposure they need and in return, the brand gives the rider the support they need… the sponsorships can grow into collaborations, trips, events, projects, products and all kind of amazing things and memories you didn’t think would be possible from a humble little thing like BMX. But that is what makes BMX so special and why good sponsorships are vital.

Haro rider Perris Benegas with a community of riders from a Colombia film trip

So now that I have waxed on about all that…Let’s talk about those qualities.

I am looking for riders who have exceptional talent, they have great style and can ride and do tricks in a way that not many people can replicate or imitate. They have honed their approach to the point that they gain people’s interest and attention whenever and wherever people see them ride.

I am looking for riders who have a following and are engaged in the sport and their scene. Yes, that likely means they have a decent following on social media. But more importantly in my opinion, it means they are truly engaged in the sport AND their local riding scene. I am looking for riders who participate in events and are proactive in doing their own thing and making their ideas come to life as contributions to BMX.

I am looking for riders who want a sponsor for the right reasons.

In a way, I am protecting the brand from being used by riders. That happens … Riders take the money and the product and then they fade out and go on vacation or something. That kind of thing not only hurts my creditability as a TM with management, but the loss of budget can keep us from doing things in the future and so preventing that kind of thing from happening is a pretty important part of my job. So I look for riders that can be trusted, are reliable, and understand the importance of collaboration. They have an understanding that if we work together, with each other’s interest in mind, then we really can build into something that is bigger and better than the sum of its parts.

Riding for a sponsor is definitely not for everyone.

One last point, even though most riders dream of one day getting sponsored, some riders don’t deal well with that added element of having to return “value” to the brand. They are happier when they ride for themselves and on their own terms, and that is REAL. That is fair. Riding for a sponsor is definitely not for everyone. Riding is such a personal thing and such a personal form of exploration expression that it doesn’t always mesh well with the business side. I think this makes sense and is important for riders to really think about… What it means to have a sponsor and if they even really want one? Some people are happiest with a traditional job and riding during their free time and on their own terms, that is really something to think about…

DO YOU EVEN WANT TO GET SPONSORED?

Perris Benegas, Photo by Naoki Gaman

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